Keith Blackwell, M.D., Ph.D.

Keith Blackwell, M.D., Ph.D.

Joslin Diabetes Center
Harvard Medical School Department of Genetics
Keith Blackwell, Joslin Diabetes Center

Using the model organism C. elegans, we study how regulatory pathways that are important in growth control influence stress defenses and aging, as well as relationships between stem cell function and aging.

We are particularly interested in understanding mechanisms through which aging is influenced by insulin/IGF-1 and TOR signaling, two pathways that are of critical importance in cellular growth, renewal, and differentiation.

We are also interested in elucidating mechanisms that influence aging of germline and somatic tissues, and in understanding a signaling pathway through which C. elegans germline stem cells communicate with their niche to modulate stress resistance and aging of the entire organism.


Keith Blackwell is a Senior Investigator and Section Head of Islet Cell and Regenerative Biology in Immunobiology at the Joslin Diabetes Center, and professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School. He became interested in the C. elegans system as a postdoctoral fellow, when he collaborated with Jim Priess to investigate whether the developmental regulator SKN-1 functions as a transcription factor. He later began to work with C. elegans in his own laboratory, which now focuses on this model organism. The Blackwell lab has extended its work on C. elegans oogenesis, early embryonic development, and relationships between stress and stem cell function to the stem cell field.

Blackwell received a B.S. in Chemistry from Duke University in 1978, then entered the Medical Scientist Training Program at Columbia University. He earned his M.D. from Columbia University in 1987, and his Ph.D. in Microbiology in 1988. His thesis work with Dr. Frederick Alt focused on the mechanism and regulation of immunoglobulin gene assembly. After medical school he rejoined the Alt lab to pursue a career in research, and conducted his postdoctoral fellowship with the late Dr. Harold Weintraub at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. There, Blackwell studied functions and DNA recognition properties of basic-helix-loop-helix protein transcription factors. He started his own lab at the CBR Institute and Harvard Medical School in 1993 and in 2004 moved to Joslin Diabetes Center as a Senior Investigator and Head of the Section on Developmental and Stem Cell Biology.

Research Interest(s)