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Icebound microbes breathe iron

By | April 16, 2009

Members of a microbial community from a pool of water deep under the Arctic ice power their metabolism by "breathing" iron, a study in this week's Science reports. The previously unknown mechanism may explain how microbes survived during a period 600 million years ago, when the earth's oceans were covered in ice, the authors say. Blood Falls at the Taylor Glacier Image: Benjamin Urmston The identification of the bacterial ecosystem's oddball respiration is a "remarkable discovery," said Alan


Night vision inverts chromatin

By | April 16, 2009

Researchers have discovered a cellular mechanism that helps nocturnal mammals see in the dark. Mice, cats, deer, lemurs, and other mammals that are active at night remodel the DNA within their eyes to turn photoreceptor cells into light-collecting lenses, according to a linkurl:study; published today (Apr. 16) in__ Cell__. Image: striatic and Animal Photos! In nearly all eukaryotic nuclei, chromatin -- the structural building block of chromosome


Brain maps define diseases

By | April 15, 2009

Researchers have identified well-delineated brain networks that are linked to five distinct neurodegenerative diseases, according to a paper published in Neuron today (April 15). Image: flicker/linkurl:twitchcraft; "I think our data gives researchers a road map -- hopefully a treasure map -- saying this is where we should be looking" when studying both neurodegenerative diseases and cognition in non-diseased brains, said linkurl:William Seeley,;http://w


FDA censures lax IRB

By | April 14, 2009

A company that serves as an independent review board for clinical trials and was the center of a recent Congressional "sting operation" was linkurl:reprimanded; today (April 14) by the US Food and Drug Association (FDA) for violating rules protecting research subjects. The company has agreed to freeze some of its key operations. Specifically, under pressure from the FDA, the company, Coast IRB, voluntarily agreed not to approve any new stu


New tools tell wine's ancient tales

By | April 14, 2009

Chemical traces of medicinal herbs identified in ancient Egyptian wine jugs demonstrate that the culture employed herbal remedies 1500 years earlier than previously thought, reports linkurl:a study; in this week's PNAS. Yellow residue visible on a pieceof a wine vessel from about 3150 BC Image: German Archaeological Institute, Cairo The findings directly confirm the use of remedies described in a series of medical papyri written around 185

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Texas profs settle lawsuit

By | April 14, 2009

The University of Texas System linkurl:settled; a linkurl:lawsuit; yesterday (Apr. 13) agreeing to give hiring priority to more than 2,400 University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) employees who were fired in the wake of Hurricane Ike, which decimated the island campus in Galveston. "There were concrete things gained here but it remains a horrible labor relations and employ


Old ovaries, new eggs

By | April 12, 2009

Are female mammals born with all the eggs they'll ever have, or can they produce new eggs into adulthood? The question has been vociferously debated, but now, a study published online in Nature Cell Biology today (April 12) reports that at least in mice, adult female ovaries have a store of stem cells that have the potential to generate new eggs. Human oocyte Image: Wikimedia CommonsThe study "is a huge step in quelling this debate," Jonathan Tilly, a reproductive biologist at Harvard Medical


Molly mating mystery

By | April 10, 2009

Researchers have proposed an explanation for how three species of tiny fish manage to coexist despite having seemingly incompatible modes of reproduction, according to a study published in __Oikos__ last week. The Amazon molly (__Poecilia formosa__) is an asexually reproducing species in which females produce only female clones via parthenogenesis. To initiate embryogenesis, however, Amazon mollies require sperm from the males of one of two closely related, but sexually reproducing, species sha


Genentech pulls Raptiva

By | April 9, 2009

Genentech withdrew its psoriasis drug Raptiva from the market yesterday, citing the risk of developing progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML), a rare, often fatal brain infection. The drug will be phased out by June 8 of this year, according to a statement by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The decision comes after Genentech reported a fourth case of PML diagnosed in a 47 year old man in Germany in February, and a subsequent warning by the FDA. Three other people taking Rap


Harvard prof falsified sleep data

By | April 9, 2009

A former assistant professor at the Harvard Medical School (HMS) and the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston falsified and fabricated data in a study of sleep apnea, the Office of Research Integrity linkurl:reported; last week. linkurl:Robert Fogel,; a pathophysiologist who worked in the Brigham's division of sleep medicine from 1998 to 2004, fiddled with approximately


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