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Adaptation vs. Inheritance

By | June 2, 2003

Frontlines | Adaptation vs. Inheritance Courtesy of Anna Gislén Most people see a blur when they dive underwater, but a group of youngsters in Southeast Asia, who belong to a seminomadic, seafaring tribe called the Moken, can discern small objects on the sea floor. Swedish scientists, who have studied these children, reckon this heightened ability highlights human adaptability to diverse environments. "The ... Moken of Southeast Asia are a shy people," explains Anna Gislén

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A League of Their Own

By | May 19, 2003

Frontlines | A League of Their Own ©2002 The University of Newcastle It was a soccer match that truly belonged in its own league: eight small dog-shaped robots, four to a side, kicked, caught, and scored, as their human programmers watched from the sidelines. Earlier this month, Carnegie Mellon University hosted the first International RoboCup Federation's American Open, gathering more than 150 researchers from North and South America to Pittsburgh, Pa., to witness the games. Carnegi

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EU Power and Stem Cells

By | May 19, 2003

Frontlines | EU Power and Stem Cells Courtesy of Dennis Steindler A bit of a tussle is happening in the European Union over which official body can ban, or not ban, human embryonic stem cell research. The familiar ethical controversies are mixed with considerable legal confusion. A report released this month by the European Commission, which directs EU-funded research, says regulation of the research is in the hands of member states. However, the European Parliament voted to ban some forms

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Images courtesy of Merck & Co. For the pharmaceutical industry, the numbers do not add up. Investment in drug development has tripled in the past 10 years to more than $30 billion (US), but the industry has fewer new drugs to show for it. After peaking at 131 in 1996, the number of new drug applications filed with the US Food and Drug Administration dropped to 78 in 2002. In response, pharmaceutical companies are scrambling to realign and reinvent research and development operations. Mass mer

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Hired Guns, Science-Style

By | May 5, 2003

Frontlines | Hired Guns, Science-Style When you cannot solve a problem, why not pay someone to do it for you? That's the idea behind the worldwide, online R&D collaboration, Innocentive (www.innocentive.com). Questioners post their biology, chemistry, or biochemistry 'challenges' on the Web site and interested scientists who figure out a solution earn a reward. Normally, the answer-seekers, who pay a fee, remain anonymous, but some are known. Ali Hussein, Innocentive's vice president of

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Journals Warned to Mind the Message

By | May 5, 2003

Frontlines | Journals Warned to Mind the Message UK medical researcher professor Ian Roberts has added new accusations to his earlier one, in which he said that medical journals helped spread US propaganda during the Iraq war. Roberts, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, originally launched his campaign in a January 2003 letter published in the British Medical Journal (http://bmj.com/cgi/eletters/326/7382/230#29063). "I said then there was an exaggeration of the public

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Smallpox Vaccination and (Unnecessary?) Caution

By | April 21, 2003

Frontlines | Smallpox Vaccination and (Unnecessary?) Caution Courtesy of CDC People with eczema and immunosuppressed patients need to forego voluntary smallpox vaccination to avoid adverse effects or even death. Now, another group joins them: those with heart trouble. Recently, three deaths occurred due to myocardial infarction shortly after vaccination, and adverse cardiac events have occurred in six civilians and 12 military personnel. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

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The Unstuff'd Brain

By | April 21, 2003

Frontlines | The Unstuff'd Brain Courtesy of Dana Press Macbeth: Canst thou not minister to a mind diseas'd ...? Doctor: Therein the patient must minister to himself. Macbeth: Throw physic to the dogs; I'll none of it. --Shakespeare, Macbeth, Act V, Scene III Though William Shakespeare uses the word 'brain' 66 times in his plays, his works hardly read like a neurological review article. Yet, say neurologist Paul Matthews and linguist Jeffrey McQuain, his comprehension of how the brai

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Thespians and Bioterror

By | April 7, 2003

Frontlines | Thespians and Bioterror Courtesy of University of Louisville Healthcare workers face a reality problem in the face of bioterror: How do they prepare for possible epidemics, the signs and symptoms of which few have witnessed? The realistic answer: With a little touch of makeup magic. In its patient program, the University of Louisville employs a cosmetics specialist who simulates injury and converts actors into victims. They stage bioterrorism-related afflictions as real as fake

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Porcine Parts on the Horizon?

By | March 24, 2003

Frontlines | Porcine Parts on the Horizon? Courtesy of Scott Bauer Infigen of DeForest, Wis., and BioTransplant of Charlestown, Mass., recently announced the birth of three pigs that mark the next stop on road toward xenotransplantation. The minipigs are clones derived from previous research (J. Betthauser et al., "Production of cloned pigs from in vitro systems," Nat Biotech, 18:1055-9, 2000) as well as knockouts for alpha-1,3-galactosyltransferase (GGTA1), which normally places a particu

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