May 2006

Volume 20 Issue 5

The Scientist May 2006 Cover




A.M. James Shapiro first started experimenting with islet transplantation as a medical student at the University of Newcastle upon Thames. After multiple failures with mice and rats, he says his now famous Edmonton protocol was "really a last-ditch attempt" to make a good idea work in practice. Now director of the University of Alberta's Clinical Islet Transplant Program, Shapiro writes on page 43 about the "current state of the art of islet transplantation," for which a "combination of


A Prescription for Pharma

The industry needs more foxes and fewer hedgehogs



What went horribly wrong in a London clinical trial? The recent report by the MHRA on its investigation into the adverse effects in the TGN1412 trial1 concluded that an unpredicted biological action of the drug in humans is the most likely cause of the cytokine release syndrome seen in the trial participants.2 So do we have any idea on how could TGN1412 have induced a cytokine storm? TGN1412 is a monoclonal antibody that targets the CD28 co-signaling molecule that is present


Wanted: owl killers

Credit: © DAVID HANSON" /> Credit: © DAVID HANSON The vast majority of wildlife biologists want to protect animals, as does Rocky Gutierrez, a University of Minnesota researcher who studies barred and spotted owls. Part of his next experiment, however, could involve killing barred owls. Barred owls are often blamed for out-competing and possibly even preying on their threatened relatives, the spotted owls. The barred owls' movement across the Rocky Mountains and down the

The Agenda

The Agenda

>>SEX AND THE MIND May 6 would have been Sigmund Freud's 150th birthday, and 2006 is The Year of Sigmund Freud, according to The International Neuro-Psychoanalysis Center and Society. To celebrate, the New York branch of the Center will be holding an event on the 6th featuring a talk by its founding director, Mark Solms. Later that day, Solms will comment on a display of Freud's early neuroanatomical drawings and later psychological diagrams, never before exhibited, at the New York Acade


The calorie hunters

Like any other deer hunter, John Porcari must drag his killed quarry out of the forest. But unlike most others, he knows just how many calories that effort takes him: 13 per minute. (That means he needs to drag a deer 12 minutes to burn off each 3-ounce venison steak he eats.) Porcari also knows the number of calories burned by a vigorous game of paintball (7 per minute), yoga (4 per minute), and sex (5 per minute). Porcari is not so much an exercise nut as an exercise physiologist

Seeing Ebola from space

Credit: COURTESY OF CHRISTELLE BARBEY/SILOGIC" /> Credit: COURTESY OF CHRISTELLE BARBEY/SILOGIC From a satellite orbiting 500 miles above the earth, the jungles of central Africa can look disarmingly innocent. To the untrained eye, their wrinkled swathes of green offer no hint of the potentially lethal infectious diseases lurking within. But for the past two years, African epidemiologists studying images from earth observation satellites have found that for those who know how to look, tho

Radio for water

Credit: COURTESY OF MIKE TUCKER, UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA" /> Credit: COURTESY OF MIKE TUCKER, UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA Three years ago, George Vellidis, an agricultural engineer at the University of Georgia in Tifton, was speaking to an electrical engineering colleague who was working for the military to develop radio frequency identification (RFID)-equipped "smart dust" that could be sprinkled on battlefields to gain information. She planted a seed in his head: Could the same technology used t

A newspaper hires an IRB

Credit: © ANDREI TCHERNOV" /> Credit: © ANDREI TCHERNOV In June 2004, Erica Heath, who formerly ran the University of California, San Francisco's institutional review board (IRB), got an unusual call. Douglas Fischer, a reporter at the Oakland Tribune, told her he wanted to test the blood of four family members for levels of polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) fire retardants, and publish the results in the paper. "She laughed when I told her what I wanted to do," says Fischer.


Treating Genetic Disease Today

Why wait until gene therapy and therapeutic cloning are perfected? Conventional treatments hold at least as much promise.


Search Me Not

My fellow columnist wants us to Google our brains. But will I lose my identity in the process?


Merck's Fall from Grace

FEATUREMerck's Fall   Getty Images How will one of the world's largest and most respected pharmaceutical companies come back? BY FRAN HAWTHORNE TIME LIFE PICTURES Better times:Merck President George M. Merck in 1952 ARTICLE EXTRAS Timeline: Taking Stock of Merck When former employees speak of Old Merck, they often get a wistful tone to their voices. For Alaina Love Cugnon, the 1980s and

The Nucleosome Untangled

FEATUREEpigenetics All art: Rick Contreras All photography: Jason Varney/ Histones serve as slates to a dizzying array of modifications, but researchers are confident they can decipher the epigenetic puzzle. BY BRENDAN MAHER ARTICLE EXTRAS Related Articles: Is It a Code: The DebateSteven Henikoff and Bryan M. Turner debate if there really is a histone code. Roughly two meters of DNA gets pack


Is It a Code: The Debate

FEATUREEpigenetics Is It a Code: The Debate Yes: An epigenetic histone code may allow for unprecedented predictive power BY BRYAN M. TURNER ARTICLE EXTRAS Related Articles: The Nucleosome UntangledHistones serve as slates to a dizzying array of modifications, but researchers are confident they can decipher the epigenetic puzzle. The nuclear signaling networks that operate through chromatin de

Transplanting Islets for Diabetes

FEATUREIslet Transplantation   ©1982 AMERICAN DIABETES ASSOCIATION How to overcome the remaining hurdles in cell survival, supply, and immune rejection BY A.M. JAMES SHAPIRO Diabetes prevalence has increased from a world estimate of 30 million in 1985 to 180 million currently, and is predicted to rise to 366 million by the year 2025. In developing countries such as China, the number of diagnosed cases is increasing at a frightening

