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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


FASEB head outlines funding goals

By | July 14, 2009

linkurl:Mark Lively,; a professor of biochemistry at Wake Forest University, took over as the president of the linkurl:Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB); on July 1 of this year. In a conversation with The Scientist, Lively outlines some of FASEB's goals for the upcoming year, including the organization's views on what to do when the $10.4 billion in stimulus funds for the NIH runs out. Imag


Renal researchers faked data

By | July 13, 2009

Two researchers conducting animal studies on immunosuppression lied about experimental methodologies and falsified data in 16 papers and several grants produced over the past 8 years, according to the Office of Research Integrity (ORI). Image: Rainer Zenz via Wikimedia The scientists, Judith Thomas and Juan Contreras, formerly at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), falsely reported that they performed double kidney removals on several rhesus macaques in experiments designed to test


Collins seen as boon to NIH

By | July 9, 2009

It would be difficult to find a more universally lauded and liked researcher than geneticist Francis Collins, who the Obama administration linkurl:nominated; yesterday (July 8) to take the reins at the National Institutes of Health. Collins led the US government's Human Genome Project in his time as director of the NIH's National Human Genome Research Institute. Francis CollinsImage: WikipediaAlmost immediately after the announcement of Collins's


Embryonic twist yields turtle shell

By | July 9, 2009

The bizarre body plan of turtles may be less of an evolutionary feat than scientists once believed. According to a linkurl:study; published online today in Science, the unique organization of the ribs and the development of the unusual shell that turtles call home may be explained by a relatively small structural variation from their animal relatives that occurs during embryonic development. Image: Wikimedia commons"The turtle body plan


The bio-comedian

By | July 9, 2009

It may be hard to find the humor in biology for researchers crouched over lab benches or dozing through yet another conference presentation. What's so funny about biology? Plenty, if you ask ecologist-turned-comedian linkurl:Tim Lee,; who draws on years of formal scientific training and research experience to spin the banalities of biology into standup success. Lee features the sometimes tedious PowerPoint medium popular for presenting scientific research as his


Collins tapped to lead NIH

By | July 8, 2009

The Obama administration has nominated geneticist Francis Collins to take the helm of the National Institutes of Health. Francis CollinsImage: WikipediaCollins, who led the US government's push to sequence the human genome as head of the National Human Genome Research Institute in the 1990s, previously linkurl:told; __The Scientist__ that he believes science should play a prominent role in policy making. "I would hope that there would be a strong


DNA sorts carbon nanotubes

By | July 8, 2009

Researchers have coopted DNA for a non-biological use -- sorting carbon nanotubes. A new linkurl:study; reports that synthetic DNA molecules can form paper-like sheets that can be used to separate nanotubes of different diameters, lengths, chiralities, and electronic properties. The study reveals some of "the richness of the structural motifs that nucleic acids may have," said Ming Zheng, a biochemist and materials scientist at

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Immune drug boosts lifespan

By | July 8, 2009

A drug used to prevent the rejection of transplanted organs and as an experimental cancer treatment in humans can significantly increase lifespan when given to adult mice, researchers have found. Mice that were administered the immunosuppressant rapamycin lived an average of 9-14% longer than mice that were not fed the drug, according to a paper published online in __Nature__ today (July 8th). "Four times a mouse" by Jacquesde GheynImage: Wikimedia"This is pretty remarkable," linkurl:Panjak Kap


New FASEB head takes office

By | July 8, 2009

linkurl:Mark Lively,; who took office as the 94th president of the linkurl:Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB); last week (July 1), plans to focus the group's policy efforts on issues such as animal use in research, rules for conflicts of interest, and biosecurity regulations relating to the use of select agents, FASEB said in a statement. Image: Wake Forest University School of Medicine"I think


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