April 2010

Volume 24 Issue 4

The Scientist April 2010 Cover




Contributors Judy Lieberman, senior investigator at the Immune Disease Institute and the program in cellular and molecular medicine at the Children’s Hospital Boston, came to be a physician through an unusual pathway. Before attending medical school, Lieberman earned a doctorate in theoretical physics, but turned to a career in medicine so she could directly impact peoples’ lives. “I wanted to do something more socially useful,&#

Three New Paradigms

By Sarah Greene Three New Paradigms The way we research cancer and present our data to the world is undergoing a major revolution. Open Science embraces open access publishing and advances the underlying concept a few light years. Cancer is very personal. That’s brought home in the lead paragraph of the lead story of this issue, Building a Better Mouse. The patient with lung cancer asks her doctor if she might qualify for a promising targeted t


Mail The Next New Thing Excellent idea to try to promote interactive behavior among life scientists.1 There is far too little interaction between scientists who are, understandably, frightened of divulging their work. There should be nothing wrong with talking about technical issues, though; that’s why so many forums have sprung up. I won’t be tempted by a t-shirt, though, which runs the risk of making your idea look a bit gimmick

Ancient Aminos

By Alla Katsnelson Ancient aminos FtsZ mutant of Coxiella burnetii Courtesy of Paul Beare, Bryan Hansen, and Robert Heinzen For the past couple years, biochemist Richard Ludueña has been in the grips of a compelling notion. “I’ve been working on tubulin my whole career,” says Ludueña, based at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. “I’ve always wondered how it evolved.

Aquatic Architects

By Jef Akst Aquatic architects A red grouper rests in its excavated hole. Courtesy of NOAA Underwater Research Program / University of North Carolina, Wilmington It was 2 o’clock in the morning, and marine scientist Felicia Coleman, floating 150 kilometers offshore of the gulf coast of Tampa, Fla., was growing weary of looking at a monitor. It was displaying live images being captured by the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) some 9

Skates on thin ice

By Bob Grant Skates on thin ice Iglésias holds up a specimen of Dipturus intermedia Courtesy of Samuel P. Iglésias / MNHN When ichthyologist Samuel Iglésias spent 2 years scouring French fish markets and docks, he wasn’t exactly looking for a two-for-one deal on the catch of the day, but he found one. Iglésias recognized that a species of highly endangered fish was actually composed of two separate spe

But For the Grace of Genes

By Elaine Howard Ecklund and Conrad Hackett But For the Grace of Genes Science may consider fundamentalism a threat, but our study shows that most scientists are spiritual—suggesting both sides may have more in common than they think. Image Modified from © Laguna Design / Photo Researchers, Inc. When President Barack Obama appointed Francis Collins, a geneticist and evangelical Christian, to head the National Institutes of


Down with Reviews

By Steven Wiley Down with Reviews Review articles simply don’t deserve all the citations they receive. Cited discoveries & hypotheses should always refer to the original literature. There has been a proliferation of review articles and review journals over the last decade, and it is easy to see why. Biologists find them useful to keep up with increasingly complex science, and publishers find them an easy way to increase the im

Building a Better Mouse

A notoriously poor proxy for the human experience of cancer, mouse models are now undergoing a major renovation.

Master of the Cell

By Judy Lieberman Master of the Cell RNA interference, with its powerful promise of therapy for many diseases, may also act as a master regulator of most—if not all—cellular processes. RNA silencing. Computer artwork showing a length of RNA (yellow with red rings) bound to an RNA-induced silencing complex (RISC). © Medi-Mation Ltd / Photo Researchers, Inc. ne of the biggest surprises in biology in the past d

In the Blood

By Karen Hopkin In the Blood Jean Pieters had a gruesome start, but ultimately hacked his way through the system that enables mycobacteria to survive inside host cells. © Justin Hession Jean Pieters began his life in science in a slaughterhouse. As a graduate student at the University of Maastricht in The Netherlands in the mid-1980s, Pieters was studying the biochemistry of blood coagulation. “My first week there I had to go

New Smoking Gun?

