July 2007

Volume 21 Issue 7

The Scientist July 2007 Cover




Merrill Goozner has spent the last 25 years as a foreign correspondent, economics writer, and investigative reporter for publications such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, Columbia Journalism Review, and The Nation. Since 2003, Goozner has served as director of the Integrity of Science Project for the Center for Science in the Public Interest. He wrote about clinical trials of the anti-malarial artemisinin for our December 2006 cover story. Here, Goozner writes about a t


Junk Worth Keeping

Is it time to retire provocative descriptors such as "junk DNA"?



"The fact that we can keep 100 pandas in a zoo is not, on its own, a positive conservation outcome." End the censorship of science I completely agree with Richard Gallagher?s suggestion to open all correspondence to the public after a five-year interim.1 Maybe names are still held confidential but review comments and correspondence should not remain a secret. An open policy would discourage politically charged decisions and enable the best scientific wo


An underwater life

Lloyd Godson in front of the biosub before it was submerged. Credit: © John Egan/Australian Geographic Images" />Lloyd Godson in front of the biosub before it was submerged. Credit: © John Egan/Australian Geographic Images After living underwater for 13 days, Lloyd Godson started to feel a little weird. His blood pressure went through the roof, he struggled to fall asleep at night, and he had an unsettling feeling that the walls of the metal box he was living in were closing

The Agenda

The Agenda

HOOKWORMS AND FRIENDS>> Peter Hotez, the director of the Sabin Institute's Human Hookworm Vaccine Initiative, is prominent in Merrill Goozner's feature on the initiative's trials now getting underway in Brazil (see story). He also appears in a new book by Gerald Esch, Parasites and Infectious Disease: Discovery by Serendipity and Otherwise (Cambridge University Press), which comes out this month. INTEREST ON INNOVATION>> In this article, Kerry Grens looks


Nobel pseudo-prizes

In 1995, European Union officials made the mistake of deeming the new European ICT Prize the "Nobel Prize" for innovation in information and communication technologies. Soon after, they received a friendly note from the Nobel Foundation saying they had infringed upon a trademark license, and could face legal action. EU officials promised to cease and desist from such comparisons, and everything resolved amicably. As harmless as it may seem to invoke the name of Nobel to

The oldest tree

Frank Mannolini and Linda Hernick Credit: Courtesy of NYS Museum/Albert Gnidica" />Frank Mannolini and Linda Hernick Credit: Courtesy of NYS Museum/Albert Gnidica On a sunny summer day in 2004, two employees of the New York State Museum took a scenic drive through the countryside. It was a perfect day for a field trip, but inside the car, an awkward tension hung between driver and passenger. "We were both thinking a lot of the same things," says Linda Hernick. They were

Surgeonfish's revenge

Credit: Courtesy of Kendall Clements" /> Credit: Courtesy of Kendall Clements Surgeonfish aren't as dedicated to life-saving as their name implies - quite the opposite, in fact. While sample-gathering in the Seychelles in May 2001, marine biologist J. Howard Choat wrongly assumed that he had killed a surgeonfish (genus Naso). When he took the fish off the spear, one of its razor-sharp caudal knives sliced open his right palm, severing two tendons. He received timely emergency care, b

A biologist realtor

Biologist Don King has spent years watching precious things disappear. As an educational tour guide in New Mexico in 1981, King led a group through a Navajo village on the way to ruins in Chaco Canyon. They came upon a funeral in the hybrid Catholic-Navajo church for the village medicine man. With his death, hundreds of years of history and culture disappeared, since the local children weren't interested in learning traditional ways, preferring to adopt mainstream American culture.


Can Journalists Help Improve Peer Review?

Reporters and journals should partner to upgrade press releases.


Thanks, Andrew Speaker

One man with TB shows the world why the quarantine system often doesn't work.


An Economic Gamble

What does society get for the billions it spends on science?


