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A dungless dung beetle

By | January 21, 2009

Deep in the Amazon jungle, researchers have discovered a dung beetle that doesn't live up to its name, a sign the insect has undergone speciation. A new study published today (Jan. 20) in __Biology Letters__ reports a dung beetle that shuns its normal muck-eating habits in favor of feasting solely on live millipedes -- the first non-dung-eating dung beetle, say the authors. But not everyone agrees with this claim. Dung beetles are a worldwide group of insects that feed almost exclusively on

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Animal rights activists jailed

By | January 21, 2009

Seven animal rights activists who blackmailed companies that supplied linkurl:Huntingdon Life Sciences,;http://www.huntingdon.com/ an animal testing laboratory based in the UK, were sentenced today (Jan. 21) to between four and 11 years in prison. From 2001 to 2007, members of the linkurl:Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty;http://www.shac.net/ (SHAC) group used inflammatory graffiti, false allegations of pedophilia, and bomb hoaxes to intimidate managers and staff with links to the Cambridge-based

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China gunning for brain gain

By | January 21, 2009

A scientific organization in the world's most populous nation is trying to lure foreign researchers to work on short-term contracts within its borders with offers of robust funding. The Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) announced last week that it will be offering outstanding foreign scientists funding that "will be higher than their research funding outside China," according to the chief of the CAS's international cooperation bureau Lv Yonglong, who was quoted by linkurl:SciDev.Net.;http://ww

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Big unis, big losers?

By | January 20, 2009

Several top UK universities, including Oxford and Cambridge, stand to lose millions of pounds in research funding as a result of last year's Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), Britain's major review of research quality. However, other institutions that focus less on research may see an increase in funding, setting off accusations that the two tiers of schools could be engaging in "class warfare." On December 18, the RAE released its linkurl:rankings;http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/table/20

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An epigenetic inheritance

By | January 19, 2009

It's not just genes that are inherited. Chemical tags that affect gene expression levels may be inherited too, a new study published online this week in Nature Genetics reports. Molecular biologist Arturas Petronis and his colleagues at the Center for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, Canada compared DNA methylation patterns from epithelial cells inside the mouths of 39 sets of identical and 40 sets of fraternal twins. Compared to fraternal twins, identical twins had more similar methyla

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Heating up gene activation

By | January 19, 2009

There's a new technique for targeting gene therapy to specific tissues: sound waves that turn on gene expression, according to an article published online in PNAS. The technique could eventually also help orchestrate stem cell differentiation, the authors note. Currently scientists can control the timing of gene activation with techniques like ionizing radiation. They have also used small molecular switches to turn on gene expression. But ionizing radiation increases the risk of cancer, limitin

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New impact metric

By | January 19, 2009

In an attempt to provide alternative metrics to the traditional journal impact factor, the open-access journal __Public Library of Science ONE__ announced that it will release a slew of alternative impact data about individual articles in the coming months. The new "articles-level metrics project" -- which will post usage data, page views, citations from linkurl:Scopus;http://info.scopus.com/ and linkurl:CrossRef,;http://www.crossref.org/ social networlking links, press coverage, comments, and

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A wriggly debate

By | January 15, 2009

Two very similar studies investigating a single gene's role in pathogen susceptibility have come to pretty much opposite conclusions. A __C. elegans__ gene that was previously shown to affect innate immunity might simply alter the worm's behavior, according to a new linkurl:study;http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/323/5912/382 published today (Jan. 15) in __Science,__ although some scientists remain skeptical of the paper's findings. Last September, a team led by linkurl:Alejandro A

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Bailing out life science

By | January 15, 2009

Life sciences will indeed receive a boost in funding in President-Elect Barack Obama's sprawling economic recovery plan, according to figures from the House Appropriations Committee released today. A statement from the committee says that the National Institutes of Health will get $2 billion, the National Science Foundation will receive $3 billion, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will get $462 million. As the 111th Congress squabbled over the finer points of the recovery pack

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RNA viruses sneak into host DNA

By | January 15, 2009

Endogenous retroviruses, ancient viruses embedded throughout mammalian genomes, might help RNA viruses permanently integrate into the genomes of their hosts, according to a report in linkurl:__Science__;http://www.sciencemag.org/ this week. The findings overturn the long-held idea that most types of RNA viruses are incapable of DNA integration and raise another safety concern in the use of RNA-based gene therapy. "It's a very interesting paper," said Jens Mayer from the University of Saarlan

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