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Fertility Practices Meet Ethics Around the World

By | June 21, 2004

FINE LINESThom Graves MediaThe ethical dimension of assisted reproduction cannot be divorced from the science, as was illustrated by two seemingly contradictory decisions by the United Kingdom's Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority. The HFEA approved an application for use of preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) for a couple that had an existing child with Fanconi anemia. They wished to conceive a second child, both free of the disease and HLA compatible with the first. Stem cells tak

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Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis

By | June 21, 2004

FISHING FOR A HEALTHY BABY:Courtesy of the Reproductive Science Center of the San Francisco Bay Area, http://www.rscbayarea.comMulticolor Fluorescence in Situ Hybridization (FISH) can detect chromosomal abnormalities, such as aneuploidy, in cells removed from a developing embryo.Fast improving techniques for detecting genetic and chromosomal abnormalities via preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) may boost the success rate of in vitro fertilization (IVF). Some clinics report a twofold to three

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Are HIV Vaccines Fighting Fire with Gasoline?

By | June 7, 2004

An effective HIV vaccine has yet to be created, and maybe one never will. Scientists working on protective vaccines have mountains of problems with the virus' slippery nature, but perhaps most unnerving is that a vaccine-primed immune system might be more susceptible to infection. Boosting the HIV-specific helper cells may be giving the virus more factories in which to reproduce.T helper (Th) cells have a "dual role as target cells for infection, as well as being important mediators of the host

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Humanizing Protein Splicing

By | June 7, 2004

IT SLICES, IT DICES, IT EVEN SPLICES:©2004 Nature Publishing Group H.-G. Rammensee, Nature, 427:203–4, Jan. 15, 2004.Initial models of protein splicing (as shown at left) had protein cleavage and ligation occurring through unidentified processes, with further truncation occurring in the proteasome. Further evidence suggests that the proteasome actually mediates both hydrolysis and reformation of amide bonds (as shown at right) and that remaining N-terminal amino acids are removed in t

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Vaccines on Trial: HIV

By | June 7, 2004

This past May, non-profit organizations and hospitals promoted AIDS Vaccine Awareness Day, in some places displaying the traditional AIDS awareness symbol, a red ribbon, upside down – forming a V for vaccine. But it is hardly a V for victory. Even though 19 countries are testing upwards of 30 vaccine candidates, only 2 have advanced to clinical Phase III efficacy trials, according to the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI). Candidates in Phase I/II, II, and III include viral vecto

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Fever Pitch

By | May 24, 2004

© Dr. Tony Brain/Photo Researchers, Inc.Plasmodium parasites have ravaged humanity for centuries, decimating young people, and fixing alleles like that for sickle cell in populations at risk. Today, listed in a trinity with tuberculosis and AIDS as the most significant of the world's health problems, malaria infects 300 million to 500 million people each year and kills more than one million. Efforts to understand the malaria parasite and the mosquitoes that spread it are aided in part by ge

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Pegging Pathology on Mitochondrial Dysfunction

By | May 24, 2004

SYNAPTIC MITOCHONDRIA:Courtesy of Husseini ManjiThe surge in intracellular calcium during an individual action potential is rapidly buffered by mitochondrial calcium uptake. The release of calcium back into the cytoplasm is believed to allow for post-tetanic potentiation. ATP-production is essential for vesicle docking, fusion and endocytosis. Mitochondrial pathology and some treatments affect the mitochondrial membrane potential. Disrupting the MMP results in more pronounced calcium spikes; cha

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RNAs Running the Show

By | May 24, 2004

RNA SWITCH:©2004 Nature Publishing GroupThe GlmS enzyme, which is involved in GlcN6P synthesis, is translated from mRNA containing a ribozyme sequence. GlcN6P activates the ribozyme cleaving the mRNA sequence and turning enzyme production off. (Redrawn from T.R. Cech, Nature, 428:263–4, 2004)Coming from various directions, a number of research groups stumbled upon a naturally occurring mechanism for gene control that depends solely on RNA and environmental cues. Though the working det

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How Did Natural Selection Shape Human Genes?

By | May 10, 2004

UPSIDE-DOWN MITO-MAPLE:Courtesy of Douglas C. WallaceResearchers constructed a phylogenetic tree based upon human mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) variation. A branch bifurcates whenever they found an additional polymorphism. At the top of the inverted tree is mitochondrial "Eve"; the illustration shows two mtDNA sub-branches, or lineages, found in Europe and the Middle East. The J1- and J2-branch polymorphisms in the cytochrome b gene might have spread because they were climatically advantageous. (Rep

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Listen Up

By | May 10, 2004

The outer ear funnels sound waves from the air to the ear drum. For humans, sounds in the range of 20–20,000 Hz are transmitted by three bones (the smallest bones in the body) resting under the ear drum to a membrane lying on the cochlear surface. Vibrations passed on by the fluid-filled spiral tube reach the hair cells inside, each of which supports a tuft of 30–150 stereocilia arranged in rows of increasing height. These cells transduce mechanical signals into chemical ones through

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