News

Frontlines
Frontlines
Researchers are homing in on genetics as a potential cause of obesity, but to date, few obesity-related genes have been discovered, and those tend to be very rare in the population (See " Genes Do Play a Role in Obesity,"). But a group including scientists from Myriad Genetics and University of Utah, both in Salt Lake City, and Bayer Corp., West Haven, Conn., has identified a locus that is significantly linked to high body mass index (BMI) in obese women; this locus will likely yield a gene that
Early Warning
Early Warning
Stung by anthrax mailings after suicide skyjackings, the United States is hurrying to erect an electronic line of defense against further bioterrorism. At least five sophisticated biosurveillance systems are under development with federal funding to nonprofit and to proprietary ventures; two other groups already have products on the market. The goal is to install a national sentinel network that can detect suspicious trends in medical data and in illness behavior before diagnosis, to help contai
Are Science and Technology Governable?
Are Science and Technology Governable?
A small group of scientists and scholars sat around a coffee table recently, balancing lunches on laps while discussing the prospects of greatly extending human life using new genetics tools and nanotechnologies. The group included a Johns Hopkins University cancer biologist, a Yale University philosopher, the executive director of an Oakland, Calif.-based advocacy group focusing on genetics and society, a Washington lobbyist, and various others. The talk, about the societal implications of lif
Corn Goes Pop, Then Kaboom
Corn Goes Pop, Then Kaboom
On April 4, Nature sent ripples through the scientific community and the popular press by admitting it made a mistake. In an unprecedented action, editor Philip Campbell concluded in the journal's online version that "evidence available is not sufficient to justify publication" of a paper that appeared in the Nov. 29, 2001 issue. It wasn't exactly a retraction, but it was close. Along with its statement, Nature published two rebuttals to the original paper, plus a response from authors David Qui
Kids, Crystals, and Space Research
Kids, Crystals, and Space Research
When space shuttle Atlantis last launched from Cape Canaveral this month, more than 200 students and teachers from across the nation had particular reason to be excited. They had helped prepare the nearly 300 protein and viral samples which the space shuttle delivered to the International Space Station (ISS). Students and perhaps even a politician or two have taken part in space experiments in the past, but this experiment takes the concept of lab assistants to new heights. As principal investi

Commentary

Scientists on Science
Scientists on Science
For some issues of The Scientist, themes emerge from a collection of articles that, when originally assigned to writers, were just about various individual topics. For this issue, many of our stories could have been based on a three-M theme: motivation, merit, and meaning. Mostly, the stories are about how scientists feel about their science. Starting with "Early Warning" by Steve Bunk, scientists have been highly motivated since last Sept. 11 to develop more ways to deal with terrorism, partic

Opinion

Forget Tacos
Forget Tacos
I got a letter from the Sierra Club not long after the 2000 election, sandwiched between the usual bills. In an envelope ominously marked "priority," the granddaddy of environmental groups pleaded for "an emergency contribution of $75." Why the crisis? According to the Sierra Club, George W. Bush was going to "sacrifice our natural treasures, air, and water for the profits of special interests." The new regime in Washington was "very bad news for the environment." Sorry; while the administratio

Letter

Gum Disease
Gum Disease
Gregory Smutzer's article, "Molecular Demolition,"1 does not mention perhaps the most common disease attributed to the actions of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs): chronic periodontitis, better known as "gum disease."2 In periodontitis, MMP-8 is released by degranulating polymorphonuclear neutrophils, and is also secreted by fibroblasts, endothelial cells, epithelial cells and plasma cells in and around the gingival sulcus.3 Adult tooth loss from periodontitis is not usually life-threatening, bu
A Case for Reviews
A Case for Reviews
Christian Daughton's essay1 rightly criticizes scientists for being insufficiently familiar with research literature. I would extend Daughton's views by emphasizing the value of good review publications. Unfortunately, scientists have little incentive to write reviews, because reviews are typically undervalued by science administrators. Administrators value discovery and apparently do not appreciate the fact that writing a review can take as much or more time, effort, and creativity as doing the
Sequence Your Own
Sequence Your Own
As I read through the March 18 edition of The Scientist, I was saddened by the article on DNA sequencing.1 While many labs prefer the drop-off method of a core facility, some of us still love to perform manual sequencing. One does not have to wait for days as your samples get processed by others; rather you get your beautiful results the next day. Laborious is sitting next to a tissue culture hood for hours, not pouring a simple gel and actually running a few reactions. I find that for graduate

