Jef Akst

Recent Articles

Vector did not kill HIV trial

By Jef Akst | July 20, 2009

New findings have disproved a leading explanation for why an experimental HIV vaccine made subjects more susceptible to the virus, reopening the door for further HIV vaccine efforts based on similar principles. Human Immunodeficiency VirusImage: NIAIDThe Merck-funded STEP study, which used an adenoviral vector to deliver an HIV vaccine candidate, was halted in 2007 after the data suggested the vaccine increased the risk of HIV infection. Researchers thought the effect might be due to an immune

Spontaneous speciation?

By Jef Akst | July 15, 2009

In a world without natural selection and no vast mountain ranges dividing populations, one might expect biodiversity to remain forever stagnant. But according to a study published this week in Nature, new species can arise arbitrarily and without provocation, challenging the widely held notion that physical isolation and selection are the driving forces behind speciation. Image: Wikimedia commons"So much of ecology and evolutionary biology is based on this idea of adaptive divergence leading to

FASEB head outlines funding goals

By Jef Akst | July 14, 2009

linkurl:Mark Lively,; a professor of biochemistry at Wake Forest University, took over as the president of the linkurl:Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB); on July 1 of this year. In a conversation with The Scientist, Lively outlines some of FASEB's goals for the upcoming year, including the organization's views on what to do when the $10.4 billion in stimulus funds for the NIH runs out. Imag

Embryonic twist yields turtle shell

By Jef Akst | July 9, 2009

The bizarre body plan of turtles may be less of an evolutionary feat than scientists once believed. According to a linkurl:study; published online today in Science, the unique organization of the ribs and the development of the unusual shell that turtles call home may be explained by a relatively small structural variation from their animal relatives that occurs during embryonic development. Image: Wikimedia commons"The turtle body plan

The bio-comedian

By Jef Akst | July 9, 2009

It may be hard to find the humor in biology for researchers crouched over lab benches or dozing through yet another conference presentation. What's so funny about biology? Plenty, if you ask ecologist-turned-comedian linkurl:Tim Lee,; who draws on years of formal scientific training and research experience to spin the banalities of biology into standup success. Lee features the sometimes tedious PowerPoint medium popular for presenting scientific research as his

New FASEB head takes office

By Jef Akst | July 8, 2009

linkurl:Mark Lively,; who took office as the 94th president of the linkurl:Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB); last week (July 1), plans to focus the group's policy efforts on issues such as animal use in research, rules for conflicts of interest, and biosecurity regulations relating to the use of select agents, FASEB said in a statement. Image: Wake Forest University School of Medicine"I think

Animal use details to go online

By Jef Akst | July 6, 2009

The linkurl:United States Department of Agriculture (USDA); must post annual reports from animal research facilities that document the levels of pain and distress experienced by animals in experimental procedures, according to a court settlement last week (July 1) of a lawsuit between the USDA and linkurl:The Humane Society of the United States.; Image: Wikimedia commons"We have been taking a variety of steps to increase transparency on a number of issue

Limbs regrow without pluripotency

By Jef Akst | July 1, 2009

The cells responsible for the salamander's famed ability to regenerate amputated limbs aren't pluripotent, as scientists have thought, a linkurl:study published online in Nature; today reports. That's good news for regenerative medicine: If the mechanism salamander cells use for regrowing body parts doesn't depend on pluripotent stem cells, it may be easier than researchers have assumed to mimic that organism's regenerative stra

Stately STAT

By Jef Akst | July 1, 2009

By Jef Akst Stately STAT © Stem Jems / Photo Researchers, Inc. The paper: X. O. Yang et al., "STAT3 regulates cytokine-mediated generation of inflammatory helper T cells," J Biol Chem, 282:9358–63, 2007. (Cited in 118 papers) The finding: Chen Dong and his colleagues at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, modulated the expression levels of a transcription factor called STAT3 in undifferentiat

Snakes trick prey for easy meal

By Jef Akst | June 26, 2009

Water snakes trick their fish prey into swimming directly into their waiting jaws, according to a linkurl:study published in PNAS; last week (June 19). With a subtle body movement, the tentacled snakes trigger a preprogrammed escape response in fish, causing them to flee in a predictable direction so that the snakes know just where to positions their heads for an easy meal. Image: Ryan Somma, Wikimedia commons"It's a very clever ma

View all authors

Popular Now

  1. Could Rapamycin Help Humans Live Longer?
  2. Renowned Physicist Stephen Hawking Dies
  3. Elena Rybak-Akimova, Chemical Kinetics Expert, Dies
  4. University of Oregon Erecting a $1-Billion Science Center