May 1999

Volume 13 Issue 11

The Scientist May 1999 Cover



Corporate Collaborations: Scientists Can Face Publishing Constraints

Confidentiality agreements. Threats of lawsuits. Last-minute withdrawals of scientific papers. Sudden dismissals. Gag orders. Conflicts of interest, actual and potential. Lack of support for embattled faculty members by university administrators. It's a tough world for life scientists in the modern academic laboratory. Largely as a result of expanding commercial interest in academic research, today's faculty members and postdocs face threats and choices unknown to their predecessors. The poten

Researchers Seek Common Ground On Regeneration

Ah, the privileged life of a salamander. Chop off a limb, and within days a new one grows in its place. In recent years, scientists have become increasingly interested in tracing the molecular origins of this seemingly magical ability. By harnessing the mechanisms involved in a number of animal models, researchers hope to one day grow a variety of new human tissues in place of the old or defective, thereby supplanting the need for less "natural" remedies such as bionic limbs or organ transplant

Nobel Cruise: Laureates Step on Board for Science Fairs

Winning the Nobel Prize automatically gives laureates a platform. This month the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) provided seven Nobelists with an additional floating one--a 40-foot yacht on the Delaware River. On May 4 the Lady Maureen sailed between Philadelphia, site of ISEF's first and 50th fairs, and Camden, N.J., home of the Coriell Institute, one of the fair's sponsors. It also served as a stage for seven laureates to encourage more scientists to get involved in informal

Giving with Passion: The New Philanthropists

Steven Burrill Donations to scientists and scientific projects today often take on a personal flavor. Many relatively young and wealthy entrepreneurs direct their dollars to scientific causes that tap into personal concerns and strongly felt and articulated visions. "I ... [feel] passionately about ... science and technology and the need to build an economy and a society based around science and technology. I believe the education system by and large has not been keeping up in providing our yo

Mysteries Unravel of Protein-Folding Machine

Could there be a repair mechanism in the human body more remarkable than that of chaperonins, which help misfolded proteins to refold themselves properly? Recent collaborative work by two leading chaperonin researchers has fitted what is known of the structure of a particular such enzyme to a model of its action.1 The result is a wonder to behold. If a protein's amino acid chain fails to fold into its proper or native three-dimensional shape, other proteins can attach to it, creating clumps th

$25 Million Gates Grant To Jump Start HIV Vaccine Research

Early this month, the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) announced that it had received the largest single grant ever made for AIDS research. The William A. Gates Foundation, which gave IAVI $1.5 million last June, granted IAVI $25 million over a five-year period, which the organization will use in part for work on two to three new HIV-vaccine candidates. IAVI, a New York City-based international scientific organization created to aid in bringing HIV vaccines and technology to develo


Trading Pipette for Pen, Assay for Essay

In 1993, Jamie Zhang was in a career funk not uncommon among biologists with Ph.D.s. Three years out of graduate school, she was in her second postdoctoral job, studying the molecular biology of cancer at Rutgers University. But she wasn't satisfied in the lab--and hadn't been for a long time. "Everybody's unhappy as a graduate student," she observes. "Then in my first postdoc, I just felt like I was spinning my wheels." She blamed the feeling on her doubts about her project and on the differen


Transfer Factor Meeting in Monterey

The 11th International Conference on Transfer Factor, organized by the University of Nuevo Leon and professors Rayes Tamez Guerra and Cristina Rodrigez Padilla, was held in Monterrey, Mexico, March 1-4. The field has dwindled from its glorious days in the 1970s, due to the rejection of the concept of transfer of antigen-specific information to uncommitted lymphocytes using a structurally unidentified low-molecular-weight cell extract. But clinical research continues in several parts of the worl


More on Hepatitis C

We concur with the letter by Kevin Donnelly1 regarding hepatitis C. Hepatitis C is a far greater problem today than HIV/AIDS. The slow development, possibly decades, of medical problems allows this virus to portray a benign course, which is not the case. Many individuals may be lulled into a sense of security, only to find a devastating, life-threatening illness with slim prognosis. We must educate not only the United States, but also the world about this infectious agent and its sequelae. As

NIH Funding

I fully agree with T.V. Rajan's Commentary on funding.1 Regrettably, he is also right about being a hopeless 19th-century romantic. This is because he and many others like him, including me, do not possess the influence to change the trend that has afflicted science and its funding for the past two decades: commercialism. As in other domains where public funds are used, those in charge of these funds believe that their foremost responsibility is to show a fast and hefty return on their investm

...NIH Funding

Dr. Rajan was absolutely right to question the current air of disdain accorded to "descriptive" studies by reviewers of grant applications.1 The ultimate goal of the National Institutes of Health is to remove the costly and painful burden of disease that prevents the full expression of a healthy human society. That being so, the ultimate model for investigation is not the HeLa cell, the mouse, or even the fruit fly, but the human being. Of course all sorts of nonhuman model systems have provide


