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Edging Closer to a Malaria Vaccine

By | November 8, 2004

Scientists frustrated with the lack of progress toward a useful malaria vaccine may have edged a step closer to that goal with the announcement by a public-private partnership that it has created a promising candidate. GlaxoSmithKline's RTS,S/AS02A is a fusion of immunogenic components of the circumsporozoite protein with hepatitis B surface antigen, plus a proprietary adjuvant. The compound achieved a 58% efficacy against severe disease in 1- to 5-year-old children in a Phase IIb trial in Mozam

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Hitchhiker's Guide to the New World

By | November 8, 2004

Courtesy of CDCUS researchers are looking to otherwise unwanted guests to piece together humans' evolutionary past: lice. They suggest that modern Homo sapiens may have had direct physical contact with Homo erectus in Asia before crossing over to the New World.Florida Museum of Natural History's David Reed and colleagues present evidence that the New World lineage of head and body lice coevolved with H. erectus, but switched hosts to H. sapiens around 25,000 years ago.1 The effective isolation o

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Inclusion Bodies Acquitted

By | November 8, 2004

Courtesy of Steven FinkbeinerInclusion bodies play a protective, not pathogenic, role in Huntington disease, according to a recent study by Steven Finkbeiner of the Gladstone Institute of Neurological Disease at the University of California, San Francisco.1 The paper contributes to an ongoing debate about the role of inclusion bodies – intracellular clumps of mutant huntingtin (Htt) protein – in the pathology of diseases such as Huntington and spinocerebellar ataxia.Finkbeiner and co

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Barcoding put to the test

By | October 25, 2004

Two studies appear to confirm DNA barcoding as a powerful taxonomic tool. Paul Hebert and colleagues at the University of Guelph, Ontario, analyzed the single gene for cytochrome c oxidase I to distinguish 260 known North American bird species. The so-called DNA barcodes identified four new cryptic species as well.1The group also used the technique to demonstrate that the neotropical skipper butterfly, Astraptes fulgerator, comprises at least 10 species.2 Felix Sperling of the University of Albe

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Crossing over with GM

By | October 25, 2004

A genetically modified grass has passed a RoundUp-resistance transgene on to a related species growing 14 km away and to wild-growing plants of the same species 21 km away, according to a group from the US Environmental Protection Agency. A novel sampling method, employing widespread sentinel plants placed at different locations, found evidence of gene flow from transgenic bent-grass (Agrostis stolonifera) into the related species, Agrostis gigantea.But, there was no evidence that the gene cross

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Interdisciplinary Research

October 25, 2004

These papers were selected from multiple disciplines from the Faculty of 1000, a Web-based literature awareness tool http://www.facultyof1000.com.D.D. Sarbassov et al., "Rictor, a novel binding partner of mTOR, defines a rapamycin-insensitive and raptor-independent pathway that regulates the cytoskeleton," Curr Biol, 14:1296–302, July 27, 2004.The authors describe a novel molecular mechanism whereby downstream signaling in the mammalian target of the rapamycin (mTOR) pathway may proceed in

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Discovering the 21st Amino Acid ... Again?

By | October 11, 2004

Pyrrolysine, the 22nd amino acid, discovered in 2002, might lay claim to being the 21st following the discovery by Ohio State University researchers that, like the twenty canonical amino acids, it is translated by the genetic code using a natural tRNA synthetase-tRNA pair.1 Pyrrolysine is the first new amino acid discovered since selenocysteine in 1986, but the latter results from modification of serine after attachment to its tRNA.Microbiologist Joseph Krzycki and chemist Michael Chan discovere

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Insulin Special Delivery

By | October 11, 2004

Courtesy of Georgia Institute of TechnologyMost patients with insulin-dependent diabetes still control their blood glucose levels with a poke in the finger and a shot in the arm. While that crude but effective procedure is years away from being replaced on a large scale, many are looking to deliver insulin and other drugs in a more foolproof, less invasive manner.Associate professor Andrew Lyon's lab at the Georgia Institute of Technology has developed a thin, self-assembling, layered hydrogel f

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Sussing out Celiac Disease

By | October 11, 2004

Two recent reports offer a taste to the little-known underlying immunological mechanisms of celiac disease, a digestive autoimmune disorder triggered by gluten protein, which affects as many as 1 in 100 people in the United States.Working ex vivo, a University of Chicago group found that interleukin-15 overexpression helps convert antigen-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) into rogue lymphokine-activated killers (LAKs) via the CTL receptor NKG2D.1 The LAK cells provoke a more general immune

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Don't FRET, gold quantum dots are here

By | September 27, 2004

In the world of fluorescent labels, organic dyes are out, and quantum dots (QDs) are in. These nanosize crystals of semiconducting material (typically CdSe) sport a broad excitation profile, strong fluorescence, enviable photostability, and narrow, size-dependent emission spectra. QDs are ideally suited for most multiplexed fluorescence applications, but not for fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET).Because different QDs will fluoresce under the same excitation wavelength, they cannot fu

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