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Prion profits

By | April 2, 2009

Prions may not just be culprits in disease -- they may also do some good, new research shows. Proteins prone to morph into prions are widespread in yeast, and may benefit the organism by helping it adapt to a changing environment, scientists report in this week's Cell. Prion histology Image: Wikimedia CommonsThe results are "fascinating," and "biologically very significant," said Liming Li, a biochemist at Northwestern University who studies yeast prions but was not involved in the research. T

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Sleep adjusts fly synapses

By | April 2, 2009

New findings support a controversial hypothesis about the biological role of sleep: Snoozing may be a way for the brain to clear clutter accumulated after a hard day of synapse forming and strengthening. Two __Science__ studies published today suggest that the brains of sleeping __Drosophila__ undergo an overall depression in synaptic strength and number, eliminating some minor neuronal connections while merely weakening stronger ones.Expression of synaptic markers is low aftersleep (left) and h

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Your guide to NIH stimulus funds

By | April 2, 2009

In recent weeks the National Institutes of Health has been churning out new grant announcements tied to the handsome $10.4 billion sum the agency netted through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), otherwise known as the stimulus bill. With application deadlines looming in the next couple of months, __The Scientist__ thought now would be a good time to lay out all the funding opportunities that could get you and your lab some of the stimulus funding. linkurl:Competitive Revisi

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Astute algae, conned corals

By | March 31, 2009

Coral reefs form as a partnership between sea anemone-like polyps and photosynthetic algae that provides nutrients for the former and safe, well-lit shelter for the latter. But this alliance might not start off as a true joint venture. New research published online earlier this month in__ linkurl:Molecular Ecology;http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/122268905/abstract __indicates that symbiotic algae sneak inside coral cells in a stealth manner, rather than being actively welcomed by thei

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Texas school hired while firing

By | March 31, 2009

The University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston is bringing in new assistant professors at the same time as around 30 fired faculty members, many of them tenured, fight for the jobs they lost in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike. After the Sept. 13 storm hit the island campus, UTMB declared financial exigency and linkurl:conducted mass layoffs;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/55255/ that ultimately cost around 2,500 jobs, including the posts of linkurl:127 faculty members,;http://txfa

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Are lab standards harmful?

By | March 30, 2009

Standardizing the laboratory environment may be doing science more harm than good: Removing all variability from animal experiments makes them less reproducible, rather than more, according to a study published online today in Nature Methods. Image:Wikipedia The study "is certainly a clear demonstration of why standardization can indeed decrease reproducibility, and I hope that from now on this idea will appear less counterintuitive in the field," linkurl:Neri Kafkafi;http://www.geocities.com/n

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Lousy with chromosomes

By | March 30, 2009

Scientists have found an unprecedented evolutionary modification deep within the cells of the lowly human body louse (__Pediculus humanus__): the tiny blood sucker contains not one but 18 separate mitochondrial chromosomes.A female human body louse (__Pediculushumanus corporis__). Photo courtesy of Richard Webband Renfu Shao "It's a big surprise to me and my colleagues," wrote linkurl:Renfu Shao,;http://florey.biosci.uq.edu.au/mypa/academic/barker/china_research.htm#Mr%20Renfu%20Shao lead autho

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NIH stimulus grants for postdocs

By | March 27, 2009

The National Institutes of Health, awash in $10 billion dollars of stimulus cash and scrambling to get it out the door, has linkurl:announced;http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/NOT-OD-09-056.html a new round of supplemental grants that aim to retain or hire new postdoctoral fellows in the labs of NIH-funded investigators. These "administrative supplements" are meant to "promote job creation and economic development along with accelerating the pace and achievement of scientific rese

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Pluripotency via plasmids

By | March 26, 2009

Researchers are one step closer to reprogramming stem cells that are safe for use in the clinic with a new virus-free method for deriving human induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells that doesn't rely on integrating foreign DNA, according to a linkurl:study;http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/1172482 published online today in __Science__. Skin cells induced to a pluripotent stateImage: Junying Yu / UW-MadisonSince these cells' genomes have never been genetically modified, they provide

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Trial safety lacking, says GAO

By | March 26, 2009

The system for protecting the safety of people who participate in clinical trials is in shambles and needs a major overhaul, according to the conclusions of a two-year undercover US government investigation. The undercover investigation, which caught a commercial institutional review board approving a fake study made up by investigators at the Government Accountability Office (GAO), is "absolutely" a positive step, said Adil Shamoo, a professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the Univ

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