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The Nutshell

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Geron trial may resume next year

By | October 30, 2009

The Geron Corporation could be cleared to resume its stalled human embryonic stem cell (hESC)-trial for spinal cord injury in the third quarter of next year, linkurl:the company announced today;http://www.geron.com/media/pressview.aspx?id=1195 (October 30). Human embryonic stem cellsImage: Wikimedia commons, Nissim BenvenistyThe Phase I trial, which received clearance from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in January to administer hESC-derived progenitors of neural support tissue into

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Tippling through the ages

By | October 30, 2009

Among the few cultural traditions shared by human populations across time and geography is the abiding urge to make and consume alcoholic beverages. Alcohol was also one of the first medicines as well as a component of many early religious practices. But modern humans' choices are limited to a few alcoholic staples -- beer, wine, and "hard" liquor. Many of the beverages enjoyed by cultures past have been lost to the historical record. Patrick McGovern, a University of Pennsylvania researcher wh

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An antiviral leash for HIV?

By | October 29, 2009

A structurally-distinct immune protein prevents the release of HIV and other viruses from infected cells by literally tying them to the cell membrane, according to a study published online today (October 29) in Cell. This antiviral leash -- known as tetherin -- could be co-opted as a new type of antiviral therapy, the authors say. Scanning EM image of HIV particles (yellow) trapped on the surface of a cell (green) by tetherinImage: Devon Gregory and Marc Johnson"It's a key step forward," said

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Can USDA's NIFA be ag's NIH?

By | October 27, 2009

Historically short-shrifted by federal funding bodies, academic agricultural research was recently promised redemption: a federal funding agency of its very own that will award competitive grants in a fashion similar to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). But will the new agency, the linkurl:National Institute of Food and Agriculture;http://www.csrees.usda.gov/ (NIFA), be able to put public-sector agricultural science on an equal footing with biomedical research? Technicians measure switch

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Immune cell memory tracked

By | October 26, 2009

A type of antibody long thought to have a minor role in immune system memory may actually be a key player, new findings suggest. Researchers tracked the antibody's function by imaging the immune system's B cells in the act of responding to a pathogen and developing into memory B cells, which can recognize an infectious agent years after first encountering it, they report in a study published online yesterday (October 25) in Nature Immunology. B cell and memory B cell reacting to a virus Image:

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No jail time for Hwang

By | October 26, 2009

After a three-year trial, Hwang Woo-Suk, the South Korean stem cell researcher accused of criminal fraud and embezzlement in May, 2006, was convicted today (October 26) of embezzling 830 million won ($705,000) in research funds -- money he had won based on two Science papers based on fabricated data -- and of illegally buying human eggs for his research. He will not, however, serve any time behind bars. Pro-Hwang protest at Seoul National University in February 2006Image: Wikimedia commonsThe

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Secrets of a cancer-free rodent

By | October 26, 2009

Researchers have shed light on an unusual resistance to cancer displayed by the naked mole rat, a burrowing, long-lived desert-dwelling rodent. In these animals, a cell growth switch absent in more cancer-prone organisms turns off cell division before cells get too dense, as they would in a tumor, according to a study published online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Image: Chris Hine,Vera Gorbunova"This is a really great discovery," said protein biochemist

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Chile fires science council chief

By | October 23, 2009

The Chilean science council was rocked by a funding scandal earlier this week -- almost a year to the day after the country embarked on a program to increase funding, research opportunities, and transparency in an effort to reduce its brain drain. Image: Towndown, Wikimedia CommonsThe controversy, which resulted in the dismissal of the council's president, Vivian Heyl, was sparked by an linkurl:internal investigation;http://blogs.elmercurio.com/cienciaytecnologia/2009/10/15/cambio-en-ponderacio

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The Michelangelo of forensics

By | October 23, 2009

The forensic scientists depicted in popular TV shows CSI and NCIS often work in slick, technologically-decked out labs solving case after scintillating case. But for forensic sculptor linkurl:Frank Bender,;http://www.frankbender.us/ reconstructing the faces of decomposing bodies or skeletons is a much more hands-on, creative process done in his paint-stained, converted-butcher-shop-studio in South Philadelphia. Frank Bender Image: Katherine BagleyThrough a career that's spanned 33 years, Bender

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Frog fungus disrupts skin function

By | October 22, 2009

Researchers may have finally solved the mystery of the fungal pathogen that has been devastating amphibian populations worldwide. The fungus, known as Batrachonchytrium dendrobatisdis (Bd), appears to alter the permeability of amphibian skin, which can lead to a fatal osmotic imbalance, according to a study published this week in Science. The endangered corroboree frog infected with chytridiomycosis.Image: Jamie Voyles, Alex Hyatt and Frank Fillipi"It's a great study," said ecologist linkurl:K

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