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Q&A: The future of HIV vaccines

By | November 30, 2009

Despite the slew of failures in the past, the most recent $105 million HIV vaccine study among 16,000 Thai volunteers is the first to show any (albeit modest) success. With this first sign of promise in HIV vaccine research, linkurl:Norman Letvin,; professor of Medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, who was not involved in the Thailand trial, weighs in on the topic in an opinion piece published linkurl:


A cancer vaccine -- that works?

By | November 25, 2009

A new type of cancer vaccine tested in mice appears to overcome some of the major hurdles associated with the treatment approach, according to a paper published today (November 25) in __Science Translational Medicine.__ The technology, which the researchers have already licensed to a biotechnology company, is being developed for clinical trials of melanoma. Immune cells are attracted by chemicals released by the polymer matrix (shown here) to sample the tumor molecules embedded within.Image:


Asymmetry switched in snail

By | November 25, 2009

Scientists have found a new way to manipulate the direction of snail shell coiling, altering the animal's left-right asymmetry. The research, published linkurl:online; today (November 25) in Nature, may offer clues as to how "handedness" develops in invertebrates, which could improve scientists' understanding of the mechanics that drive cell regeneration and embryonic development. 'Left-handed' and 'right-handed' shells of L. stagnali


Misconduct from cancer researcher

By | November 25, 2009

A cancer researcher tampered with data and fudged images in a presentation and grant application, the linkurl:Office of Research Integrity (ORI); reported. Magnifying glass Image: WikimediaAccording to ORI's notice released this Fall, linkurl:Nagendra Ningaraj,; formerly an associate professor of neurological surgery and cancer biology at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine,

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Another fake conference?

By | November 24, 2009

Are phony academic conferences the new Nigerian princes of the internet? An email inviting recipients to a conference on human welfare and the global economy, said to be taking place in January and February of next year and featuring talks by some of the top scientists in the field, is making the rounds. Last week, I received an email from someone going by the name of Alyssa Logan, who claimed to be "Youth Leader" at a group called the Action World International Organization (AWIO) and a membe


No GM on menu at food summit

By | November 24, 2009

At the World Summit on Food Security in Rome last week, hosted by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization, global leaders, not surprisingly, called for additional aid to improve farming systems and help in mitigating the effects of climate change to solve the world's food crisis. But among all the speeches and discussions, one issue was noticeably absent from the meeting's agenda: genetically modified crops. Image: Flickr/expatwelsh "The FAO appeared eager to avoid any controversy at last we


Darwin's minstrel

By | November 20, 2009

"Survival of the fittest does not mean survival of the strongest, but survival of those that best fit their environment," croons linkurl:Brett Keyser,; on the streets of Philadelphia, dulcet tones ringing from his guitar on a recent sunny Autumn afternoon. Though passersby shoot Keyser puzzled looks, his act makes perfect sense with this coming Tuesday marking the 150th anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin's seminal work, On the Origi

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boom boosts science theatre

By | November 19, 2009

The lifeblood of theatre pulses with love, hardship, and self-discovery. But with science... not so much. Laboratory-borne concepts, scientific jargon, and nitty-gritty details can sometimes seem impossible to translate into art, especially on the stage. Image: Pearson Scott Foresman Wikimedia Commons But boom, a one-act piece from playwright Peter Sinn Nachtrieb now in its second season of performances, does just that. boom addresses ecological succession and evolutionary biology while the pla


2nd human hESC trial?

By | November 19, 2009

A second company has requested permission from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to conduct a human clinical trial using embryonic stem cells. Human embryonic stem cellsImage: Wikimedia commons, Nissim Benvenistylinkurl:Advanced Cell Technology; (ACT) filed an Investigational New Drug (IND) application yesterday (November 18) to conduct a phase I/II trial using hESCs to treat a genetic eye disease. "I'm cautiously optimistic," said linkurl:Marco Zarbin;h


HIV antibody duds explained

By | November 19, 2009

Researchers may have finally answered the question of why many antibodies that target the HIV envelope are still unable to stop the virus from spreading -- a troublesome stumbling block in the protracted search for an effective vaccine. Human Immunodeficiency VirusImage: Wikimedia commons, NIAIDSlight variations in how those antibodies interact with their target on the HIV envelope cause conformational changes in the target molecule that render the antibodies ineffective, according to a study p


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