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Gene Therapy's Fall and Rise (Again)

By | September 27, 2004

© Christopher Zacharow/Images.comGene therapy's heady days of introducing the gene for adenosine deaminase into immune cells to treat a life-threatening congenital defect, as was done in the first gene therapy trial in 1990, have given way to an atmosphere of caution. In 1999, Jesse Gelsinger died of multiple organ failure four days after receiving adenovirus-based therapy for a rare liver disorder. In 2002, a child developed leukemia after receiving retroviral therapy for X-linked severe c

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Now You're Signaling, With Gas

By | September 13, 2004

NO SIGNALING:© 2003 Annual ReviewsAll images redrawn from D. Boehning, S.H. Snyder, Ann Rev Neurosci, 26:105–31, 2003.Neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNOS) is localized to NMDA receptors by the PDZ-domain adaptor protein PSD95. Calcium entry activates nNOS by a calcium/calmodulin-dependent mechanism. NO can diffuse to neighboring cells to activate soluble guanylyl cyclase or to nitrosylate cysteine residues on target proteins. Nitrosylation inhibits NMDA receptors providing a negative

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Predicting Invasions from Satellite

By | September 13, 2004

TAMARISK ASSESSMENT:Courtesy of James ClossFour sites in Colorado and Utah where joint USGS-NASA teams are conducting studies of the invasive species, tamarisk.While aerospace engineers at NASA's Goddard Laboratories, northeast of Washington, DC, look down from the heavens, ecologists at a neighboring United States Geological Survey (USGS) have a closer view. Scientists from these disparate fields, ecology and aerospace, have begun collaborating in hopes of stemming a huge and ever-growing invas

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Bare-naked Viroids

By | August 30, 2004

Theodor Diener's 1971 discovery of viroids was hard sell. The now-retired Diener, who was working as a plant pathologist with the Agricultural Research Service in Maryland, was trying to isolate the infectious agent responsible for potato spindle tuber disease. He presumed it was a virus. Instead, he detected a novel pathogen, which, unlike viruses, was not protected by a protein coat and appeared to comprise a single RNA molecule.1Many investigators weren't convinced that the hypothesized entit

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Dedifferentiation: More Than Reversing Fate

By | August 30, 2004

Courtesy of Cecil Fox and the National Cancer InstituteDifferentiation, the stepwise specialization of cells, and transdifferentiation, the apparent switching of one cell type into another, capture much of the stem cell spotlight. But dedifferentiation, the developmental reversal of a cell before it reinvents itself, is an important process, too. This loss of specialization is believed to factor heavily into stem-cell culture techniques and pathological conditions such as cancer. Determining its

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Stem Cell Sculpting

By | August 30, 2004

SHAPING A COMMITMENT:© 2004 Cell PressBrightfield images of hMSCs plated onto small 1,024 μm2 or large 10,000 μm2 fibronectin islands after 1 week in growth or mixed media. Lipids stain red, alkaline phosphatase stains blue. Scale bar = 50 μm. (From R. McBeath et al., Dev Cell, 6:483–95, 2004)Researchers have tried for years to make stem cells differentiate into specific cell types. This work usually involves bathing the cells in molecular signals that affect their fate

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Viroids, Viruses, and RNA Silencing

By | August 30, 2004

PATHOGENICITY MODEL:© National Academy of Sciences, USAViroid replication generates dsRNA intermediates, which are processed by Dicer into 21- to 25-nucleotide siRNAs. These siRNAs are then incorporated into siRNA – ribonuclease complexes (RISC). If the siRNA sequences significantly match host mRNAs, RISC may target them for degradation leading to disease symptoms. RISC can also target the viroid, forcing it to evolve and to adopt and maintain an RNA silencing-resistant structure. (Fr

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Driving Changes in Ligand Theory

By | August 2, 2004

AGONIZING DIFFERENCES:© 2004 Macmillan Magazines Ltd.(A) GPCR agonists increase the proportion of active receptor states; inverse agonists decrease the proportion of active receptor states; and antagonists inhibit the action of other ligands. (B) In systems with low constitutive receptor activity, inverse agonists will seem to have minimal effect, but might have more effect in a system with high activity. (from Nat Rev Drug Disc, 3:577–626, 2004.)Pharmacologists traditionally divide l

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Fruitful Research

By | August 2, 2004

From the USDA to the NIH to the CDC to the MOM, health officials and parents alike are imploring: Eat more fruit. Recently, researchers following 118,428 participants in the long-term Nurse's Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study found that individuals eating three or more servings of fruit daily had a 36% reduced incidence of maculopathy, an untreatable age-related eye disease, compared to those eating less than one-and-a-half daily servings. Other studies show how specific

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New Views On Mind-Body Connection

By | August 2, 2004

UNPRECEDENTED ACCESS:Courtesy of Fabrizio BenedettiDuring a deep brain stimulation clinical trial, researchers detected elements of the placebo effect. The pre-placebo neuron was recorded from the left subthalamic nucleus as a control. The post-placebo neuron was recorded from the right subthalamic nucleus. Other neurons demonstrated a similiar decrease in activity.Revealing the complexities of the pain experience may offer a window into the mind-body interaction. Several recent studies into the

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