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Brain (minus machine) interface

By | July 21, 2009

Learning to use an implanted brain electrode to control a prosthetic or robotic arm might be easier than researchers thought, suggests a linkurl:study; published online yesterday (21 July) in PLoS Biology. Ideally, the goal of a brain-machine interface is "to control the prosthetic naturally," said lead author linkurl:Jose Carmena; from the University of California, Berkeley. To date,


DNA may differ between tissues

By | July 20, 2009

Recent findings may spell trouble for genome-wide association studies based on DNA obtained through blood samples.


Vector did not kill HIV trial

By | July 20, 2009

New findings have disproved a leading explanation for why an experimental HIV vaccine made subjects more susceptible to the virus, reopening the door for further HIV vaccine efforts based on similar principles. Human Immunodeficiency VirusImage: NIAIDThe Merck-funded STEP study, which used an adenoviral vector to deliver an HIV vaccine candidate, was halted in 2007 after the data suggested the vaccine increased the risk of HIV infection. Researchers thought the effect might be due to an immune


Spontaneous speciation?

By | July 15, 2009

In a world without natural selection and no vast mountain ranges dividing populations, one might expect biodiversity to remain forever stagnant. But according to a study published this week in Nature, new species can arise arbitrarily and without provocation, challenging the widely held notion that physical isolation and selection are the driving forces behind speciation. Image: Wikimedia commons"So much of ecology and evolutionary biology is based on this idea of adaptive divergence leading to


FASEB head outlines funding goals

By | July 14, 2009

linkurl:Mark Lively,; a professor of biochemistry at Wake Forest University, took over as the president of the linkurl:Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB); on July 1 of this year. In a conversation with The Scientist, Lively outlines some of FASEB's goals for the upcoming year, including the organization's views on what to do when the $10.4 billion in stimulus funds for the NIH runs out. Imag


Renal researchers faked data

By | July 13, 2009

Two researchers conducting animal studies on immunosuppression lied about experimental methodologies and falsified data in 16 papers and several grants produced over the past 8 years, according to the Office of Research Integrity (ORI). Image: Rainer Zenz via Wikimedia The scientists, Judith Thomas and Juan Contreras, formerly at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), falsely reported that they performed double kidney removals on several rhesus macaques in experiments designed to test


Collins seen as boon to NIH

By | July 9, 2009

It would be difficult to find a more universally lauded and liked researcher than geneticist Francis Collins, who the Obama administration linkurl:nominated; yesterday (July 8) to take the reins at the National Institutes of Health. Collins led the US government's Human Genome Project in his time as director of the NIH's National Human Genome Research Institute. Francis CollinsImage: WikipediaAlmost immediately after the announcement of Collins's


Embryonic twist yields turtle shell

By | July 9, 2009

The bizarre body plan of turtles may be less of an evolutionary feat than scientists once believed. According to a linkurl:study; published online today in Science, the unique organization of the ribs and the development of the unusual shell that turtles call home may be explained by a relatively small structural variation from their animal relatives that occurs during embryonic development. Image: Wikimedia commons"The turtle body plan


The bio-comedian

By | July 9, 2009

It may be hard to find the humor in biology for researchers crouched over lab benches or dozing through yet another conference presentation. What's so funny about biology? Plenty, if you ask ecologist-turned-comedian linkurl:Tim Lee,; who draws on years of formal scientific training and research experience to spin the banalities of biology into standup success. Lee features the sometimes tedious PowerPoint medium popular for presenting scientific research as his


Collins tapped to lead NIH

By | July 8, 2009

The Obama administration has nominated geneticist Francis Collins to take the helm of the National Institutes of Health. Francis CollinsImage: WikipediaCollins, who led the US government's push to sequence the human genome as head of the National Human Genome Research Institute in the 1990s, previously linkurl:told; __The Scientist__ that he believes science should play a prominent role in policy making. "I would hope that there would be a strong



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