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Mapping methylation

By | February 3, 2010

With the Human Genome Project largely complete, scientists are turning to variation in the epigenome and beginning to map chemical modifications of DNA that affect gene expression. Two recent studies that provide the first comprehensive maps of human DNA methylation -- one of the most commonly studied epigenetic modifications -- and a new initiative that aims to generate 1,000 more are a testament to this new focus in genetics research. Image: Wikimedia commons, NationalHuman Genome Research In

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Quantum photosynthesis

By | February 3, 2010

Biologists have traditionally left quantum theory to physicists. But the complicated interactions between matter and energy predicted by quantum mechanics appears to play a role in photosynthesis, according to a study published this week in Nature -- affecting how energy from the sun makes its way to a cell's reaction centers before being converted to chemical energy that powers cellular functions. Cryptophye algae from the ocean(species Rhodomonas)Image: Dr. Tihana Mirkovic,University of Toron


Peer review trickery?

By | February 2, 2010

Leading stem cell researchers are accusing some scientists of abusing the peer-review system, writing unreasonable or obstructive reviews and delaying the publication of high quality science. Image: Wikimedia commonsTwo researchers -- Robin Lovell-Badge, who spoke in a personal capacity, and Austin Smith, from the University of Cambridge -- linkurl:told the BBC; that sometimes scientists might write negative reviews of the work or request ad


Stimulus funds harbor hidden costs

By | February 2, 2010

When the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) doled out $10 billion to the National Institutes of Health and $3 billion to the National Science Foundation last year, many hailed it as a triumph for the US research enterprise. But the money, it turns out, comes with strings attached: keeping up with ARRA's administrative requirements is costing institutions thousands in increased overhead and may be compromising or delaying other initiatives and projects at the nation's leading research


News in a nutshell

By | February 1, 2010

Pharma research jobs on the chopping blockAnnouncements of job loss in big pharma continue, with the UK press saying that GlaxoSmithKline will soon announce 4,000 layoffs, nearly half in R&D. linkurl:(The Guardian); AstraZeneca said last week it would cut 8000 jobs, 3,500 of them in R&D, and noted plans to outsource more of its research and trim the number of disease areas on which the company focuses. linku


NIH gets $1 bil boost in 2011 budget

By | February 1, 2010

A $1 billion boost for NIH announced in the 2011 budget this morning (Feb 1) has quelled fears that US President Barack Obama's proposed non-security discretionary spending freeze would decrease budgets at federal science agencies. Image: Revisorweb via WikimediaCommonsNumbers released from the White House's Office of Management and Budget (OMB) tell of slight increases in the budgets of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Science, and the Nationa


$10 billion for vax research

By | January 29, 2010

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation said today (January 29) that they will donate $10 billion over the next 10 years to develop vaccines and deliver them to the world's poorest countries. The donation, announced at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, is the foundation's largest contribution to vaccine research and distribution, more than doubling the $4.5 billion sum it has given over the last five years. Image: Wikimedia commonsWith the money, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates hopes to ra

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Seeking Henrietta

By | January 29, 2010

linkurl:Rebecca Skloot,; author of the new book linkurl:__The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks__,; loves HeLa cells. The cancerous cells adorn her desktop computer background, the banner image on her cell phone, and the walls of her Memphis home. "I just think they're the most beautiful things in the world," Skloot tells __The Scientist__. It's no wonder that Skloot has become enamored with the immortal ce

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Science on the map

By | January 28, 2010

Mapping genetic interactions is old hat, but now scientists are mapping science itself, and looked to see how it's been changing. According to the results of a mathematical model, neuroscience, for example, has only evolved into a mature scientific discipline, like molecular biology and medicine, in the last decade, according to linkurl:the study published online today; (January 28) in PLoS ONE. A set of scientific fields t


Pluripotency not required

By | January 27, 2010

In a striking demonstration of cellular flexibility, scientists have created functioning neurons from fibroblasts, without going through an intermediate pluripotent stage, according to a study published online this week in Nature. Mouse cingulate cortex neuronsImage: Wikimedia commons"It's really exciting," said molecular geneticist Mathias Treier of the linkurl:European Molecular Biology Laboratory; and the linkurl:University of Cologne in Germany,;http://www.presso



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