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How killer cells remember

By | January 12, 2009

Adaptive immune cells like B and T cells aren't the only players in the immune system that can recognize antigens months after initially responding to them. A linkurl:study published online;http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature07665.html in Nature today identifies a specific ligand-receptor interaction through which natural killer cells, part of the innate immune system and the body's first line of defense against immune invaders, remember and recognize antigens in the l

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MRI homes in on protein structure

By | January 12, 2009

An improvement in magnetic resonance imaging has allowed scientists to view a virus that measures just 18 nanometers across, a study in the early version of PNAS reports. A group led by linkurl:Dan Rugar;http://www.stanford.edu/group/cpn/research/investigators_13_2.html of the IBM Almaden Research Center in San Jose, Calif. used magnetic resonance force microscopy to detect changes in the spins of hydrogen nuclei, a resolution 100 million times better than conventional MRI, allowing them to pe

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The between team

By | January 12, 2009

Executives at the Department of Health and Human Services have named a few acting agency heads as the US government prepares to transition into a new administration under President-Elect Barack Obama. There are no real surprises, with deputies or second-in-commands taking over next week and serving at top spots until successors are named by incoming HHS head linkurl:Tom Daschle;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/55206/ or directly by Obama. Cancer biologist linkurl:Frank Torti,;http://w

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FDA's morale spending irks Congress

By | January 8, 2009

The US Food and Drug Administration is raising hackles on Capitol Hill where lawmakers are peeved that the agency has paid a consultant more than one million dollars to raise the spirits of FDA employees. Morale at the FDA seems to have hit an all time low, with internal and public voices levying criticisms against the agency for approving high-profile drugs that turned out to be unsafe. (See our December 2008 feature on morale problems at the FDA). The linkurl:__Wall Street Journal__;http://o

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Rethinking TB

By | January 8, 2009

New observations of the early stages of tuberculosis infection may turn scientists' understanding of the bug's pathogenesis on its head: clumps of immune cells, called granulomas, long thought to protect hosts from the disease instead appear to be launching pads for the bacteria to further invade an infected individual, according to a study published in __Cell__ this week. The insight may spawn new approaches to treating TB, which annually infects and kills millions of people worldwide and is i

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Two-faced codon rewrites genetics?

By | January 8, 2009

The genetics of a marine protozoan may overturn one of the long-held tenets of protein synthesis. According to conventional wisdom, the genetic code is unambiguous: each DNA triplet, or codon, corresponds to a single amino acid. But a linkurl:study;http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/323/5911/25 in this week's __Science__ reports that in the wee waterborn creature __Euplotes crassus__, a single codon can code for two different amino acids, even within the same gene. This two-pronged

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Britain wants your brain

By | January 7, 2009

A shortage of donated brain tissue is hampering research into diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and dementia, a team of British scientists warned yesterday (Jan. 6). About 10,000 brains are used for scientific research in the UK. But researchers say that they need thousands more fresh organs from donors with both diseased and healthy brains. There are currently only 20 brains to study autism and 30 brains to research Alzheimer's in the country. "There's a great opportunity to facilita

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New infrastructure $ for Canada

By | January 7, 2009

The Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), an independent organization established by the government in 1997 to fund research infrastructure, announced a new C$45.5 million ($38.2USD million) program last month aimed at providing equipment and attracting researchers to Canadian institutions. The scheme will jump start 251 projects across 44 universities under two funds: C$38.2 million ($32.1USD million) was awarded under the Leaders Opportunity Fund -- a scheme for universities to buy equipmen

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Big Pharma backs CMV vaccine

By | January 5, 2009

Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis has teamed up with an American biotech company to develop the first commercial vaccine for cytomegalovirus (CMV), which kills or disables tens of thousands of infants every year. Because CMV infection does not usually lead to detectable symptoms in otherwise healthy people, only a handful of researchers have endeavored to develop a CMV vaccine. In fact, the virus is one of the top causes of birth defects; a 1999 National Academy of Sciences report estimated t

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UK activists guilty of blackmail

By | December 23, 2008

Four British animal rights activists were found guilty today (Dec. 23) of blackmailing companies that supplied linkurl:Huntingdon Life Sciences;http://www.huntingdon.com/ (HLS), a contract animal-testing company based near Cambridge, England. The activists, part of a group called linkurl:Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC),;http://www.shac.net/ led a campaign from 2001 to 2007 to intimidate several companies with ties to HLS in an effort to shut down the laboratory. Their tactics involved pra

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