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A review of Extraordinary Measures

By | January 22, 2010

Rare diseases and drug discovery don't usually make for Hollywood blockbusters. But today (January 22) a film about a genetic affliction that strikes fewer than 10,000 people worldwide hits movie screens, and it has some serious star power behind it. Harrison Ford and Brendan Fraser head up the cast of Extraordinary Measures, a new movie that may lift Pompe disease from the shadows of obscurity into the spotlight, as the focal point of an inspirational story of paternal love and scientific innov

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Bush stem cell line ok for approval

By | January 22, 2010

For the first time since the linkurl:National Institutes of Health;http://www.nih.gov/ released its new guidelines for the derivation of human embryonic stem cell (hESC) lines last summer, a line approved under the Bush administration has been recommended for inclusion into the growing federal registry of lines eligible for federal funding. Human embryonic stem cellsImage: Wikimedia commons, Nissim BenvenistySubmitted by the WiCell Research Institute in Madison, Wisconsin, the WA01 (commonly

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deCODE reborn

By | January 21, 2010

A leaner version of the failed Icelandic genomics company, deCODE genetics, has emerged from the corporation's bankruptcy late last year. Dubbed the "New deCODE" in a company linkurl:statement;http://www.decode.com/news/news.php?story=112 released today (Jan 21), deCODE genetics ehf will focus less on in-house drug discovery, instead partnering with drug makers to translate its genetic discoveries into therapies. The new company will also continue to sell its diagnostics disease risk tests and i

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DNA factory launches

By | January 21, 2010

Need a gene promoter? You may soon be able to order one from a catalog. California synthetic biologists are launching a linkurl:production facility;http://www.biofab.org/ that will provide free, standardized DNA parts for scientists around the world. A light programmable biofilm madeby the UT Austin / UCSF team, iGEM 2004 Image: Wikipedia The project, called BIOFAB: International Open Facility Advancing Biotechnology -- or just BIOFAB for short -- aims to boost the ease of bioengineering with

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NSF slaps school over grant

By | January 20, 2010

A small university in Georgia has agreed to pay back $500,000 of a multi-million dollar grant from the National Science Foundation for failing to accurately document some expenditures associated with the grant program. The NSF alleged that administrators at Fort Valley State University (FVSU), one of Georgia's historically black universities located about 100 miles south of Atlanta, violated the False Claims Act, legislation usually invoked to punish Medicare fraudsters or war profiteers. The

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Wanted: Records of revoked grants

By | January 20, 2010

Deciding when to pull a grant for any reason is one of the most difficult tasks any funding agency faces. It is not a decision that is taken lightly, and is usually a last resort. But it happens. Scientists who falsify data or misuse funds or even fail to show satisfactory progress do, from time to time, lose their funding. Image: Wikimedia commonsThe National Institutes of Health (NIH) admits to the occasional termination of basic research grants, emphasizing the rarity of such a drastic measu

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Marshall Nirenberg dies

By | January 19, 2010

Marshall W. Nirenberg, who received the 1968 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work on the language of codons and how DNA is translated into proteins, succumbed to cancer at age 82 in his New York home last week (January 15), after several months of illness. Marshall Nirenberg performing anexperiment, circa 1962Image: Wikimedia commons, MacVicar,National Institutes of Health"We feel like [we are] losing our close friend who has created the base of the current molecular biology and t

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Ancient humans more diverse?

By | January 18, 2010

Researchers have delved back further than ever into the genetic history of humans, and found that the ancient population that gave rise to modern humans may have been nearly twice as genetically diverse than humans today, according a study published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Scientific reconstruction of a Homo erectusImage: Wikimedia commons, linkurl:Lillyundfreya;http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Homo_erectus.JPG While most studies on the genetics of an

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News in a nutshell

By | January 18, 2010

- Is the US Food and Drug Administration's 2006 initiative to gain approval for old drugs that predate the current approval process boosting safety or just inflating the cost of such medicines, asks linkurl:an article;http://www.latimes.com/features/health/la-he-unapproved-drugs18-2010jan18,0,7696622.story in the LA Times. - Researchers have launched linkurl:an open access database;http://www.wellcome.ac.uk/News/Media-office/Press-releases/2010/WTX058219.htm of more than 520,000 small molecule

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Engineering cellular synchrony

By | January 15, 2010

Scientists have engineered bacteria that can communicate with each other in a synchronized manner, lighting up in waves of fluorescent green, according to report in this week's Nature. The advance paves the way for developing environmental sensors and drug delivery systems that can time the release of medicines in periodic bursts. A supernova burst in a colony of coupledgenetic clocks after critical cell densityImage: Tal Danino, Octavio Mondragon-Palamino, Lev Tsimring"I think [the study] rep

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