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Q&A: Do we need stem cell bank?

By | July 27, 2010

Among stem cell policy changes instituted since U.S. President Barack Obama took office, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) made a linkurl:controversial move; to not renew funding of a key stem cell bank established at the linkurl:WiCell Institute; in Wisconsin. Many scientists worry that without a national center to distribute human embryonic stem cell lines to researchers, the availability, cost and quality of cell line


Top 7 papers in neuroscience

By | July 27, 2010

#1 Neurons complete hippocampus loop There's a new, important function for a once-obscure cell population in the brain: CA2 pyramidal neurons, a subset of cells in the hippocampus, form a link between electrical inputs and outputs in the hippocampus. V. Chevaleye et al., "Strong CA2 pyramidal neuron synapses define a powerful disynaptic cortico-hippocampal loop," linkurl:Neuron,;,f1000m,isrctn 66:560-72, 2010. linkurl


Totipotent art

By | July 23, 2010

Some biologists see the beauty in their work. More than a few artists draw inspiration from the natural world. But stem cell researcher and artist linkurl:Ariel Ruiz i Altaba; successfully integrates the worlds of art and science, creating biology-inspired art while keeping up with the daily rigors of scientific research. "Eclipse" from Ruiz i Altaba'sPossible to Forget seriesImage: linkurl:Ariel Ruiz i Altaba; "Mostly for someone to be prof


Insect gut has mind of its own

By | July 22, 2010

In at least one species of caterpillar, the gut appears to slide freely back and forth, untethered to the surrounding tissue - an unusual mechanism that might help the insect digest food while it crawls up stems in search of its leafy meals.__Manduca sexta__ is a tobacco plant predator and amodel organism in neurophysiologyImage:Salzbrot via Wikimedia Commons"What they're describing here, as far as I know, has never been described in any other animal," said zoologist linkurl:Michael LaBarbera,;h


Video: When peat goes POP

By | July 22, 2010

When nature calls, and kingdom Plantae is whipped into a reproductive fervor, peat moss doesn't merely release its spores -- it explodes them. For the first time ever, researchers using ultra high speed video have recorded in exquisite detail the volatile burst of spore capsules in several species of __Sphagnum__ moss, and they've noted quirks of fluid dynamics, called "vortex rings," previously associated only with animals or machines. (For example, when squid and jellyfish propel themselves th


Meet 100-year-old salamander

By | July 21, 2010

A blind, cave-dwelling amphibian appears to live for more than 100 years, an inexplicable feat that may eventually (when explained) provide insights into aging in other species. The "human fish", or olm. Scientific Name: Proteus anguinusImage: Yann VoituronBut first, scientists have to unravel the mystery of how the species -- known as "human fish" -- achieves such longevity. "We cannot, at this time, say how this animal manages to survive such a long time," said eco-physiologist linkurl:Yann


Billion-euro boost to EU science

By | July 20, 2010

European science is set for a serious shot in the arm, after the European Union's commissioner for research and innovation announced yesterday (19th July) that the EU will invest approximately €6.4 billion in research and development on the continent through 2011. Image: S. Solberg J. via WikimediaThe investment package, the largest ever infusion of funding into research activities across Europe, will create more than 165,000 jobs and help save struggling economies, said Ireland's M&aacut

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Top 7 immunology papers

By | July 20, 2010

#1 A gene for autoimmunity Defective sialic acid acetylesterase (SIAE) -- an enzyme involved in the regulation of B lymphocyte signaling -- infers a greater risk of autoimmune disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis and type I diabetes, and may contribute to the pathogenesis of such diseases. I. Surolia et al., "Functionally defective germline variants of sialic acid acetylesterase in autoimmunity," linkurl:__Nature,__;


iPSCs less pliable than ESCs?

By | July 19, 2010

Stem cells derived from adult tissues may be less able to differentiate into different tissues than those derived from embryos, because adult cells appear to retain an "epigenetic memory" of the cell type from which they were derived, according to two mouse studies published this week in Nature journals. An iPSC colonyImage: Jose M. Polo andKonrad HochedlingerThe papers show that induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) "are not truly similar to [embryonic stem cells] when examined at a high reso


Video: Transcription, live

By | July 18, 2010

For the first time, scientists have devised a way to watch and analyze, in real time, the transcription of a single gene in a living human cell. Published online today (July 18) in Nature Methods, researchers at Bar-Ilan University in Israel describe their system to visualize and track the kinetics of transcription, including the speed and fluctuations of transcription of a single gene. Yaron Shav-Tal and colleagues at Bar-Ilan used their technique, which involves tagging the mRNA product from


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