April 2011

Volume 25 Issue 4

The Scientist April 2011 Cover




Contributors A seasoned hiker and skier who has visited most of the US National Parks, Keith Flaherty is no stranger to unfamiliar terrain. He entered college around the time of the molecular biology revolution in the early 1980s, and the new science entranced him. “It stuck with me as being an intriguing and fascinating level at which to try to understand human biology,” he says. In medical school he started to “think about patients and diseases

The Me Decade of Cancer

By Sarah Greene The “Me Decade” of Cancer Drugs that target specific tumors are harbingers of a new era of genetically informed medicine. The old rules involving randomized populations may not provide the best answers. Thirty-five years ago journalist Tom Wolfe anointed the ‘70s in America the Me Decade—critiquing the quest for self-actualization via primal-scream therapy, high colonics, and mysticism. The age of social conscious


Mail Worms As Therapy Re: Bob Grant’s article about worm therapy for autoimmune disease:1 A minireview by Hanada et al., (Biol. Chem, 391:1365-70, 2010) of the RANKL/RANK system involving T-cell membrane protein ligands and ligand targets in various tissues, including specific neural and astroglial terrains in the brain, may provide additional support to the findings that inflammatory responses could play a role in autism. Mel Winestock

Speaking of Science

Speaking of Science Baris Simsek / Istockphoto.com The achievement is impressive, but it is a wholly formal achievement that involves no knowledge…and it does not come within a million miles of replicating the achievements of everyday human thought. —Law professor Stanley Fish, on Watson, the I.B.M.–built computer that won a game of “Jeopardy” (The New York Times Opinionator blog, Feb. 21, 2011) By 2029, we’ll have reve

Taking Shape

By Richard P. Grant Taking Shape Aimin Tang / Istockphoto.com HIDDEN JEWEL Floral bouquets are the most ephemeral of presents. The puzzle of how flowers get their shape, however, is more enduring. It’s a question that has kept Enrico Coen, a plant biologist at the John Innes Centre in the United Kingdom, busy for more than twenty years. Now he thinks he may finally have a handle on the answer, thanks to a clever combination of detailed image an

PET Guerrilla

By Chris Tachibana PET Guerrilla Former guerrilla leader Henry Engler (left) talks to Uruguayan President José Mujica at the launch of CUDIM in Montevideo last year. IVAN FRANCO / epa / Corbis In August 1972, Uruguayan medical student Henry Engler’s education was interrupted. He was shot in the shoulder, arrested for being a Tupamaro antigovernment urban guerrilla, and imprisoned for 13 years—11 in solitary confinement. Engler says he joined

Family Affair

By Megan Scudellari Family Affair Andrzej Krauze At a 2009 meeting at the University of California, Davis, plant pathologist Pamela Ronald and a group of immunologists were talking about the work that led to the identification of the first mammalian innate immune receptor a decade before. Ronald, who isolated the first immune receptor in plants that recognizes a conserved microbial molecule, had heard the story before. This time, however, the name of the mammal pa

Fountain of Youth?

By Richard P. Grant Fountain of Youth? Preston Estep discusses the role that telomeres play in the aging process. Courtesy of Preston Estep (Portrait) Telomeres are protective lengths of repetitive DNA at the end of chromosomes that shorten with each cell division. When a single telomere gets down to a critical length, it triggers a damage response that causes the cell to become quiescent. If enough cells in a tissue become quiescent or go into apoptosis, then

Top 7 From F1000

Top 7 From F1000 David Mack / Photo Researchers, Inc. 1. SWEET proteins found » A new class of proteins, dubbed SWEETs, transport glucose molecules out of plant, worm, and human cells. In some plants, SWEET proteins are co-opted by bacterial pathogens to deliver nutrition to the invaders. L.Q. Chen et al., Nature, 468:527-32, 2010. Evaluations by G. Oldroyd, John Innes Cen; J. Schroeder, UCSD; A. Sugio & S. Hogenhout, John Innes Cen; J. Patrick, Uni


Imagining a Cure

For cancer patients, close is not good enough.

Medical Publishing for an N of One

By George D. Lundberg Medical Publishing for an N of One New technologies and mind-sets are required for information delivery in the age of genomics. U.S. Department of Energy Human Genome Program, ornl.gov/hgmis Science and medical journals are so 20th century. The Internet changes everything, they say. Well, maybe not everything, yet. The number of articles in medical and scientific periodicals is still fundamentally a product of the number of paper pa

Taking Aim at Melanoma

By Keith T. Flaherty Taking Aim at Melanoma Understanding oncogenesis at the molecular level offers the prospect of tailoring treatments much more precisely for patients with advanced cases of this deadliest of skin cancers. Pep Karsten / fstop / Corbis They’re lawyers and receptionists, philanthropists and film editors. Some are retired, some just starting families. What they have in common is metastatic melanoma, a cancer that will likely claim their

An Aspirin for your Cancer?

