August 2000

News

Labs Focusing On Neural Apoptosis
Labs Focusing On Neural Apoptosis
Neurons die all the time--routinely during nervous system development and to a limited extent in healthy adults. But understanding exactly how they die under less-than-ideal conditions could be the key to treating a number of neurological maladies--from stroke and brain trauma to neurodegenerative diseases such as Huntington's, Parkinson's, and Alzheimer's. As cell death research proliferates, much of it focused on cancer, investigators continue to debate the extent to which neurological ailment
An Eclectic Look at Infectious Diseases
An Eclectic Look at Infectious Diseases
Graphic: Cathleen Heard A week after the controversial XIII International AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa, a much smaller gathering in Atlanta took a broader view of the current emergence and reemergence of many infectious diseases. The International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases 2000, held July 16-19, attracted more than 2,000 attendees representing 35 nations. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Society for Microbiology, the Council of State
Researchers Seek Basics Of Nano Scale
Researchers Seek Basics Of Nano Scale
They're here. Gene chips, carbon nanotubes, and other products, that is, that show that the science of the very small is getting very big. And in biological and biomedical research, nanotechnology--the manipulation and construction of materials and structures at sizes of billionths of a meter--is becoming increasingly important, shrinking the borders between biophysics, biochemistry, structural biology, and other life science fields while seeding new industries. Central to this are exploi
TIGR Introduces Vibrio cholerae Genome
TIGR Introduces Vibrio cholerae Genome
The bacterium that causes cholera has joined the elite club of organisms whose genomes have been sequenced. Since 1817, seven pandemics of cholera have left millions dead from the dehydration caused by relentless diarrhea. But the disease has been noted for at least 1,000 years. "Cholera is one of the most ancient diseases we know about. Its home is the Ganges delta in India and Bangladesh; it has a long history there. It became a worldwide disease in 1817, when the first pandemic started
Heat Shock Proteins
Heat Shock Proteins
Fewer than 40 years ago heat shock proteins (HSPs) seemed to many researchers little more than a curiosity in Drosophila. Elizabeth Craig, professor of biomolecular chemistry at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, remembers that some scientists used to regard HSPs as "something weird that a fruit fly does." She has been studying these proteins and the genes responsible for them in yeast for more than two decades. Today HSPs are the object of intense work by scientists in the United States and
Evolutionary Genomics
Evolutionary Genomics
Courtesy of Photographic Services, Indiana University Jeffrey Palmer Mention gene sequencing and most people probably think of disease cures and supercrops. But genes mean a whole lot more, including deep insight into how present-day species got here. Indiana University biology professor Jeffrey Palmer practically invented the field of plant molecular systematics and phylogeny--using genes to inform taxonomic relationships and evolutionary history. According to Palmer's colleague at India
News Notes
News Notes
From left, Mike Karberg, Alan Lambowitz, and Huatao Guo Usually considered useless stretches of bases, introns are removed from RNA before it is translated into a protein. Now Alan Lambowitz, director of the Institute for Cellular and Molecular Biology at the University of Texas, and his colleagues have put group II introns to good use (H. Guo et al., "Group II introns designed to insert into therapeutically relevant DNA target sites in human cells," Science, 289:452-7, July 21, 2000). Eventual

Commentary

A New Strategy for Fighting Biological Terrorism
A New Strategy for Fighting Biological Terrorism
When a terrorist cult released lethal sarin gas in a crowded Tokyo subway in 1995--killing 12 people and making hundreds of others ill--police, fire, and emergency rescue teams rushed to the scene to treat and evacuate those who were ill and to contain the damage. In that case, it was apparent immediately that a toxic substance had been released. But what would have happened if the terrorists had released deadly organisms such as those that cause smallpox or anthrax? A microbe released in

Letter

Sex Reassignment: Two Views
Sex Reassignment: Two Views
Two Views I was pleased to see Ricki Lewis' article "Reevaluating Sex Reassignment."1 The piece is good as far as it goes, but it fails to do justice to the academic work that has been under way for the past five years, and which has used reasoned analysis to call for a change in the practice of sex reassignment surgery at birth. Such academic work has argued instead for greater gender variation and autonomy for the patients on whom surgery is now imposed. I recommend to the readers of The Scien