Double research funding? Be careful

Double research funding? Be careful The dramatic increase in NIH's budget has actually hurt scientists. Could NSF make the same mistake? By Adam B. Jaffe Related Articles An economic gamble On the surface, doubling research funding would seem to be a good thing. Advocates cheered the doubling of the National Institutes of Health budget between 1998 and 2003, with increases of almost 15% per year. I count myself among those who strongly support increases in f

A Little Lab Tackles a Big Question

A Little Lab Tackles a Big Question In 2001, the 20-person Molecular Sciences Institute decided to pool its resources and study a single pathway. Has the decision paid off? By Edyta Zielinska Related Articles 1, while Ian Burbulis, a molecular biologist, looked at enzymatic complexes in Arabidopsis as a means of learning about metabolic pathways2. Mathematician Lok plugged away at a computer modeling program that enabled scientists to enter the rules of protein inte

Slideshow: A day in the life of the Molecular Sciences Institute

Slideshow: A day in the life of the Molecular Sciences Institute var FO = { movie:"https://photos.the-scientist.com/supplementary/flash/msi/msi.swf", width:"500", height:"700", majorversion:"8", build:"0"}; UFO.create(FO, "ufoDemo"); Please download the Adobe Flash Player to view this content:

Tinkering with Tumor-tracking Tadpoles

Tinkering with Tumor-tracking Tadpoles By Edyta Zielinska Related Articles A Little Lab Tackles a Big Question Slideshow: Molecular Sciences Institue Profile The Molecular Sciences Institute's new tools At the age of 14, Ian Burbulis blew off four fingers on his left hand during a pyrotechnics experiment gone wrong. But that didn't stop him. Burbulis was the kind of kid who, much to his mother's dismay, took apart all of his family's applia

The Trouble with Animal Models

The Trouble With Animal Models Why did human trials fail By Andrea Gawrylewski Related Articles Why sex matters in mouse models Trials and error On October 26, 2006, at the opening day of the Joint World Congress for Stroke in Cape Town, South Africa, disappointing news spread quickly among the attendees: The second Phase III clinical trial for NXY-059 had failed. The drug, a free-radical spin trap agent for ischemic stroke, had been eagerly anticipat

Why Sex Matters in Mouse Models

The trouble with animal models

Trials and Error

Trials and Error Some of the common problems in trials based on animal models Related Articles 1 But choices for the right model are limited, and certain choices (e.g., primates) tend to limit the number of animals that can be used. The study has to be big enough to detect a clinically important effect, but not so big it wastes resources. Physiological Differences Without perfect matching of cellular processes and mechanisms of action, there is always the chance t

Stopping Hookworm

Stopping Hookworm As trials get underway in Brazil, Peter Hotez and his colleagues are hoping their vaccine will put an end to a parasite's evasive immune maneuvers - and its devastating morbidity. By Merrill Goozner Related Articles 1 "The likelihood of success is not very high. This is a complex parasite that has evolved over a million years." In 1989, Hotez moved to Yale University, where he conducted most of the early scientific w

Slideshow: The trials behind a trial

Slideshow: The trials behind a trial var FO = { movie:"https://photos.the-scientist.com/supplementary/flash/53343/hookworm.swf", width:"600", height:"620", majorversion:"8", build:"0"}; UFO.create(FO, "ufoDemo"); Please download the Adobe Flash Player to view this content:


Decoding the Brain

Joe Tsien went from Shanghai to the cover of , creating the "smart mouse" along the way.


Do Universities Need Quotas?

Many groups are underrepresented at schools, and Brazil's trying to do something about it.

Books etc.

Targeting with siRNAs

Researchers use nanoparticles and antibodies to take aim.