Research

Loss in Space
Loss in Space
When transatlantic steamers traversed the oceans, one line touted itself with ads saying: "Getting there is half the fun." Not so with space travel: Here, an unhealthy situation exists because the travelers' bones lose mass and weaken. Severe bone loss leads to fractures. A recent Institute of Medicine (IOM) report labeled bone loss as one of the most serious problems facing those who would make long-duration space voyages, such as traveling to Mars.1 Until now, space scientists had information
Genes Do Play a Role in Obesity
Genes Do Play a Role in Obesity
Sedentary people who enjoy high-caloric diets—adults and children alike—are getting dangerously fat.1 Along with the increased weight comes complications. Take obesity, for example. It is a risk factor for Type 2 diabetes. Once considered a strictly adult disease, Type 2 diabetes is now diagnosed in both preadolescents and adolescents.2 Some researchers believe that the interaction between obesity-related genes and society's increasingly sedentary lifestyle and fat-filled diet is to
Researchers Find a Eukaryotic mRNA Policing System
Researchers Find a Eukaryotic mRNA Policing System
The Faculty of 1000 is a Web-based literature awareness tool published by BioMed Central. It provides a continuously updated insider's guide to the most important peer-reviewed papers within a range of research fields, based on the recommendations of a faculty of more than 1,400 leading researchers. Each issue, The Scientist publishes a review, like the one above, that examines related papers in a single field. We also publish a selection of comments on interesting recent papers from the Faculty
Notable
Notable
S.B. Ficarro et al., "Phosphoproteome analysis by mass spectrometry and its application to Saccharomyces cerevisiae," Nature Biotechnology, 20[3]:301-5, March 2002. "This is a long-awaited paper detailing more than 200 phosphorylation sites from Saccharomyces cerevisiae. The authors used immobilized metal affinity chromatography (IMAC) to selectively isolate phosphopeptides from nonphosphopeptides. The new advance is the selectivity of the IMAC column when utilized after methylation of aspartat

Hot Paper

The Ribosome's 30S Subunit Comes into Focus
The Ribosome's 30S Subunit Comes into Focus
For this article, Laura DeFrancesco interviewed Venki Ramakrishnan, group leader, Structural Studies Division, Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology, UK; and William Clemons, postdoctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School. Data derived from the Science Watch/Hot Papers database and the Web of Science (ISI, Philadelphia) show that Hot Papers are cited 50 to 100 times more often than the average paper of the same type and age. B.T. Wimberly, D.E. Brodersen, W.M. Clemons, R.J. Mo

Technology Profile

The Chipping News
The Chipping News
Recent months have seen a surge of activity in the field of protein microarrays. No wonder: Gene expression-profiling is faster and more powerful thanks to improvements in DNA microarray technology. Now researchers want to apply these benefits to boost the speed of proteomics research. But developing these tools is not easy, as protein arrays present technical challenges not faced by DNA microarray manufacturers. "You can attach any two pieces of DNA the same way and expect [them] to behave the
Glycobiology Goes to the Ball
Glycobiology Goes to the Ball
There's more to life than DNA, RNA, and proteins. Literally. Sugars are also in the mix. And the roles that carbohydrates play in biology are just as important as those of any member of the better-characterized trinity. These macromolecules affect cell-cell interactions, immune function, and protein regulation, and disruption of their biology results in disease. One magazine likened the study of carbohydrates, called glycobiology, to Cinderella—neglected stepsister to her two more glamoro
H.T. Gene Knockouts
H.T. Gene Knockouts
Not long ago, scientists conducted loss-of-function experiments in mammals mostly by using antisense, dominant negative, or knockout technologies: Bind up the messenger RNA, swamp out the protein, or interrupt the gene, and then examine the phenotype. But the former two are unreliable, and tend to be inefficient even when they do work; the latter is difficult to achieve for both copies of a gene in a somatic cell. With such blunt instruments, researchers have been painstakingly disabling one ge

