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The Nutshell

Daily News Roundup

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Plagiarism retracts review

By | April 1, 2010

A two-year-old review paper on advances in using genetically engineered biofuel crops to boost ethanol production was retracted from __Nature Reviews Genetics__ (__NRG__) because the author stole the bulk of a paragraph from another paper she had peer reviewed. BiofuelsImage by Steve Jurvetson via WikimediaThe review author, Michigan State University plant scientist Mariam Sticklen, wrote in the current issue of __NRG__ that she was linkurl:retracting;http://www.nature.com/nrg/journal/v11/n4/fu

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Bird genes help explain speech

By | March 31, 2010

The first genome sequence of a songbird, published in Nature this week, has provided scientists with the tools to begin studying the molecular underpinnings of vocal learning -- an ability present in just a few other animals, including whales, bats and humans. The zebra finch gets its name from the black-and-white stripes on the male finch's throatImage: L. Brian Stauffer, U. of Illinois News Bureau"This is a really important step forward for our field," said linkurl:Allison Doupe,;http://kec

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Key cancer patents killed

By | March 30, 2010

A federal judge ruled yesterday (March 29) to invalidate seven patents related to two genes associated with breast cancer, casting doubt on the thousands of other patents covering human genes. Image: Wikimedia commons"If a decision like this were upheld, it would have a pretty significant impact on the future of medicine," Kenneth Chahine, a visiting law professor at the University of Utah, linkurl:told the New York Times.;http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/30/business/30gene.html Chahine filed an

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News in a nutshell

By | March 29, 2010

More counterfeit newsChinese national Sengyang Zhou was arrested in Hawaii last week on charges of importing and linkurl:selling counterfeit drugs online,;http://www.2daydietshopping.com/ reminiscent of the story of another recently nabbed pharma faker, Kevin Xu, whose downfall is detailed in linkurl:a recent feature;http://www.the-scientist.com/2010/2/1/36/1/ in The Scientist. Image: Wikimedia commons, Tom VarcoZhou's wares included a fake version of the weight-loss pill Alli, and the fakes ar

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Creature cast

By | March 26, 2010

Most university professors have ideas for how to get their students excited about the science they're studying -- rarely do those plans involve claymation. Unless, of course, you happen to be Brown University evolutionary biologist linkurl:Casey Dunn's;http://www.brown.edu/Faculty/Dunn_Lab/ student. "Nature documentaries like 'Blue Planet' and 'Planet Earth' were a big part of what got me interested in science, and it was fun to kind of ape the best parts of existing nature documentaries while

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Q&A: Translation deCODEd

By | March 26, 2010

As far as buzz words go in the life science community, "translational research" has had a pretty long lifespan. Transforming laboratory-hatched ideas into lucrative commercial products has, is, and will be a holy grail sought by scientists and business types alike. But successes in the field of translational research are few and far between. One of the most notable burnouts befell Icelandic genetics company deCODE, which assembled an impressive genomic database, and identified several key diseas

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New clue to how telomeres work

By | March 25, 2010

One protein appears to play an integral role in protecting telomeres, and possibly preventing cancerous growth, according to a study published this week in Science. Chromosomes with fluorescently tagged telomeres in cells that lack Rap1and Ku. The arrows point to examples of telomere-sister chromatid exchanges.Image: Titia de Lange laboratoryThe protein in question is part of a complex called shelterin, which prevents a potentially dangerous type of DNA repair that can shorten telomeres and

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NIH boosts its clinical core

By | March 25, 2010

The National Institutes of Health is upgrading its drug development and manufacturing facility -- new location, new equipment, same mission -- to "help move ideas from the laboratory bench to the patient faster and better," said John Gallin, director of the NIH Clinical Center. Mark O. Hatfield Clinical Research CenterImage: National Institutes of HealthAs I toured the new $12 million, over 1,000 square meter facility today (March 25), I meandered through room after room of new, top of the lin

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New hominin found via mtDNA

By | March 24, 2010

A previously unknown human ancestor may have coexisted with Neanderthals and early modern humans, German researchers report online in Nature today (March 24). Denisova cave from the outsideImage: Bence ViolaFor the first time, the scientists identified the novel hominin using mitochondrial gene sequencing of bone fragments, not fossils. The genomic analysis also revealed a hitherto-unknown migration from Africa to Eurasia just under one million years ago. "It's such a surprise," said linkurl:T

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Q&A: The bill's boon to biotech

By | March 24, 2010

The historic healthcare reform legislation that was signed by U.S. President Barack Obama yesterday (23rd March) will be an obvious boon to big pharmaceutical companies and hospitals, which will eventually have access to more than 30 million new customers covered under the bill. But how will the bill affect smaller companies and academics? __The Scientist__ asked linkurl:Kenneth Kaitin,;http://csdd.tufts.edu/about/from_the_director professor of medicine and director of the Tufts Center for the S

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