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Heating up gene activation

By | January 19, 2009

There's a new technique for targeting gene therapy to specific tissues: sound waves that turn on gene expression, according to an article published online in PNAS. The technique could eventually also help orchestrate stem cell differentiation, the authors note. Currently scientists can control the timing of gene activation with techniques like ionizing radiation. They have also used small molecular switches to turn on gene expression. But ionizing radiation increases the risk of cancer, limitin

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New impact metric

By | January 19, 2009

In an attempt to provide alternative metrics to the traditional journal impact factor, the open-access journal __Public Library of Science ONE__ announced that it will release a slew of alternative impact data about individual articles in the coming months. The new "articles-level metrics project" -- which will post usage data, page views, citations from linkurl:Scopus;http://info.scopus.com/ and linkurl:CrossRef,;http://www.crossref.org/ social networlking links, press coverage, comments, and

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A wriggly debate

By | January 15, 2009

Two very similar studies investigating a single gene's role in pathogen susceptibility have come to pretty much opposite conclusions. A __C. elegans__ gene that was previously shown to affect innate immunity might simply alter the worm's behavior, according to a new linkurl:study;http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/323/5912/382 published today (Jan. 15) in __Science,__ although some scientists remain skeptical of the paper's findings. Last September, a team led by linkurl:Alejandro A

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Bailing out life science

By | January 15, 2009

Life sciences will indeed receive a boost in funding in President-Elect Barack Obama's sprawling economic recovery plan, according to figures from the House Appropriations Committee released today. A statement from the committee says that the National Institutes of Health will get $2 billion, the National Science Foundation will receive $3 billion, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will get $462 million. As the 111th Congress squabbled over the finer points of the recovery pack

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RNA viruses sneak into host DNA

By | January 15, 2009

Endogenous retroviruses, ancient viruses embedded throughout mammalian genomes, might help RNA viruses permanently integrate into the genomes of their hosts, according to a report in linkurl:__Science__;http://www.sciencemag.org/ this week. The findings overturn the long-held idea that most types of RNA viruses are incapable of DNA integration and raise another safety concern in the use of RNA-based gene therapy. "It's a very interesting paper," said Jens Mayer from the University of Saarlan

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What's your research worth?

By | January 15, 2009

British grant applicants will have to demonstrate the economic or social impact of their research, according to new funding rules rolled out by linkurl:Research Councils UK;http://www.rcuk.ac.uk/ (RCUK), the umbrella body for all of Britain's seven research councils. The "impact summary," which requires grant seekers to answer questions about the wider benefits of their research, was implemented today (Jan. 15) by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). Other funding

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No funding for hybrid cloning

By | January 13, 2009

Less than a year after the creation of "admixed" human-animal hybrid embryos for stem cell research was legalized in the UK, investigators with permits to conduct the research have had their grant proposals rejected by two of the country's leading funding bodies. "Our funding applications have not been successful, so we don't have the equipment and personnel to do this work," linkurl:Stephen Minger,;http://www.kcl.ac.uk/schools/biohealth/research/wolfson/sminger.html a stem cell researcher at K

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Pfizer to cut 800 scientists

By | January 13, 2009

Pfizer will eliminate 5 to 8 percent of its global research staff this year, totaling about 800 people, according to a spokesperson for the company. Pfizer began one-on-one conversations today with colleagues getting the boot, with the majority of lay-offs happening in the next several months, company spokesperson Christopher Loder told The Scientist. Loder declined to provide details on which research divisions will be hit the hardest but emphasized that Pfizer is honing its research staff to

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FDA stinks at policing conflicts

By | January 12, 2009

Just when you thought nobody could be worse than the National Institutes of Health at managing financial conflicts of interest among trial investigators... The Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services released a linkurl:report;http://www.oig.hhs.gov/oei/reports/oei-05-07-00730.pdf today that indicates a pretty severe lack of oversight over at the Food and Drug Administration. The report found that only one percent of the almost 27,000 clinical investigators contracted by

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How killer cells remember

By | January 12, 2009

Adaptive immune cells like B and T cells aren't the only players in the immune system that can recognize antigens months after initially responding to them. A linkurl:study published online;http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature07665.html in Nature today identifies a specific ligand-receptor interaction through which natural killer cells, part of the innate immune system and the body's first line of defense against immune invaders, remember and recognize antigens in the l

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