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Synthetic enzyme pioneer dies

By | July 27, 2009

Ralph F. Hirschmann, a medicinal chemist who was one of the first to synthesize an enzyme in the lab, died last week (June 20) at age 87 from renal disease complications. Image: University of Pennsylvania"He was extraordinarily forward thinking," said organic chemist linkurl:Jeff Winkler,;http://webdev.chem.upenn.edu/chem/research/faculty.php?id=39 Hirschmann's colleague at the University of Pennsylvania. "His work was really revolutionary in that he achieved things that at the time were imagin

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Airway cilia taste toxins

By | July 23, 2009

Your sense of taste doesn't end in your mouth: Cilia lining airways leading to the lungs express taste receptors and alter their undulations in the presence of bitter chemicals, says a study linkurl:published;http://www.sciencemag.org/sciencexpress/recent.dtlwebsite online today (July 23)in __Science__. These cilia are linked to signaling pathways that regulate their motility, allowing epithelial tissues in airways to sense toxins or noxious compounds and help protect the lungs. Motile cilia

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The poetryome

By | July 23, 2009

Biology is, of course, creative. Without a little non-linear thinking to dream up new conceptual approaches and methodologies, some of the best experiments ever conducted would have never left the drawing board. But when it comes to communicating scientific results -- even stunning, revolutionary ones -- the literature can be drier than chalk dust. Image: Wikimedia commons, George GastinA new project sponsored by The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) -- a UK-based organization for res

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Chimps get AIDS too

By | July 22, 2009

SIV, the simian form of HIV, causes illness in chimpanzees similar to human AIDS, despite the longstanding belief that such viruses had no effect on non-humans primates, according to a new study published this week in Nature. Image: linkurl:Flickr/belgianchocolate;http://www.flickr.com/photos/frank-wouters/10422279/ "It's definitely unexpected," said viral immunologist linkurl:Don Sodora;http://www.sbri.org/research/sodora.asp of the Seattle Biomedical Research Institute, who was not involved

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Furloughs for state school profs

By | July 22, 2009

Universities across the US are forcing their employees to take unpaid leave, effectively reducing the salary budget without reflecting pay cuts on paper. But for most researchers, who cannot easily pause their studies, what furloughs really amount to is a simple reduction in income -- the same amount of work for less money. Image: linkurl:Flickr/hoyasmeg;http://www.flickr.com/photos/emeryjl/2553639968/ "Especially in the sciences, [professors can't just stop] laboratory experiments or any ongoi

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NCI tackles trial enrollment

By | July 22, 2009

Why does it take so long to complete a clinical trial? One bottleneck that many researchers face is enrolling enough participants to make the study statistically significant. On Monday (20 July), the National Cancer Institute's Cancer Biomedical Informatics Grid -- aka caBIG -- announced plans to team up with the Susan Love Research Foundation to create a database of 1 million women interested in participating in clinical trials via the linkurl:Army of Women;http://researchers.armyofwomen.org/

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Brain (minus machine) interface

By | July 21, 2009

Learning to use an implanted brain electrode to control a prosthetic or robotic arm might be easier than researchers thought, suggests a linkurl:study;http://www.plosbiology.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pbio.1000153 published online yesterday (21 July) in PLoS Biology. Ideally, the goal of a brain-machine interface is "to control the prosthetic naturally," said lead author linkurl:Jose Carmena;http://www.eecs.berkeley.edu/~carmena/ from the University of California, Berkeley. To date,

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DNA may differ between tissues

By | July 20, 2009

Recent findings may spell trouble for genome-wide association studies based on DNA obtained through blood samples.

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Vector did not kill HIV trial

By | July 20, 2009

New findings have disproved a leading explanation for why an experimental HIV vaccine made subjects more susceptible to the virus, reopening the door for further HIV vaccine efforts based on similar principles. Human Immunodeficiency VirusImage: NIAIDThe Merck-funded STEP study, which used an adenoviral vector to deliver an HIV vaccine candidate, was halted in 2007 after the data suggested the vaccine increased the risk of HIV infection. Researchers thought the effect might be due to an immune

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Spontaneous speciation?

By | July 15, 2009

In a world without natural selection and no vast mountain ranges dividing populations, one might expect biodiversity to remain forever stagnant. But according to a study published this week in Nature, new species can arise arbitrarily and without provocation, challenging the widely held notion that physical isolation and selection are the driving forces behind speciation. Image: Wikimedia commons"So much of ecology and evolutionary biology is based on this idea of adaptive divergence leading to

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