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The Nutshell

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Another fake conference?

By | November 24, 2009

Are phony academic conferences the new Nigerian princes of the internet? An email inviting recipients to a conference on human welfare and the global economy, said to be taking place in January and February of next year and featuring talks by some of the top scientists in the field, is making the rounds. Last week, I received an email from someone going by the name of Alyssa Logan, who claimed to be "Youth Leader" at a group called the Action World International Organization (AWIO) and a membe

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No GM on menu at food summit

By | November 24, 2009

At the World Summit on Food Security in Rome last week, hosted by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization, global leaders, not surprisingly, called for additional aid to improve farming systems and help in mitigating the effects of climate change to solve the world's food crisis. But among all the speeches and discussions, one issue was noticeably absent from the meeting's agenda: genetically modified crops. Image: Flickr/expatwelsh "The FAO appeared eager to avoid any controversy at last we

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Darwin's minstrel

By | November 20, 2009

"Survival of the fittest does not mean survival of the strongest, but survival of those that best fit their environment," croons linkurl:Brett Keyser,;http://nightjarapothecary.net/2009/06/23/darwinii/ on the streets of Philadelphia, dulcet tones ringing from his guitar on a recent sunny Autumn afternoon. Though passersby shoot Keyser puzzled looks, his act makes perfect sense with this coming Tuesday marking the 150th anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin's seminal work, On the Origi

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boom boosts science theatre

By | November 19, 2009

The lifeblood of theatre pulses with love, hardship, and self-discovery. But with science... not so much. Laboratory-borne concepts, scientific jargon, and nitty-gritty details can sometimes seem impossible to translate into art, especially on the stage. Image: Pearson Scott Foresman Wikimedia Commons But boom, a one-act piece from playwright Peter Sinn Nachtrieb now in its second season of performances, does just that. boom addresses ecological succession and evolutionary biology while the pla

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2nd human hESC trial?

By | November 19, 2009

A second company has requested permission from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to conduct a human clinical trial using embryonic stem cells. Human embryonic stem cellsImage: Wikimedia commons, Nissim Benvenistylinkurl:Advanced Cell Technology;http://www.advancedcell.com/ (ACT) filed an Investigational New Drug (IND) application yesterday (November 18) to conduct a phase I/II trial using hESCs to treat a genetic eye disease. "I'm cautiously optimistic," said linkurl:Marco Zarbin;h

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HIV antibody duds explained

By | November 19, 2009

Researchers may have finally answered the question of why many antibodies that target the HIV envelope are still unable to stop the virus from spreading -- a troublesome stumbling block in the protracted search for an effective vaccine. Human Immunodeficiency VirusImage: Wikimedia commons, NIAIDSlight variations in how those antibodies interact with their target on the HIV envelope cause conformational changes in the target molecule that render the antibodies ineffective, according to a study p

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A fix for Down syndrome brains?

By | November 18, 2009

Boosting levels of a neurotransmitter in the brain may reverse some of the cognitive abnormalities that characterize Down syndrome, according to a study, published online today (November 18) in Science Translational Medicine, conducted in a mouse model of the disease. Child with Down syndrome Image: Wikipedia"The work is really fascinating," said linkurl:Roger Reeves,;http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/geneticmedicine/People/Faculty/reeves.html a physiologist at Johns Hopkins Medical Institute who

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"Study ethics, NIH!"

By | November 17, 2009

The government agency tasked with funding crucial life science research needs to focus more attention on ethical quandaries and nefarious business practices that often obscure the path from discovery to public benefit, says a strongly worded linkurl:letter;http://www.pharmedout.org/NIHLetter.pdf to linkurl:Francis Collins,;http://www.nih.gov/about/director/index.htm the director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), signed by more than 100 biomedical researchers, journal editors, and healt

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deCODE files for bankruptcy

By | November 17, 2009

Iceland-based genomics pioneer deCODE linkurl:announced this morning;http://www.decode.com/News/news.php?s=32 (November 17) that it has filed for bankruptcy. It will sell some of its holdings, but plans to continue operating its business and managing its properties as it does now. Image: Wikimedia commons, Jerome Walker, Dennis MytsIn the filing, deCODE listed total assets of $69.9 million and total debt of $313.9 million, as of June 30, 2009. deCODE, launched in 1996, quickly became a leader

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EU trial rules stall research

By | November 17, 2009

European clinical trial guidelines meant to make trials safer and more efficient are actually slowing down studies that could help patients, and even dissuading researchers from launching trials at all, according to an opinion published online today (November 16) in PLoS Medicine. Image: Wikimedia commons, S. Solberg J.The European Union's Clinical Trials Directive, adopted in 2004, says that trials evaluating investigational medicinal products should follow Good Clinical Practice (GCP), an in

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