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The Nutshell

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Marshall Nirenberg dies

By | January 19, 2010

Marshall W. Nirenberg, who received the 1968 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work on the language of codons and how DNA is translated into proteins, succumbed to cancer at age 82 in his New York home last week (January 15), after several months of illness. Marshall Nirenberg performing anexperiment, circa 1962Image: Wikimedia commons, MacVicar,National Institutes of Health"We feel like [we are] losing our close friend who has created the base of the current molecular biology and t

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Ancient humans more diverse?

By | January 18, 2010

Researchers have delved back further than ever into the genetic history of humans, and found that the ancient population that gave rise to modern humans may have been nearly twice as genetically diverse than humans today, according a study published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Scientific reconstruction of a Homo erectusImage: Wikimedia commons, linkurl:Lillyundfreya;http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Homo_erectus.JPG While most studies on the genetics of an

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News in a nutshell

By | January 18, 2010

- Is the US Food and Drug Administration's 2006 initiative to gain approval for old drugs that predate the current approval process boosting safety or just inflating the cost of such medicines, asks linkurl:an article;http://www.latimes.com/features/health/la-he-unapproved-drugs18-2010jan18,0,7696622.story in the LA Times. - Researchers have launched linkurl:an open access database;http://www.wellcome.ac.uk/News/Media-office/Press-releases/2010/WTX058219.htm of more than 520,000 small molecule

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Engineering cellular synchrony

By | January 15, 2010

Scientists have engineered bacteria that can communicate with each other in a synchronized manner, lighting up in waves of fluorescent green, according to report in this week's Nature. The advance paves the way for developing environmental sensors and drug delivery systems that can time the release of medicines in periodic bursts. A supernova burst in a colony of coupledgenetic clocks after critical cell densityImage: Tal Danino, Octavio Mondragon-Palamino, Lev Tsimring"I think [the study] rep

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Is America competing?

By | January 15, 2010

America still produces some of the most well respected science, but with the growth seen in Asia, that may not be the case for much longer, according to linkurl:new data;http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/seind10/ released from the National Science Foundation (NSF) today (15 January). "Science and technology is no longer the providence of rich developed countries," said Rolf Lehming, director of NSF's Science &Engineering Indicators (S&EI) Program, during a press conference on Wednesday. "That ope

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Tips to safely provide records

By | January 15, 2010

With attacks against animal researchers on the rise, three biomedical research groups compiled a guide to scientists for properly responding to requests for data and records while protecting themselves from animal rights activists who may take the information out of context and use it for harassment. Image: Wikimedia commonsAccording to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and state open record laws, researchers are required to disclose information about federally or state-funded research proj

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Cancer lines contaminated

By | January 14, 2010

Three of 13 established esophageal adenocarcinoma (EAC) cell lines are not EAC after all. Instead, the lines -- which have led to two clinical trials, more than 100 publications and 11 US patents -- represent three different cancer types altogether, a study published online today (January 14) in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (JNCI) found. Histopathologic image illustrating welldifferentiated squamous cell carcinomain the excisional biopsy specimenImage: Wikimedia commons"It's a s

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Playing with plastic

By | January 14, 2010

Early last year, linkurl:Anna Hepler,;http://www.annahepler.com/ a Portland, Maine installation artist, filled a gallery with undulating layers of woven plastic. The rich, latticed structure hung from the walls in the shape of a ship's hull, the blue and white material's translucence highlighted by the room's huge sunlit windows. Anna Hepler Image: Doug Jones But the structure -- so large that visitors of the linkurl:Center for Maine Contemporary Art,;http://www.artsmaine.org/ where the exhibit

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Are mutations truly random?

By | January 13, 2010

Do genetic mutations really occur at random spots along the genome, as researchers have long supposed? Maybe not, according to a study published online today (January 13) in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, which proposes a mechanism for how new mutations might preferentially form around existing ones. Image: Wikimedia commons, Jerome Walker, Dennis Myts"The idea is quite interesting," said evolutionary geneticist linkurl:Maud Tenaillon;http://moulon.inra.fr/pages_pers/tenaillon/ of the Un

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Glial cells aid memory formation

By | January 13, 2010

Neurons need non-electrical brain cells known as astrocytes to establish synaptic memory, according to study published this week in Nature. The findings challenge the long-standing belief that this process involves only the activity of the neurons themselves, and bring glial cells onto the center stage in the study of brain activity. An astrocyteImage: Wikimedia commons, NeurorockerThis study shows that while neurotransmitter release and voltage changes at the synapse are important for synapt

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