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The Tasmanian devil's cancer

By | February 11, 2006

A week or so ago, Ann Maree Pearce, a government cytogeneticist from Australia's island state, Tasmania, and colleagues said in a Nature news report that a nasty facial cancer affecting the Tasmanian devil population, dubbed Devil Facial Tumour Disease, was in fact an infective cell line being passed between the ferocious, foxed-sized scavengers via bites and so on. At the linkurl:18th Lorne Cancer Conference Erskine on the Beach;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/23110/ in Lorne, Austra

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A new you, easier than you thought

By | February 10, 2006

While doing a little background research for a notebook item running in the March issue, I had the opportunity to type the words ?Brain Transplantation? into Google?s search window. The very first hit you get is for, aptly enough, linkurl:BrainTrans Inc.;http://216.247.9.207/ny-best.htm which promises to restore health, youth, and vitality the surgical way ? by plopping your cerebrum into the body of a younger, fitter model. Now I tend to be skeptical about such things, but who wouldn?t be pli

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A framework for development

By | February 8, 2006

This one day conference focused on the interface between academic research and the commercialization of the fruits of stem cell research. The San Francisco-based linkurl:Women?s Technology Cluster;http://www.wtc-sf.org/ , whose mission is ?to increase the number of successful women-led companies in the life science, high technology, and clean technology sectors and to leverage their influence,? was the organizing sponsor. They apparently sponsor over thirty events a year to promote that mission.

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Of salamanders and men

By | February 8, 2006

My past came back to haunt me today. I was an eager attendee of the 2006 International Symposium: Stem Cell Symposium, which was organized by the Women?s Technology Cluster, a business incubator in San Francisco. I had no idea that salamanders would enter the discussions of differentiation and deals. But, as fate would have it, the amphibious creatures served as prime evidence of the possibilities and potential of regenerative medicine. These are the same animals that my friend in fourth grade,

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Reviewing peer review

By | February 8, 2006

Peer review is on every life scientist?s mind lately, it seems. One of the main complaints I heard while researching the linkurl:February cover story;http://www.the-scientist.com/2006/2/1/26/1/ is that the process is inherently difficult to investigate scientifically. Each journal has a somewhat unique system for reviewing papers, and each paper will have a unique journey through a journal?s reviewing machinery. But I?ve learned that even though peer review has obvious imperfections, it?s the b

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Risky enough business?

By | February 8, 2006

I?m an obvious beneficiary of medical technology. Without the computer surgically embedded in my skull, I?d be totally deaf. The device, called a ?cochlear implant,? routes past my damaged inner ear by triggering my auditory nerves with sixteen tiny electrodes coiled up inside my cochlea. It?s not a cure, though, any more than glasses cure vision loss. It?s a prosthesis, a workaround. Compared to the extraordinary delicacy and precision of naturally evolved organs, it?s clumsy. It?s like

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Structural bio meeting folds - er, wraps

By | February 5, 2006

Despite the diversity of topics and speakers, some common threads emerged at the joint structural biology meetings in Keystone this past week. First, structural genomics clearly has hit its stride. The US Protein Structure Initiative deposited some 1,300 structures in the linkurl:Protein Data Bank;http://www.rcsb.org/pdb between 2000 and 2005, RIKEN added 1,347 of its own between 2002 and 2005, and the Structural Genomics Consortium added another 180 in the past 18 months or so. That?s nearly 3,

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Patrinos leaving DOE on a high note

By | February 2, 2006

Ari Patrinos is ending his stint as associate director of science for biological and environmental research at the Department of Energy to head up Synthetic Genomics, Inc, a linkurl:J. Craig Venter venture;http://www.the-scientist.com/2006/1/1/38/1/ launched this past summer. Having spent ten years leading the DOE?s often budget-crunched biology efforts, I couldn?t help but wonder why he was leaving prior to a huge influx of government money as mentioned in George Bush?s linkurl:State of the Un

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Yes, that's a bacterial culture in my NMR tube

By | February 2, 2006

There?s linkurl:a pretty slick paper;http://www.nature.com/nmeth/journal/v3/n2/abs/nmeth851.html in the February __Nature Methods__. Alexander Shekhtman, of SUNY-Albany, describes a novel technique called STINT-NMR (for structural interactions using in-cell NMR), which maps a protein?s structural changes in response to protein-protein interactions in vivo. Shekhtman presented his work Tuesday (Jan. 31) at the Keystone Symposium on Structural Genomics, and I got the chance to talk to him about i

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Protein crystallization by intelligent design?

By | February 1, 2006

If they awarded a prize for best seminar title, Zygmunt Derewenda would win it, hand?s down. According to the abstract book for the Keystone Symposium on Structural Genomics, his seminar was to be entitled "Protein Crystallization: From Art to Science." But the University of Virginia researcher decided that was a bit too provocative, so he opted for a more "neutral" title: "Protein Crystallization by Intelligent Design." Derewenda's point, of course, is that crysta

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