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Grafts guide gene exchange

By | April 30, 2009

When two plants are grafted together, they share much more than water and minerals: They also swap genetic material, according to a linkurl:study;http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/summary/324/5927/649 published in tomorrow's (May 1) issue of __Science__. These findings muddy the distinction between naturally-occurring gene transfer in plants and the human-mediated mechanisms we generally refer to as genetic engineering. Image: Science/AAASEver since Soviet and Western scientists in the 1960

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Merck published fake journal

By | April 30, 2009

Merck paid an undisclosed sum to Elsevier to produce several volumes of a publication that had the look of a peer-reviewed medical journal, but contained only reprinted or summarized articles--most of which presented data favorable to Merck products--that appeared to act solely as marketing tools with no disclosure of company sponsorship. Image: flicker/linkurl:meviola;http://www.flickr.com/photos/69659670@N00/ "I've seen no shortage of creativity emanating from the marketing departments of

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Along came a sadistic spider

By | April 29, 2009

Arachnophobes beware: Researchers have discovered a male spider in the Judean foothills of Israel with a sadistic sexual perversion. Males of the aptly named __Harpactea sadistica__ spider jab their spiked copulatory organs into the body walls of female spiders to inject their sperm and outcompete rival males -- an arachnid first, according to a study published online tomorrow (Apr. 29) in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Image: Milan ŘezáčStabbing sex, also known as traum

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New HHS head takes on swine flu

By | April 29, 2009

As news of the first American swine flu death--a 23-month-old baby in Texas--broke yesterday, the US Senate confirmed Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius's appointment to head the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and she got right to work voicing the government's response to the potential pandemic. This morning (April 29), the new HHS secretary--backed by acting Center for Disease Control director Richard Besser, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Anth

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S. Korea OKs stem cells again

By | April 29, 2009

After a three-year moratorium on human stem cell research, South Korean officials gave the go-ahead to a new research project involving human eggs today (Apr. 29) provided that the research meets certain provisos. A national bioethics committee effectively banned research using human eggs in 2006 after Hwang Woo-Suk, a leading stem cell researcher formerly at Seoul National University who claimed to have created the first human stem cells from cloning, was shown to have manipulated and falsifie

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Can biotech tackle swine flu?

By | April 27, 2009

As reported cases of swine flu continue to accumulate (as of today, 40 had been linkurl:reported;http://www.cdc.gov/swineflu/index.htm in the US) and mainstream media outlets dust off their foreboding music tracks and positively scary taglines, a biotechnology company in Maryland says that its approach may speed development of a successful vaccine. Influenza A/South Carolina/1918 (H1N1) VLPsImage: Novavax, Inc.Researchers at Novavax have been developing vaccines for the H5N1 strain of avian flu

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Meteor didn't do in the dinos

By | April 27, 2009

The giant meteor that crashed off the coast of Mexico around 65 million years ago hit the Earth too early to explain the dinosaurs' demise and was too tame to even hurt a protist, according to a new study published today (Apr. 27) in the__ linkurl:Journal of the Geological Society.;http://intl-jgs.geoscienceworld.org/ __Some researchers, however, maintain that the study's authors are needlessly wishing away the shooting star. Image: NSF/Zina DeretskyThe linkurl:Chicxulub crater;http://en.wikipe

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Texas to sue over biolab site

By | April 24, 2009

A much-contested plan to build a $450 million government biodefense research lab has hit another snag: A group of Texas research organizations that lobbied for San Antonio to house the lab says it will sue the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) over its choice of site -- Manhattan, Kansas. Cattle being inspected for ticks Image: USDA, via Wikipedia linkurl:The Texas Biological and Agro-Defense Consortium;http://www.nbafsanantonio.org/aboutTBAC.html earlier this week (April 22) filed a notic

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Following the flock

By | April 23, 2009

Scientists have used traces of retrovirus DNA to map ancient sheep migration across Asia, Europe, and Africa, a paper in this week's Science reports. The results may help settle a debate about where humans first bred sheep for their white, fleecy coats, the researchers say. Soay sheep on St. Kilda, Outer Hebrides Image: Arpat Ozgul "What's neat about [the study] is that you're learning something about humans indirectly by studying animals that they brought along with them," said Welkin Johnson

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New cell cycle complexities

By | April 23, 2009

New findings are calling into question a long-held theory for how a dividing cell decides to stop the process of mitosis and restart the cell cycle. Chromosomes (blue) and mitoticspindle (green) during cell division Image: Oak Ridge Nat'l Lab, via Wikipedia Science textbooks have long claimed that what drives this decision is the breakdown of cell cycle-related proteins called cyclins at the end of the cycle's mitosis phase, but a linkurl:study published online;http://www.nature.com/nature/jou

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