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Innovation is the Key to the Future of Medicine

By | October 11, 2004

Toby CosgroveCourtesy of The Cleveland ClinicBill Gates once said that if business in the 1980s was about quality and in the 1990s it was about reengineering, then in the 2000s it will be about velocity. The rate of change is brutal. Obsolescence doesn't creep anymore, it leaps. The situation is best expressed in the Latin phrase absolutum obsoletum: If it works, it's out of date. In terms of shelf life, any technology at the peak of its adoption curve has passed its expiration date. You need to


Cells by Design

By | September 27, 2004

BIOFACTORIES:© 2003 Nature Publishing GroupAbove is a depiction of the genetic network engineered into Escherichia coli for production of amorphadiene via the DXP or mevalonate isoprenoid pathway. The black triangles represent the PLAC promoter. Genes isolated from Saccharomyces cerevisiae, E. coli, and Haematococcus pluvialis were used to construct the network. (From V.J.J. Martin et al., Nat Biotechnol, 21: 796–802, 2003.)Synthetic biology is a new discipline based on the expectatio


Improving Drug Delivery

By | September 13, 2004

Courtesy of Langer Research Lab, MITRobert Langer is a professor of chemical and biomedical engi neering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has written more than 800 articles, has more than 500 issued or pending patents worldwide, and has licensed his patents to 120 companies. In 2002 Langer was awarded the $500,000 Charles Draper prize, considered to be the Nobel Prize of engineering, and in 1999, Forbes Magazine named him one of the 25 most important people in biotechnology.Advan


The Language of Bacteria ... and Just About Everything Else

By | September 13, 2004

FIGURE 1:Courtesy of Kendra RumbaughEukaryotic and prokaryotic signaling molecules have similar functions. Mammalian steroid hormones bind to cognate nuclear hormone receptors; Pseudomonas aeruginosa autoinducer N-3-oxododecanoyl homoserine lactone acts as a ligand for the transcriptional activator LasR and is essential for cell-to-cell communication resulting in biofilm formation.Mammals possess sophisticated endocrine networks in which hormonal signals modulate hundreds of biological effects s


Sustainability for Nanotechnology

By | August 30, 2004

FIGURE 1:Courtesy of Vicki ColvinThe cytotoxicity of three fullerene derivatives in cell culture (human dermal fibroblasts, 48-hour exposures). As the derivatization of the fullerene surface changes from a sparingly soluble version (black) to a fully hydroxylated material (blue), the dose that kills half the cells changes over many orders of magnitude. This result highlights the importance of surface coatings and derivatizations to biological activity.When materials and devices are fabricated wi


Target Selection in Drug Discovery

By | August 2, 2004

FIGURE 1: Competing elements that influence target selectionIn drug discovery, a research director faces considerable challenges trying to make consistently good decisions concerning target selection. The task is comparable to a treasure hunt with many enticing clues about where to dig, leading often to large, empty holes.Many perceive the pharmaceutical business as being in a state of crisis. Financial survival and growth mandates the introduction of three or four new chemical entities each yea


Panning for T-cell Gold

By | July 19, 2004

A COMPLICATED UNION:Image redrawn from Ann Rev Biochem, 72:717–42, 2003Antigens bound by major histocompatibility complex (MHC) molecules interact with T-cell receptors (TCRs) at the heart of the interface for T-cell recognition. But, many other players are involved. Massive polyvalency within this confined space may compensate for low-affinity receptors, giving added sensitivity.In some ways, science resembles gold mining: Eager practitioners congregate around rich veins of discovery whil


A Periodic Table for Biology

By | June 21, 2004

COOPERATIVE CELLS:Courtesy of Michael CarrollThe evolution of complex biologic organisms began with the symbiotic relationship between pro- and eukaryotes (I). This relationship gave rise to mitochondria (II), and the resulting diversity of unicellular organisms (III) led to their metabolic cooperativity (IV) mediated by ligand-receptor interactions and cell-cell signaling. Natural selection generated an increasing complexity (V). Failed homeostatic signaling (VI) recapitulates hylogeny/ontogeny


Behold the Talking Chimp

By | June 7, 2004

SMALL HINTS, LARGE CHANGES:Courtesy of Rick Effland; Design, Erica P. JohnsonAlthough the genetic differences are small, as illustrated in the above stretch of FOXP2, and the neural differences still largely unknown, there is a world of difference between the mind of a chimp and the mind of a human.From our common ancestor with chimpanzees, it took only six million years, give or take, to develop the ability to speak. And, as we now know, the vast majority of our genetic material has been inheri


Rethinking Genetic Determinism

By | May 24, 2004

Paul H. SilvermanCourtesy of Paul H. SilvermanFor more than 50 years scientists have operated under a set of seemingly incontrovertible assumptions about genes, gene expression, and the consequences thereof. Their mantra: One gene yields one protein; genes beget messenger RNA, which in turn begets protein; and most critically, the gene is deterministic in gene expression and can therefore predict disease propensities.Yet during the last five years, data have revealed inadequacies in this theory.


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