News in a nutshell
Help for Hauser; patent ban for European stem cells?; viruses give mice the gift of sight
This week's news includes confirmation for contested Hauser results, a ban on patents that may hurt European stem cell research, viruses that help blind mice see, the whole-body effects of methamphetamines, a push for more stem cell banks, and a journal that fesses up to its eugenics past.
Hauser replicates study
Image: Wikimedia commons, 13bobby
There's good news for cognitive researcher Mark Hauser, who was found guilty of eight counts of research misconduct by a Harvard University investigation last year. This Monday, linkurl:Science
announced;http://www.sciencemag.org/content/suppl/2011/04/25/317.5843.1402.DC2 the replication of results of a 2007 Hauser paper, which had come under fire when the investigation found that the original data was missing. Although linkurl:last week he was barred;http://blog.the-scientist.com/2011/04/25/news-in-a-nutshell-43/ from stepping into a Harvard classroom come fall and is still pending a federal investigation by the Office of Research Integrity, some believe this is a "step toward the eventual exoneration of Dr. Hauser," linkurl:according to The New York Times
Trouble for European stem cell research
A possible European ban on the patenting of human embryonic stem cells research has prompted 13 senior scientists to pen a linkurl:letter to Nature
;http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v472/n7344/full/472418a.html decrying the decision, which is presently under consideration by the European Court of Justice. The authors warn that if researchers are deprived of any legal claim on applications stemming from their research, private funding aimed at developing therapies and treatments may dry up to the detriment of stem cell research in Europe. It could potentially "wipe out European bioindustry in this area," Austin Smith, the director for the Wellcome Trust Centre for Stem Cell Research in the United Kingdom, and one of the authors of the letter, linkurl:told The Guardian
Viruses treat blind mice
Researchers used viruses carrying genes that code for light-sensitive proteins to sensitize the damaged retinas of blind mice to light. linkurl:According to MIT's Technology Review
,;http://www.technologyreview.com/biomedicine/37467/?p1=A2&a=f after viral delivery, modified versions of the green algae gene channelrhodopsin lodged into the membranes of a particular type of retinal cell, allowing the influx of ions whenever the cell is exposed to light -- thus triggering an electrical response that results in a rudimentary form of vision. Although the technique is not ready to be used in humans, it holds promise for the eventual treatment of retinal degeneration.
Global effects of meth
|Image: Wikimedia commons, Aaron Logan|
Fruit flies hooked on methamphetamine reveal how the drug affects the entire body. In a study linkurl:published in PLoS ONE
;http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0018215 last week, researchers tracked the expression of genes and proteins in fruit flies following meth administration and found the drug interferes with the aging process, spermatogenesis, energy generation, and sugar metabolism, among other things.The researchers also found that the lifespan of meth-using flies increased with increasing blood sugar levels, providing a possible explanation for why meth addicts often crave sugary drinks, linkurl:Fierce Biotech Research
Building a house for stem cells
Ever since the first differentiated cells were reverted to a stem-cell-like state in 2006, researchers have been developing a great number of adult-derived stem cell lines for the study of a wide number of diseases and biological processes. The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) in San Francisco, a major funder of stem cell research, is now discussing the possibility of opening a cell bank to house these induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cell lines, linkurl:Nature
reports.;http://www.nature.com/news/2011/110427/full/472403a.html The discussion touches upon global concerns surrounding the ethics of cell donation, and how to effectively monitor mutations in the cell lines and how to deal with the heterogeneity of the samples.
Revisiting scientific racism
The Annals of Human Genetics
, has opened its archives from the time of the journal's founding in 1925 to 1954 -- a controversial period when the journal, in the words of its founder, devoted "its pages wholly to the scientific treatment of racial problems in man." Then called the Annals of Eugenics
, the journal published scientific research that aligned itself with the movement that championed the "bettering" of the human gene pool through processes such as sterilization, or worse, the extermination of people with unwanted traits (as happened in the Nazi concentration camps). In his explanation of his decision, Andrés Ruiz Linares, a geneticist at University College London and the journal's current editor, linkurl:told USA Today
;http://www.usatoday.com/tech/science/columnist/vergano/2011-04-22-eugenics-journal_N.htm in an email that "since the social implications of a lot of current human genetics research are enormous, it seems important that in judging what human genetics is doing now, we maintain awareness of the history of this discipline."
**__Related stories:__*** linkurl:Are Monkeys Self-Aware?;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/57730/
[30th September 2010]*linkurl:The stem cell banking crisis;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/57274/
[7th April 2010]*linkurl:Europe rejects stem cell patent;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/55249/
[1st December 2008]