The Path to Clinical Protocols

FEATUREIslet Transplantation The Path to Clinical Protocols ARTICLE EXTRAS Related Articles: Transplanting ISLETS for DiabetesHow to overcome the remaining hurdles in cell survival, supply, and immune rejection ©1982 AMERICAN DIABETES ASSOCIATION The Edmonton Protocol and its more recent improvements are the product of incremental contributions made during the past 34 years. Paul E. Lacy first

Improving Islet Transplantation

FEATUREIslet Transplantation   THOM GRAVES MEDIA

The Future of Scientific Meetings

FEATUREScientific Meetings © Erik Dreyer/Getty Images Less time, more conferences, and better mobile technology: Meeting planners struggle with the challenges facing the industry BY KEITH O'BRIEN In late 2003, a handful of scientists-turned-conference-planners met at the Yale Club in midtown Manhattan. The big players of scientific conference planning - Gordon Research Conferences, Keystone Symposia, and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory - were

What's the Value of Conferences?

FEATUREScientific Meetings   What's the Value of Conferences? A Keystone Symposia survey says: $20-30 million in research fund savings BY JAMES W. AIKEN The long reach of Bill Gates finally touched the Keystone Symposia, and all of conference planning, really. I was writing a grant proposal for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and came to an interesting stipulation: We had to show measured value for our program. Another routine survey


Space Invaders Are Here

Guess what? They're little and green!


Coming Full Cycle

Paul Nurse had trouble getting into graduate school. Twenty five years later, he won the Nobel Prize for his work on the cell cycle.

Hot Paper

Serum Proteomics Scrutinized

SELDI-TOF still struggles to prove its worth as a clinical diagnostic tool

Books etc.

Copy number a major source of variation

Thanks to engrained lessons from cytogenetics, researchers largely regarded variations in gene copy a rarity, synonymous with defects. Increasingly, however, researchers have found that large-scale deletions and duplications are the norm and represent a significant source of human variation. Jonathan Sebat and colleagues based at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory published a highly cited paper on this topic in 2004,1 as did Charles Lee at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.2

WebLogo: Data visualization for everyone

Protein binding sites often are represented by "consensus sequences," such as TATA(A/T)A(A/T), "which report the most common nucleotide at any given position but eliminate much of the possible variability. In 1991, National Institutes of Health research biologist Tom Schneider developed an alternative, graphical approach, called sequence logos. In a sequence logo, the height of each position measures how well conserved it is, while the height of each character within that po

A new weapon for resistant bacteria

Credit: © EYE OF SCIENCE / PHOTO RESEARCHERS, INC" /> Credit: © EYE OF SCIENCE / PHOTO RESEARCHERS, INC Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a longtime bane of hospitals, thwarts the antibiotic by integrating a mobile genetic element, staphylococcal cassette chromosome mec (SCCmec). More than 10 years ago, Keiichi Hiramatsu's group at Juntendo University in Tokyo started to notice variations of SCCmec, with different combinations of recombinases to transfer the el


I.J. Macrae et al., "Structural basis for double-stranded RNA processing by Dicer," Science, 311:195-8, Jan 13, 2006. This structural study demonstrates that the length of small RNAs produced by Dicer is determined largely by the length of the positively charged platform domain and connector helix between the PAZ and RNase III domains. Daniel Gallie University of California, Riverside, USA T.J. Aitman et al., "Copy number polymorphism in Fcgr3 predisposes to glome

Books etc.


Credit: © ERWIN SIGEL" /> Credit: © ERWIN SIGEL >> Settling an oocyte actin conundrum Actin is actively cleared from the nuclei of most eukaryotic cells with the exception of the giant nuclei found in amphibian oocytes. This discrepancy has led to speculations about exotic actin conformations serving equally exotic functions in specialized nuclei. Dirk Görlich of the Center for Molecular Biology at Heidelberg University and his group recently reported that the mechanism for having


Matthew Albert: Fascinated by Cell Death

Lab Tools

My Own Private Synchrotron

Tired of waiting months for beamline time? Here's a possible solution.

Ten Steps to Better HPLC

How to keep your high-performance liquid chromatography running smoothly

How It Works

Miniaturizing HPLC

insert url Click to view enlarged diagram Credit: ILLUSTRATION: ANDREW MEEHAN" />insert url Click to view enlarged diagram Credit: ILLUSTRATION: ANDREW MEEHAN The two chips illustrated below represent the next generation of high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). Their manufacturers - Agilent Technologies and Nanostream - have miniaturized and simplified the traditionally reagent-intensive process with microfluidics in order to boost sensitivity and thro


Why Patent Trolls Threaten Biotech

The backlash following the Blackberry patent dispute would hurt patents in the life sciences

It's Good to Be CEO

Compensation at the top rises at publicly traded companies


Stem Cell Chasers


Spreading Better Diagnosis

The Scientist

Grant Writing for Scientist-Entrepreneurs

The science and art of applying for a business grant

Casual Fridays Extended

Water, wheels, and Wi-Fi contribute to the new professional networking

Making the Most

Five tips for life science execs to maximize their earnings in their next job


Chromatin Immunoprecipitation

Credit: RENATO PARO" /> Credit: RENATO PARO Early in the summer of 1991, Valerio Orlando, a postdoc in Renato Paro's lab at the University of Heidelberg, began working on the problem of identifying where proteins bind to chromatin in vivo. Researchers had already figured out how to determine whether a particular protein bound to a specific sequence in vitro. But what about protein occupancy in a living cell? Orlando and Paro's idea was simple: Crosslink protein-DNA complexes using

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