Technology

RNAi for the Masses
RNAi for the Masses
RNA interference (RNAi), discussed previously in The Scientist,1 is a post-transcriptional, targeted gene-silencing technique that uses double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) to degrade messenger RNA (mRNA) containing the same sequence as the dsRNA. The process occurs in at least two steps: an endogenous ribonuclease cleaves the longer dsRNA into shorter, 21- or 22-nucleotide-long RNAs, termed "small interfering RNAs" or siRNAs. The smaller RNA segments then mediate the degradation of the target mRNA.2 Rec
Count On It
Count On It
Estimating the number of cells in a culture is sometimes inexact, often time consuming, and always pure drudgery. Plus, when the volume of the culture is extremely small, the samples removed for cell counting make later measurements more frustrating since the scientist must then correct for the decreased volume. And of course, each time the researcher removes a sample, fewer and fewer cells remain for any downstream analyses. A German company seems to have found a solution. The soon-to-be-relea
A Sharper Fluorescent Image
A Sharper Fluorescent Image
Accurate fluorescence microscopic imaging of three-dimensional specimens is often impaired by the signal distortion that occurs as specimen light travels through the optical system to the observing camera. Thornwood, NY-based Carl Zeiss Microimaging Inc.'s powerful 3D Deconvolution software reassigns out-of-focus light back to its original location utilizing a generic mathematical algorithm, which greatly improves the image's resolution and signal-to-noise ratio.1 How a particular optical syst

Profession

Migrating Minds
Migrating Minds
When Sandra Panchalingam finished her PhD studies at the University of Birmingham, she set her sights on the United States. "I knew that no matter how hard I worked in the United Kingdom, I would probably never get a chance to run my own lab," she says. "I always believed that in America, if you worked hard, there was an opportunity to reap the benefits. That's not always true in Europe." Now her postdoctoral training at the University of Maryland is winding down and Panchalingam is completing
Euros for Discoveries?
Euros for Discoveries?
Many US academic researchers patent discoveries even before they publish them, contributing to $1.26 billion (US) in new product licenses in 2001. Now some European institutions want to catch up, but century-old traditions slow their pace. "A lot of the research at universities and institutions is focused on publication and the scientists are not focused on patents and commercializing their research results," says Mattheas Konrad, biotechnology manager of Bayern-Innovativ, a technology transfer
Turning Points: Blend Disciplines for a Blue Sky Career
Turning Points: Blend Disciplines for a Blue Sky Career
After one of my recent talks at a graduate school, an immunology student asked how she could get writing experience and develop samples for a portfolio. Many students who want to write or pursue a business career, for example, wonder whether they should get additional degrees. "Do I need a journalism degree for science writing? An education degree to teach? An MBA for a biotechnology job? A second masters gave me practical experience and a place to meet a network of colleagues. Some new program
British Research Funding: One Good Cut Deserves Another
British Research Funding: One Good Cut Deserves Another
Sometimes even your best isn't enough, as some British life science laboratories are finding out, the hard way. Many are scrambling to change priorities and seek other funding to compensate for cuts by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). The council distributes money according to each university's quality rating on the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), which is based on a seven-point scale (1, 2, 3b, 3a, 4, 5, 5*) with 5* being the highest rating. But even institutions aw
Funding Opportunities in the Life Sciences
Funding Opportunities in the Life Sciences
Click to view our current database of  Funding Opportunities in the Life Sciences.

News Profile

Mary-Dell Chilton
Mary-Dell Chilton
Mary-Dell Chilton had journeyed from the West Coast to New York City in September 1977 to demonstrate her discovery to one of the most important plant scientists in the world, Armin Braun, a professor at Rockefeller University. Braun theorized that Agrobacterium somehow triggered a developmental change in plants, resulting in the tumors associated with crown gall disease. Subsequently, at the University of Washington in Seattle, microbiologist Gene Nester, plant viral RNA biochemist Milt Gordon,