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The Nutshell

Daily News Roundup

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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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Haitian AIDS clinic still standing

By | January 13, 2010

The HIV/AIDS clinic in the center of the area of Port-au-Prince hardest hit by yesterday's 7.0 magnitude earthquake is badly damaged but still standing, and most of the center's staff is apparently alive, according to the clinic's director Jean Pape.The GHESKIO center's outerwall in January 2008 "We were very lucky," Pape wrote in a message posted on the Weill Cornell Medical College's linkurl:global health website.;http://www.med.cornell.edu/globalhealth/ "I have heard from most of our staff a

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New clues to Y evolution

By | January 13, 2010

New findings challenge researchers' understanding of how the Y chromosome evolved -- rather than being the slowest component of the genome to change, as generally believed, it might just be the fastest. Image:Thomas Lersch, Wiki Commons Despite the close evolutionary link between human and chimpanzees, a comparison of the two species' Y chromosomes show a surprisingly vast number of differences between the two genetic sequences, according to an analysis published linkurl:online;http://www.nat

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Biomedical bust

By | January 12, 2010

It's not just the growth rate of biomedical funding that's slowing; the total number of dollars seems to be decreasing as well, says a linkurl:study;http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/full/303/2/137?home in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association. Image: Refracted Moment's, Flickr To make matters worse, the funding downturn also corresponds to one of the biomedical industry's most stagnant periods in productivity, measured by the number of new drugs approved by the US Food a

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Varmus to quit as Sloan-Kettering head

By | January 12, 2010

Former National Institutes of Health director and Nobel Laureate Harold Varmus will leave his post as president of New York City's Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center as soon as his successor is chosen.Image: Public Library of Science According to linkurl:__Science__,;http://blogs.sciencemag.org/scienceinsider/2010/01/polymath-scient.html Varmus sent an email to his Sloan-Kettering colleagues this morning announcing his decision to step down. He wrote that he'd stay at the institution until

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Why we need a reactome

By | January 12, 2010

A powerful new tool to assess the functionality of the active proteins in any given cell -- the so-called reactome -- has been called into question. How would this recently developed "reactome array," described in a study published last October in Science, advance the field of functional genomics, and if it should fail, what would the ramifications be? A biochipImage: Flickr, linkurl:Argonne Laboratory;http://www.flickr.com/photos/argonne/3397932229/ When Nobel Laureate linkurl:Richard Roberts

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Monday round-up

By | January 11, 2010

-A newly released linkurl:government report;http://www.hhs.gov/aspr/omsph/biosecurity/biosecurity-report.pdf calls for changing the rules for conducting research on certain biological materials that could potentially be used as bioterror agents. Though the current list of "select agents" includes 82 pathogens and toxins, the report says, they don't all pose the same level of threat; the panel recommended stratifying the list based on the level of risk. The report also calls for beefing up securi

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A break for cane toads?

By | January 7, 2010

A new and unexpected obstacle is thwarting efforts to control the invasive cane toad populations in Australia: a potential ban on the most commonly used method for killing the animals -- carbon dioxide. Image: Wikimedia commonsThe linkurl:Kimberley Toad Busters;http://www.canetoads.com.au/ (KTB) have been using carbon dioxide exposure to euthanize the toads for five years, successfully eliminating more than half a million pests. But last year, after the cane toad populations made their way into

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A new breed of viral invasion

By | January 6, 2010

Traces of genetic material from non-retroviruses have unexpectedly turned up in the genomes of several mammal species, including humans. Image: National Human GenomeResearch InstituteResearchers linkurl:report;http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v463/n7277/abs/nature08695.html in this week's issue of __Nature__ that bornaviruses, a group of negative sense RNA viruses, integrated into the DNA of humans and other primates, rodents, and elephants millions of years ago. These snippets represent a

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Test a vax, fly to Mexico

By | January 6, 2010

Want to go to Central America for free? All it takes is your participation in a linkurl:clinical trial for a diarrhea vaccine.;http://www.trekstudy.com/europe/index.html A patch worn on the arm can earn you a complimentary trip to one of nine cities in Mexico and Guatemala, courtesy of linkurl:Intercell AG.;http://www.intercell.com/main/ Image: Wikimedia commons, Andrew HitchcockThe Austrian drug company is recruiting 1800 volunteers for the phase III clinical trial of a vaccine against enterot

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