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Science scores in 2010 US budget

By | May 7, 2009

Overall, federal science fares well in President Barack Obama's recently announced FY2010 linkurl:budget,; but the National Institutes of Health would net a pretty paltry increase under the president's plan. In the proposal, the NIH stands to get slightly more than $30.8 billion in 2010. This would represent a $443 million, or 1.5%, bump over the NIH's 2009 budget. Kathleen Sebelius, our newly crowned Department of Health and Human Services Secretar


Hobbit origins from head to toe

By | May 6, 2009

Ever since 2003, when researchers found the skeletal remains of a diminutive, human-like creature--dubbed the Hobbit--on an island in Indonesia, a debate has raged over whether the find represents a new species or a just deformed population of an existing species. Two papers appearing in __Nature__ today--one addressing the shape of its feet and the other the size of its head--confirm that __Homo floresiensis__ is in fact a separate species, but each posits slightly different evolutionary origin


EU OKs primate research

By | May 5, 2009

Research involving non-human primates was given the go-ahead today (May 5) in an initial vote by the European Parliament, although legislators called for most basic testing on great apes to be outlawed. Image: Understanding Animal ResearchThe new parliamentary directive "strikes a compromise between ensuring that research can continue in the EU and improving animal welfare," linkurl:Neil Parish,; a Conservative Member of the European Parliament (MEP) from the UK, sai


A new path for HIV entry

By | April 30, 2009

A new study overthrows a long-held theory on how HIV finds its way into host cells. Rather than fusing directly with the host cell membrane, the virus is first engulfed by it to form a vesicle that releases its contents into the cytoplasm, a study published tomorrow (May 1) in __Cell__ reports. linkurl:The findings; may suggest other therapeutic avenues for targeting HIV, the researchers say. A single virus (yellow) co-labeled with amembrane (r


Grafts guide gene exchange

By | April 30, 2009

When two plants are grafted together, they share much more than water and minerals: They also swap genetic material, according to a linkurl:study; published in tomorrow's (May 1) issue of __Science__. These findings muddy the distinction between naturally-occurring gene transfer in plants and the human-mediated mechanisms we generally refer to as genetic engineering. Image: Science/AAASEver since Soviet and Western scientists in the 1960


Merck published fake journal

By | April 30, 2009

Merck paid an undisclosed sum to Elsevier to produce several volumes of a publication that had the look of a peer-reviewed medical journal, but contained only reprinted or summarized articles--most of which presented data favorable to Merck products--that appeared to act solely as marketing tools with no disclosure of company sponsorship. Image: flicker/linkurl:meviola; "I've seen no shortage of creativity emanating from the marketing departments of


Along came a sadistic spider

By | April 29, 2009

Arachnophobes beware: Researchers have discovered a male spider in the Judean foothills of Israel with a sadistic sexual perversion. Males of the aptly named __Harpactea sadistica__ spider jab their spiked copulatory organs into the body walls of female spiders to inject their sperm and outcompete rival males -- an arachnid first, according to a study published online tomorrow (Apr. 29) in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Image: Milan ŘezáčStabbing sex, also known as traum


New HHS head takes on swine flu

By | April 29, 2009

As news of the first American swine flu death--a 23-month-old baby in Texas--broke yesterday, the US Senate confirmed Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius's appointment to head the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and she got right to work voicing the government's response to the potential pandemic. This morning (April 29), the new HHS secretary--backed by acting Center for Disease Control director Richard Besser, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Anth


S. Korea OKs stem cells again

By | April 29, 2009

After a three-year moratorium on human stem cell research, South Korean officials gave the go-ahead to a new research project involving human eggs today (Apr. 29) provided that the research meets certain provisos. A national bioethics committee effectively banned research using human eggs in 2006 after Hwang Woo-Suk, a leading stem cell researcher formerly at Seoul National University who claimed to have created the first human stem cells from cloning, was shown to have manipulated and falsifie


Can biotech tackle swine flu?

By | April 27, 2009

As reported cases of swine flu continue to accumulate (as of today, 40 had been linkurl:reported; in the US) and mainstream media outlets dust off their foreboding music tracks and positively scary taglines, a biotechnology company in Maryland says that its approach may speed development of a successful vaccine. Influenza A/South Carolina/1918 (H1N1) VLPsImage: Novavax, Inc.Researchers at Novavax have been developing vaccines for the H5N1 strain of avian flu



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