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Update on Astrobiology

By | April 15, 2002

Just three weeks before E.T. flew back into movie theaters to celebrate his 20th anniversary, a group of interdisciplinary scientists, science fiction authors, teachers, and others interested in the real quest for extraterrestrial life assembled in the Silicon Valley for the 19th annual CONTACT conference (www.cabrillo.cc.ca.us/contact). This year, as part of the conference, 12 scientists from various fields coalesced around the theme "Is life rife in the Universe?" in a day-long symposium at th

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A Case Too Soon for Genetic Testing?

By | April 1, 2002

The raison d'être behind genetic screening is that genotype predicts phenotype (disease risks). But it isn't always so. The likelihood of a specific mutation in the BRCA1 gene causing breast cancer, for example, depends on one's ethnic group. Now a study raises questions about what looked like a perfect candidate for population genetic screening: hereditary hemochromatosis (HH), a form of "iron overload" disease.1 Standard biochemical testing appears to be a better predictor than gene tests.

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Companies Halt First Alzheimer Vaccine Trial

By | April 1, 2002

One cutting-edge neuroscience issue is whether a vaccine can cure Alzheimer disease (AD). A much-ballyhooed clinical trial recently sought an answer. But a mistrial was soon declared, and scientific sleuths now face a fresh mystery: Why did 15 trial subjects get sick? The vaccine, developed by Elan Corp., contained Ab, the peptide widely believed to trigger AD by forming brain-clogging amyloid plaques. When Elan researchers vaccinated transgenic mice that had developed AD-like pathology, plaque

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Data-Sharing Forum Attracts a Crowd

By | April 1, 2002

When Science published Celera Genomics Group's human genome paper last year, many scientists, especially bioinformaticians, were less than pleased with the unusual restrictions put on data access.1 The most odious: The data was not submitted to GenBank, and academic researchers were entitled to only one megabase of data at a time without further permission. Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research's Center for Genome Research director Eric Lander, one of the most outspoken critics of the Scie

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Dollars for Your Thoughts

By | April 1, 2002

The story of how the late lawyer and entrepreneur Franklin C. Salisbury joined forces with the late Nobel laureate Albert Szent-Györgyi is legendary within the National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR) that they cofounded in 1973. Two years before that, Salisbury read an article about Szent-Györgyi, who had won the 1937 prize in physiology or medicine for the discovery of vitamin C. At the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass., the famed Hungarian scientist was working

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Frontlines

By | April 1, 2002

Deemed the delicious taste, umami is found naturally in foods such as aged cheeses, steak, seafood, and mushrooms, and as an additive, the sodium salt monosodium glutamate. The substance that subtly makes food taste better is one of the 20 common amino acids that make up proteins. Now, researchers have shown that taste cells bearing a combination of T1R1 and T1R3 (T1R1+3) G protein-coupled receptors are broadly tuned to respond to many amino acids, including umami's monosodium glutamate. Althoug

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NCI Budget Will Increase, But How Much?

By | April 1, 2002

The fiscal year 2003 budget request for the National Cancer Institute is a record $4.72 billion, a $510 million, or 12%, increase over the present appropriation. But this "president's budget," submitted to Congress in February, falls $970 million short of NCI's own "bypass budget" request, which seeks $5.69 billion, a breath-taking increase of $1.48 billion, 35%, over the present appropriation, and a whopping $1.51 billion more than President George W. Bush requested for it last year. The bypas

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Public-Private Genome Debate Resurfaces

By | April 1, 2002

Smoldering differences between the Celera Genomics Group and the Human Genome Project erupted last month as three leaders of the international public consortium published an online article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)1 criticizing the results published last year by Celera.2 For the first time in scientific literature, Robert Waterston of Washington University, Eric Lander of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research's Center for Genome Research, and John Su

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Big Genes Are Back

By | March 18, 2002

One more genomewide linkage map, this for a fish called the three-spined stickleback, was announced late last year to not much fanfare.1 But rather than just another stride in the march of genomics, the accomplishment heralded a new way to approach a question that has stumped evolutionary biologists for decades: What is the architecture of genetic change? The model organisms for which linkage maps have been created are often bred in the laboratory to express certain phenotypes, and they can reve

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Bioterrorism Projects Boost US Research Budget

By | March 18, 2002

For the US government's fiscal year 2003, which begins Oct. 1 this year, President George W. Bush has requested a budget of $27.3 billion for the National Institutes of Health, a 15.7% increase of $3.7 billion, the largest single-year boost in history. With a supportive Congress, this will complete the goal of doubling the NIH budget over the five-year period beginning in 1998. About $1.5 billion, or 40%, of next year's increase is focused on bioterrorism-related research and infrastructure, bri

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