By Jef Akst New Smoking Gun? Teams come together to target the genes behind lung cancer, but the hunt is far from over. Image modified from © Alfred Pasieka / Photo Researchers, Inc. Scientists have known for years why more than 1 million people die of lung cancer every year—smoking. Thus, when it came to looking for a genetic basis to lung cancer, “there was a lot of skepticism” about the importance of such rese

The viral skinny

By Edyta Zielinska The viral skinny The paper: H. Feng, et al., “Clonal integration of a polyomavirus in human Merkel cell carcinoma,” Science, 319:1096–100, 2008. (Cited 163 times) The finding: When the husband and wife team of Yuan Chang and Patrick Moore started looking for the causes of Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC), a rare skin cancer, they suspected a virus. They had discovered that Kaposi’s sarcoma was caused

The closer

By Edyta Zielinska The closer Dr. Pablo Huertas / Steve Jackson lab / The Wellcome Trust/Cancer Research UK Gurdon Institute The paper: A. Sartori et al., “Human CtIP promotes DNA end resection,” Nature, 450:509–14, 2007. (Cited 135 times) The finding: Stephen Jackson and colleagues at the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom, showed that the protein CtIP, known to interact with tumor suppressor genes, could


Flu clues

By Cassandra Brooks Flu clues CDC/ Dr. F. A. Murphy The paper: A. Lowen et al., “Influenza virus transmission is dependent on relative humidity and temperature,” PLoS Pathogens, 3(10): e151. (Cited 71 times) The finding: The reason why more people get the flu during colder months has long been a mystery. To investigate the role of weather conditions on flu transmission, researchers at the Mount Sinai School of Medici

Lin He: Mesmerized by micro

By Jef Akst Lin He: Mesmerized by micro © Eric Millette Assistant Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology at University of California, Berkeley. Age: 36 Lin He didn’t learn much biology in high school, as secondary education in her native China focuses more on math, physics, and chemistry. That “limited exposure” made biology “very mysterious,” recalls He, who decided to make it her major when she g

Sizing up Nanoparticles

By Kelly Rae Chi Sizing up Nanoparticles How to put nanoparticles to work in drug development. Nanoparticles are increasingly found in drug development. Researchers are using them in designing treatments for tumors, infections, and brain diseases, as well as for imaging techniques that enhance visualization of molecular-scale events in brain tissue and culture dishes. But so far, says biochemist Michael Sailor of the University of Californi

An Epic Search

div.table table { margin: 10px 0; } div.table table tr.heading td { color: #ffffff; background: #536B77; border: none; } div.table table tr.title td { color: #ffffff; background:#C21E45; border: none; text-transform: uppercase; font-size: 14px; font-weight: bold; } div.table table tr td { border: 1px solid #CC3300; padding: 5px; } By Alla Katsnelson An Epic Search Can drugs based on epigenetics spark a new era in cancer tre

Grant-Writing Gurus

By Jef Akst Grant-Writing Gurus Would you be a good grant writer? Plus, tips from the experts on improving your grant. © EDEL RODRIGUEZ When Amy Fluet’s future husband accepted a postdoctoral position at the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1997, she gave up her own postdoc studying the retinoic acid signaling pathway in zebrafish at Johns Hopkins University to follow him. The rewards of a scientific career just didn̵

New NIH grant applications

By Jef Akst New NIH grant applications How to cut sentences, not substance As of January 25 of this year, the National Institutes of Health has shortened the page limits for most sections of its grant applications, brining the total page limit for R01 grants down from 25 to 12. While many scientific editors advocate a shorter-is-better philosophy all the time, with the new application format, "you need to jam things into a shorter space,"

Darwin to Joseph Hooker, 1844

By Katherine Bagley Darwin to Joseph Hooker, 1844 Researchers and historians have collected approximately 15,000 letters written both to and by Charles Darwin in an effort to better understand his life and science. One of his most frequent contacts was Joseph Dalton Hooker, a botanist who helped identify many of the plant specimens collected during Darwin’s HMS Beagle journey, including his famed stop at the Galapagos Islands. Their discourse, which spann

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