Second Thoughts about Peppered Moths

Every student of biological evolution learns about peppered moths. During the Industrial Revolution, dark ("melanic") forms of this moth, Biston betularia, became much more common than light ("typical") forms, though the proportion of melanics declined after the passage of pollution-control legislation. When experiments in the 1950s pointed to cryptic coloration and differential bird predation as its cause, "industrial melanism" became the classical story of evolution by natural selection. Subse


Food as Medicine: Nutritionists, Clinicians Disagree on Role of Chemopreventive Supplements

Call it a food fight: Nutritionists say a diet rich in fruits and vegetables reduces cancer incidence, but some clinicians say cancer can't be thwarted by food alone, that supplements make better chemopreventives. Both sides point to epidemiological data supporting their respective positions. Recently, papers that try to explain the biochemical mechanisms by which foods and some supplements work have only added to the complexity of the debate. Beta carotene has been a rallying point. The antio

Hot Paper

Signal Transduction

Edited by: Steve Bunk H. Dudek, S.R. Datta, T.F. Franke, M.J. Birnbaum, R. Yao, G.M. Cooper, R.A. Segal, D.R. Kaplan, M.E. Greenberg, "Regulation of neuronal survival by the serine-threonine protein kinase Akt," Science, 275:661-5, Jan. 31, 1997. (Cited in more than 245 papers since publication) Alex Toker Comments by Henryk Dudek, senior scientist, neurosciences group, Ontogeny Inc., Cambridge, Mass., and Michael E. Greenberg, professor of neurology, Children's Hospital, Harvard Medical Sc


A Quantum Physicist Ponders Consciousness

The 1999 International Conference on Science and Consciousness held recently in Albuquerque, N.M., might be described in many ways, but "a droning bore" is not one of them. Physicists and psychologists, physicians and philosophers, astronauts and astronomers, even the odd biophysicist and evolutionary biologist, were among the more than 50 speakers who tackled the formidable challenge of linking objective and subjective reality. Although some of the talks were long on vibes and rather short on


#153; IR Microscope/FT-IR Spectrometer System

What would you do if all you had to connect an alleged hit-and-run driver to the victim was a thread found on the driver's car bumper? How would you identify a microcontaminant found on the surface of an uncoated tablet, the foreign substance on floppy diskettes that prevented them from reading and writing properly, or the defect in the barrier layer of a multilayered laminate? In all cases, you could use a Fourier transform infrared (FT-IR) microspectroscopy system to identify the substances.

Stepping Up the Potential: Isolating Human Cells from Mouse/Human Chimeras with StemCell Technologies' StemSep

Indirect magnetic labeling for separation of murine cells. Image provided by StemCell Technologies Hematopoietic stem cells are defined by their ability to self-renew and to differentiate into all blood cell lineages. Human stem cell populations are frequently tested by their ability to populate the hematopoietic systems of immunodeficient strains. "The analysis of mice transplanted with human hematopoietic cells is essential to assess the hematopoietic long-term populating potential of the t

Improve your Concentration: Savant Instruments' SPD-Series SpeedVac Concentrators

Savant Instruments of Holbrook, N.Y., has recently redesigned the venerable SpeedVac with the release of the next-generation SPD-Series SpeedVac concentrators. The SPD-Series SpeedVac concentrators consist of three compact, benchtop instruments built to dry or concentrate biological and nonbiological samples in a variety of solvents. Savant Instruments' SPD-SpeedVac All three models efficiently evaporate solvents by centrifugal vacuum evaporation. Created through the combination of centrifugal

Technology Profile

Everything's Great When It Sits on a Chip

Date: May 24, 1999Microarray Products and Services GSI Lumonics Excitable Dyes I purified the DNA, ligated it, and transformed it; the gene has to be here somewhere!" In the days before positive selection vectors, a researcher might have screened thousands of clones by hand with an oligo just to find one elusive insert. Today's DNA array technology reverses that approach. Instead of screening an array of unknowns with a defined probe--a cloned gene, PCR product, or synthetic oligonucleotide--e

No Barriers to Entry: Transfection tools get biomolecules in the door

Date: May 24, 1999Relative Transfection Efficiency Transfection Reagents Table and Electroporation Systems Table Model of the Effectene principle. The enhancer first condenses the plasmid DNA and the effectene reagent, non- liposomal lipid, subsequently coats the condensed DNA for efficient uptake into cells. Supplied by QIAGEN. Cell transformation is an essential tool for molecular, cellular, and genetic research. Introducing specific molecules--DNA, RNA, drugs, and small molecules such as ca



ANTSY ANTIBIOTICS Humans didn't invent self-medication. Ants got into the act 50 million years ago. The attine ants are expert gardeners, cultivating edible fungi in subterranean "mushroom farms" on food harvested above ground. The most famous attines are the leaf cutters, whose superorganismlike colonies of several million ants are organized into functional castes led by a queen (B. Hölldobler and E.O. Wilson, Journey to the Ants, Harvard University Press, 1994). Their prodigious harvest

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