July 2012

Volume 26 Issue 7

The Scientist July 2012 Cover

Featured Articles

image: Alternative Medicines

Alternative Medicines

By The Scientist Staff | July 1, 2012

As nonconventional medical treatments become increasingly mainstream, we take a look at the science behind some of the most popular.

Growing Better Biofuel Crops

By Heather Youngs and Chris Somerville | July 1, 2012

Research is underway to reduce the use of food crops for biofuels by shifting to dedicated energy crops and agricultural residues.

image: On the Chain Gang

On the Chain Gang

By Keith D. Wilkinson and David Fushman | July 1, 2012

More than simply helping haul out a cell’s garbage, ubiquitin, with its panoply of chain lengths and shapes, marks and regulates many unrelated cellular processes.


Capsule Reviews

Capsule Reviews

Evolving, The Moral Molecule, Aping Mankind, and Experiment Eleven



Meet some of the people featured in the July 2012 issue of The Scientist.


Ubiquitin basics

Despite its discovery as a protein that seems to show up everywhere, at least in eukaryotic cells, researchers are only beginning to scratch the surface of all of the cellular functions involving ubiquitin. 

Ubiquitin Chains in Action

Present in every tissue of the body, ubiquitin appears to be involved in a dizzying array of functions, from cell cycle and division to organelle and ribosome biogenesis, as well as the response to viral infection. The protein plays at least two role

Biofuels by the Numbers

Of the many available no- or low-carbon methods to harvest energy, including wind, geothermal, hydroelectric, and solar approaches, conversion of plant biomass to liquid fuels is the most cost-effective strategy.


Medical Mavericks

ALS patients take their fate into their own hands, self-administering an unapproved chemical and collating their results online.


Printing 3-D Molecules

View some molecular models produced by fast and inexpensive 3-D printing processes, and learn how they’re yielding a fuller understanding of biochemical interactions. 

Meet the Relatives

Meet some of the most famous fossil discoveries of the hominin clan in this slide show. 

Better Biofuel Crops

One way to increase biofuel production is to engineer plants that can withstand harsh environmental conditions, thereby expanding the range in which such crops can be grown. 


Meeting of the Minds

New changes at The Scientist will ensure that we continue to showcase the best and brightest ideas in the life sciences.

Speaking of Science

Speaking of Science

July 2012's selection of notable quotes


3-D Printing

Is printing out your own lab equipment, molecular models, and drug compounds the wave of the future?

Killer Silk

Silk impregnated with bleach may provide a new way to fight the formidable spores of the anthrax bacterium.

You Are Where You Eat

Laser-based isotope detection systems are moving into the realm of food authentication.

Critic at Large


Dietary supplements can have serious side effects when mixed with prescription drugs, but not all herb-drug interactions are bad.

All’s Not Fair in Science and Publishing

False credit for scientific discoveries threatens the success and pace of research.

Modus Operandi

Dynamic Delivery

Microscopic sponges made entirely of RNA enable efficient gene silencing.

The Literature

SNAREs at the Synapse

Using tiny lipid discs, scientists resolve contradictory evidence about how many proteins are required for neurotransmitter release.

The Literature

Munching Macrophages

Making macrophages in atherosclerotic plaques digest spent organelles instead of dying may help keep plaques stable.

Brain Mosaic

Retrotransposons contribute to genetic variability in human brain cells.


Sweet Smell of Success

With persistence and pluck, Leslie Vosshall managed to snatch insect odorant receptors from the jaws of experimental defeat.

Scientist to Watch

Daniel Durocher: Change is Good

Senior Investigator, Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Age 40

Lab Tools

Move Over, Mother Nature

Synthetic biologists harness software to design genes and networks.

A Little Help from My Friends

How to get the most out of your collaboration with bioinformaticians

Bio Business

The Little Cell That Could

Critics point out that cell therapy has yet to top existing treatments. Biotech companies are setting out to change that—and prove that the technology can revolutionize medicine.

Reading Frames

DNA Truth or Dare

Learning the intricacies of your own genetic profile is a double-edged sword.


The First Australopithecus, 1925

The discovery of the 2.5-million-year-old Taung Child skull marked a turning point in the study of human brain evolution.

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