Hot Paper

Cognitive Clog

The paper: J.L. Cleary et al., "Natural oligomers of the amyloid-β protein specifically disrupt cognitive function," Nat Neurosci, 8:79?84, 2005. (Cited in 124 papers) The finding: James Cleary at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center and colleagues revealed that soluble human forms of amyloid-β oligomer (a-β), a protein implicated in Alzheimer disease, disrupted rats' memory of a learned lever-pressing task. "We didn

Influenza pays its toll

Credit: © IMA / Photo Researchers, Inc." /> Credit: © IMA / Photo Researchers, Inc. The paper: L. Guillot et al., "Involvement of toll-like receptor 3 in the immune response of lung epithelial cells to double-stranded RNA and influenza A virus," J. Biol Chem, 280: 5571-80, 2005. (Cited in 82 papers) The finding: Mustapha Si-Tahar at Inserm in Paris and colleagues showed that toll like receptor 3 (TLR3) plays a prominent role i

Selecting for Humans

Credit: Frans de Waal / Emory University" /> Credit: Frans de Waal / Emory University The paper: R. Nielsen et al., "A scan for positively selected genes in the genomes of humans and chimpanzees," PLoS Biol, 3:976-85, 2005. (Cited in 55 papers) The finding: Rasmus Nielsen from the University of Copenhagen and colleagues from Cornell University compared 13,731 human genes to their chimpanzee orthologs and found the strongest evidence for positive sel

Papers To Watch

Papers to Watch

Y. Zhou et al., "The mammalian Golgi regulates numb signaling in asymmetric cell division by releasing ACBD3 during mitosis," Cell, 129:163-78, Apr. 6, 2007. This excellent paper reports a novel means of coupling cell-cycle progression with cell fate decisions. The authors show that the fragmentation of the Golgi complex, which precedes mitosis of neural progenitor cells, releases a Numb binding protein, thereby modulating cell fate decisions fol

Profiling Human Histones

Some patterns of histone methylation are linked to human gene activation, and other patterns are linked to gene repression. By combining chromatin immunoprecipitation with new Solexa 1G sequencing technology, Artem Barski at the National Institutes of Health and colleagues from the University of California, Los Angeles, generated genome-wide maps for histone methylations and correlated methylation events with different levels of gene expression.1 The researchers saw differences in methy

Butterfly Eyes

Credit: © Gary Boisvert" /> Credit: © Gary Boisvert Butterflies and some mammals rely on color vision for survival. Francesca Frentiu, from the University of California, Irvine, and colleagues used epimicrospectrophotometry and gene sequencing to show that the photopigment opsin gene in the butterfly genus Limenitis has evolved similarly to the opsin gene in primates.1 The researchers measured light wavelengths reflected off the butterflies' tapetum lucidum and found a spec

Scientist To Watch

Reuben Shaw: A fated pathway

Credit: omeallyphoto.com" /> Credit: omeallyphoto.com Reuben Shaw wanted nothing more than to study tumor suppressor genes, but his results took him on another path. "As fate has it," he sighs in mock defeat, "diabetes will be a part of my research from here on out." In 1993 Shaw joined Tyler Jacks' laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as a graduate student. Jacks' lab studied a number of tumor suppressors, including p53 and retinoblas

Lab Tools

A Nuanced Knockout

If using in vivo RNAi has you down for the count, here's what you need to know.

A Nuanced Knockout

If using in vivo RNAi has you down for the count, here's what you need to know.


Re-Imaging a Career

Peter Lassota escaped Communist Poland to find success in capitalism in America.

The Scientist

Taking Mentorship Online

Need a mentor? Check out MentorNet, an e-mentoring program.


The Dreyer Peptide and Protein Sequencer

Credit: Courtesy of Alan Hawk / Historical Collections National Museum of Health and Medicine" /> Credit: Courtesy of Alan Hawk / Historical Collections National Museum of Health and Medicine As biochemists during the 1970s delved into the protein chemistry of cell signaling, cycling, and adhesion, they ran into two major obstacles: getting enough purified material for some proteins, and the low molecular weights of others. Interferon, for example, was so difficult to purify that it

Popular Now

  1. Prominent Salk Institute Scientist Inder Verma Resigns
  2. Anheuser-Busch Won’t Fund Controversial NIH Alcohol Study
  3. Dartmouth Professor Investigated for Sexual Misconduct Retires
  4. North American Universities Increasingly Cancel Publisher Packages