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New non-drug fix for HIV?

By | June 30, 2009

Researchers are slowly establishing a connection between an extremely rare genetic disease and HIV -- and homing in on a safe, non-prescription compound that could treat both. Recently, linkurl:James Hildreth;http://www.mmc.edu/faculty/som-jhildreth.html at the Meharry Medical College School of Medicine in Nashville, Tenn., and his colleagues found that cells affected by Niemann-Pick Type C (NPC), which disrupts cholesterol trafficking, were unable to release HIV, suggesting these cells would

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A taskmaster transcription factor

By | June 29, 2009

A scattered array of DNA acquired via horizontal transfer can co-evolve into a well-tuned, efficient genetic network to maximize an organism's fitness, a new linkurl:study;http://www.nature.com/msb/journal/v5/n1/full/msb200940.html finds. Reporting online earlier this month in __Molecular Systems Biology__, researchers showed that a single transcription factor in a tiny, salt-loving archaeon coordinates the expression of more than 100 newly-obtained genes. Halobacterium salinarumImage: Wikimedi

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Down to the bone

By | June 29, 2009

A fusion protein that ferries a healthy version of a bone-related enzyme gone awry has shown early clinical success in treating a rare bone disorder with no known therapy, researchers reported earlier this month at the Endocrine Society's linkurl:annual meeting;http://www.endo-society.org/endo/ in Washington, DC. The drug -- which is essentially a protein-based enzyme delivery mechanism -- could open the door to treatments of other skeletal disorders that have so far been deemed untreatable. Ra

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Snakes trick prey for easy meal

By | June 26, 2009

Water snakes trick their fish prey into swimming directly into their waiting jaws, according to a linkurl:study published in PNAS;http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2009/06/18/0905183106.abstract last week (June 19). With a subtle body movement, the tentacled snakes trigger a preprogrammed escape response in fish, causing them to flee in a predictable direction so that the snakes know just where to positions their heads for an easy meal. Image: Ryan Somma, Wikimedia commons"It's a very clever ma

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Sticking it to science

By | June 26, 2009

Every day, in countless classrooms across the globe, chalk-dusted science professors turn to rapidly sketched stick figure drawings to communicate scientific concepts with an economy of style. Now, linkurl:Florida Citizens for Science;http://www.flascience.org/ has celebrated the time-honored teaching method with its linkurl:Stick Science;http://www.flascience.org/sshome.html cartoon contest. Brandon Haught, communications director at the science advocacy group, conceived of the contest and to

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A downside to female promiscuity

By | June 25, 2009

A new study has revealed a mating conundrum in the animal kingdom: Less fit male seed beetles father more offspring than their high quality competitors when they mate with the same female, says a linkurl:paper published online;http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/324/5935/1705 today in Science. The findings contradict the widespread belief that females can benefit from taking multiple mates by allowing the best male to father the kids. Female (right) and male seed beetles in mating p

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Citation amnesia: The results

By | June 25, 2009

Citing past scientific work in present-day research papers can be a slippery business. Contributions from competing labs can be glossed over, pertinent studies accidentally left out, or similar research not mentioned in an attempt to give the study at hand a sheen of novelty. We at __The Scientist__ often hear complaints from our readers concerning what they regard as either honest or purposeful omissions in the reference lists of high-profile scientific papers. So we conducted a linkurl:study;

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Fake credentials in nanomed leader

By | June 25, 2009

Experts in nanomedicine are questioning the credentials of a researcher who has portrayed himself as an expert in the fledgling field, even starting a professional society and procuring a post as editor of the journal __Nanomedicine.__ Indeed, an investigation of his credentials reveals that he claimed to hold a directorship of a non-existent program, co-authored only two original papers in nanomedicine (one of which, a co-author says, he contributed to only editorially), and was accused of mi

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Evolution speeds up in the tropics

By | June 24, 2009

Tropical mammals are evolving faster than those found at high latitudes or elevations, according to a study published online today (June 23) in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. This pattern had previously been found in plants and marine protists but until now was assumed to apply only to cold-blooded organisms. Structure of DNA helixImage: Richard Wheeler, Wikimedia Commons "There's lots of reasons to believe that temperature plays a substantial role in generating [differences in the rate of

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Proteins link diet to longevity

By | June 24, 2009

Scientists have elucidated a key element of how diet restriction might boost life span. A single pair of proteins, whose activity is linked to diminished food intake, is responsible for significantly increasing the lifespan of worms, a linkurl:study;http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature08130.html published in this week's __Nature__ reports. "[This study] is going to open a field that's probably going to be important for mammalian life," said gerontologist linkurl:Nir Ba

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