By Giorgio Trinchieri An Aspirin for your Cancer? Can tumors—which can originate from, and often resemble, chronically inflamed tissue—be curtailed using familiar anti-inflammatory agents, without their side effects? Colin Anderson / Gettyimages What if taking aspirin could reduce your risk of cancer? Researchers have debated the relationship between inflammation and cancer for many years, but recent studies have reignited the discussion with eviden

The Movement of Goods Around the Cell

By Patricia Bassereau and Bruno Goud The Movement of Goods Around the Cell A biologist and a physicist collaborate on a decade-long exploration of the physical parameters of membrane traffic in eukaryotic cells. 3-D reconstruction of confocal images showing membrane tubes pulled from a giant unilamellar vesicle by kinesin motors along microtubules. The tube diameter is about 100 nm and the vesicle diameter about 15 μm.Courtesy of Cécile Leduc In proka

Harvesting Ideas

By Karen Hopkin Harvesting Ideas Joy Ward is reaping the rewards of her studies on how plants handle global climate change—gathering academic accolades and presidential embraces along the way. JOY WARD Associate Professor of Plant Physiological Ecology and Global Change University of Kansas F1000 Faculty Member, Physiological Ecology Jason Dailey As a teen, Joy Ward worked as a tour guide at Indian Caverns, Pennsylvania’s largest limestone

Kelly Benoit-Bird: Sounding the Deep

By Carrie Arnold Kelly Benoit-Bird: Sounding the Deep Peter Krupp Associate professor, College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University. Age: 34 When her cell phone rang at 7:30 one morning last September, marine scientist Kelly Benoit-Bird eyeballed the caller ID and decided it was a prank or a wrong number. Seven months pregnant and in desperate need of some quality shut-eye, she turned over and went back to sleep. But when the phone

The Heart of the Matter

By Terry S. Elton, Mahmood Khan, and Dmitry Terentyev The Heart of the Matter Are miRNAs useful for tracking and treating cardiovascular disease? 3D4Medical / Photo Researchers, Inc. Rapid and accurate diagnosis of heart attacks—and the assessment of damage—is critical for improving coronary care. Mature microRNAs (miRNAs) are abundant, easily measured, and relatively stable in blood plasma. If they prove indicative of disease states, miRNAs meas

Viral Hijackers

By Hannah Waters Viral Hijackers Chris Bjornberg / Photo Researchers, Inc. (Dengue virus) The paper N.S. Heaton, G. Randall, “Dengue virus–induced autophagy regulates lipid metabolism,” Cell Host Microbe, 8:422-32, 2010. Free F1000 Evaluation The finding Autophagy allows a cell to reuse essential molecules, eliminate bacterial invaders, or undergo programmed cell death. Nicholas Heaton and Glenn Randall at the University of Chicago discover


Model Liver

By Richard P. Grant Model Liver Stefan Hoehme (3D model of damaged liver lobule) The paper S. Hoehme et al., “Prediction and validation of cell alignment along microvessels as order principle to restore tissue architecture in liver regeneration,” PNAS, 107:10371-76, 2010. Free F1000 Evaluation The finding Dirk Drasdo at INRIA Paris-Rocquencourt and colleagues have been trying for a number of years to turn experimental information into mathematic

Truly Phenome-nal

By Hannah Waters Truly Phenome-nal John Durham / Photo Researchers, Inc. (Antibiotic resistance in E.coli.) The paper R.J. Nichols et al., “Phenotypic landscape of a bacterial cell,” Cell, 144:143-56, 2011. Free F1000 Evaluation The finding Advances in sequencing technology have inundated scientists with genomics data but left them with a drought of corresponding phenotypes. To address this problem, first author Robert Nichols of the University o

Vital Signs

By Kelly Rae Chi Vital Signs New frontiers in the search for novel, noninvasive biomarkers Apparatus for collecting exhaled breath condensates to identify protein biomarkers that differ between children with and without asthma Courtesy of VITO The one-size-fits-all approach to therapies is quickly becoming a thing of the past, as drug developers begin stepping up to the challenge of personalized medicine, and regulatory agencies scramble to keep up. As the search

Teaching an Old Drug New Tricks

Biotech companies hope to turn the practice of finding novel uses for existing compounds into big business. 

Cleaning Up After Ourselves

By Richard B. Alley Cleaning Up After Ourselves In the past, pollution drove the relentless search for new fuel sources. Rising levels of carbon dioxide should do the same. W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2011 We may be human because we figured out how to use more energy than the 100 W that burns within us from the food we eat. Certainly, we hadn’t been human for very long before we learned to benefit from extra outside energy, with some of the wealthier

Capsule Reviews

By Bob Grant Capsule Reviews The Great Sperm Whale: A Natural History of the Ocean’s Most Magnificent and Mysterious Creature by Richard Ellis University Press of Kansas, April 6, 2011 Related Articles Cleaning Up After Ourselves Like an aesthetic Ahab chasing his quarry through the inky depths, author, marine naturalist, conservationist, and painter Richard Ellis sets out to capture the mighty Physeter macrocephalus by laying bare i

Ancient Anatomy, circa 1687

By Cristina Luiggi Ancient Anatomy, circa 1687 Seventeenth-century Tibet witnessed a blossoming of medical knowledge, with the construction of a monastic medical college and the penning of several influential medical texts. Perhaps most striking was a set of 79 paintings, known as tangkas, which were intended to illustrate a comprehensive four-volume medical treatise called The Blue Beryl. Created between 1687 and 1703, these paintings are vibrant pieces of educational

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