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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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Blind man aces obstacle course

By | December 22, 2008

How much can you see with non-functioning visual cortex? A clinically blind man, with lesions on both sides of his visual cortex, was able to flawlessly navigate an obstacle course, a paper to be published tomorrow in Current Biology reports. The patient, called only TN in the paper, is a former doctor, who had suffered two strokes that damaged both sides of his striate cortex, the brain region dedicated to processing vision. The findings reinforce previous observations that other routes in the

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Varmus, Lubchenco top Obama team

By | December 22, 2008

U.S. President-elect Barack Obama named more scientists to top posts over the weekend: Harold Varmus and Eric Lander will serve as co-chairs of the president's Council of Advisers on Science and Technology, headed up by Harvard physicist John Holdren. Jane Lubchenco, a marine biologist and former head of the AAAS, will also lead the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). These scientists are no strangers to our pages: Two years ago, Varmus, president of Memorial Sloan Ketterin

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Physicist to advise Obama?

By | December 18, 2008

President-elect Barack Obama plans to nominate Harvard physicist John Holdren for role of presidential science advisor, according to Science's blog linkurl:ScienceInsider.;http://blogs.sciencemag.org/scienceinsider/ linkurl:Holdren;http://www.hks.harvard.edu/about/faculty-staff-directory/john-holdren is the director of the Science, Technology and Public Policy program at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. He is also a professor of environmental science and public policy. His re

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Tweet tweet

By | December 18, 2008

We at __The Scientist__ are all a-flitter because we're now on Twitter. Starting this week, you can sign up to receive our "tweets" at twitter.com/TheScientistLLC. Twitter is a simple messaging service that allows users to share brief text updates -- otherwise known as tweets -- of up to 140 characters. (The last sentence was exactly 140 characters.) Readers can receive Twitter posts on the Web, on their mobile phones, via instant messaging, RSS feeds, Facebook, and various Twitter-dedicated ap

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Flagging fraud

By | December 17, 2008

A team of French life sciences grad students has launched an online repository of fraudulent scientific papers, and is calling on researchers to report studies tainted by misconduct. The website -- called linkurl:Scientific Red Cards;http://www.scientificredcards.org/ -- is still in a beta version, but once it's fully operational it should help the scientific community police the literature even when problems slip past journal editors, the students claim. The database might also prevent resear

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