Cartoon

Cartoon
Cartoon
www.ScienceCartoonsPlus.com

Profession

Venter Reveals Sequels to Sequencing
Venter Reveals Sequels to Sequencing
In a low-key yet confident manner, J. Craig Venter addressed a host of issues ranging from proteomics to religion at a July 20 media forum in New York sponsored by Syracuse University. J. Craig Venter The president and chief scientific officer of Celera Genomics Group, of Rockville, Md., however, declined to comment on a rumor that he is one of five people whose complete genomes are being sequenced by his company, a unit of Norwalk, Conn.-based PE Corp. And he refused to predict the final
Careers in Ecology
Careers in Ecology
For some, a "career in ecology" can evoke the image of fieldwork in the great outdoors. But the field is becoming more diversified and moving beyond its traditional academic boundaries, say many ecologists. Consulting firms, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and advocacy groups are creating new demand. In fact, graduate students are clamoring for more information on careers inside and outside of academia, so much so that the Ecological Society of America (ESA) held its first workshop devoted

Research

Small Molecules in Large Proteins
Small Molecules in Large Proteins
A theme is emerging in antiangiogenesis research: Small molecules stored within large proteins in the body can stop cancer cells from creating new blood vessels. Many enzymes that a tumor uses to invade surrounding tissue generate these angiogenesis inhibitors, but a tumor can locally override the effect of the inhibitors by generating angiogenesis stimulators. If researchers could shift this balance by increasing the concentration of endogenous angiogenesis inhibitors, they could potentially ar
Research Notes
Research Notes
The Scientist 14[16]:23, Aug. 21, 2000 RESEARCH Research Notes Survivin in 3-D Scientists at the Salk Institute have deciphered the three-dimensional structure of survivin, the molecule that allows survival of cells that would normally undergo programmed cell death, apoptosis. (M.A. Verdecia et al., "Structure of the human anti-apoptosis protein survivin reveals a dimeric arrangement," Nature Structural Biology, 7:602-8, July 2000). Survivin is turned on in almost half

Hot Paper

Bridging Apoptotic Signaling Gaps
Bridging Apoptotic Signaling Gaps
Above, from left: Xu Luo, Xiaodong Wang, and Imawati Budihardjo. In apoptosis, death signals from outside a cell are conveyed to various organelles inside a cell through an intricate network of molecules acting as messengers. These two Cell papers outline two independent identifications of a critical missing link in this signaling pathway. They show that the cytosolic protein Bid carries a death signal from the cell membrane to the mitochondria. Identifying Bid's signaling role allowed research

Bench Buys

Bench Buys
Bench Buys
Easy Estimation The dotMETRIC™ protein and nucleic acid assays from Geno Technology Inc. of St. Louis make estimating protein and nucleic acid concentration simple and quick, with no expensive equipment. To estimate protein concentration, 1 µl of protein solution is mixed with the supplied dilution buffer and spotted onto a test strip. The resultant spot diameter is proportional to the concentration of the sample. The assay takes only eight to 10 minutes to perform and can detect as

Technology

Glow and Behold
Glow and Behold
FluorChem CCD imaging of a western blot using a typical chemiluminescent substrate. In May of this year, Alpha Innotech Corp. of San Leandro, Calif., launched ChemiGlow, a luminol-based chemiluminescent substrate kit optimized for use with charge-coupled device (CCD) imaging systems. ChemiGlow represents a new product area for the company known for digital imaging systems such as ChemiImager™, a real time display CCD camera system for chemiluminescence imaging. Greg Milosevich, vice presi
Immunity Illuminated
Immunity Illuminated
Procedure for Cyclex's Luminetics T cell activation assay The T-cell immune status of patients with conditions such as AIDS indicates disease progression. One way to evaluate T-cell immune health is to measure the proliferation of a patient's T cells in response to stimulation with an antigen or mitogen. However, these measurements typically require long incubation times and radioactive isotopes, making them unsuitable for clinical applications. Columbia, Md.-based Cylex Inc. has designed a con

Technology Profile

Recourse to Death
Recourse to Death
Manufactureres of Flow Cytometry Products for Apoptosis Detection To examine the causes of life, we must first have recourse to death," uttered Victor Frankenstein upon beginning his search for the source from "whence the principle of life proceeds" and ultimately creating his nameless monster. Frankenstein's real creator, 19-year-old Mary Shelley, probably had no idea when Frankenstein was first published in 1816 that her main character's motivation would eventually have real-life implication
Honing Your Cloning
Honing Your Cloning
Early attempts to design vehicles for the cloning of foreign DNA produced vectors that were too big, unstable, or unselectable. The tide turned in 1977 with the construction of pBR313, the direct ancestor of the well-known pBR322, which forms the basis of many vectors that are still used extensively today.1 However, the cloning systems introduced in the last year or so seem to be about as related to pBR313 as Ferraris are to little red Radio Flyer wagons. Some of the new protein expression syst

Opinion

Barry's Experiment: A Question of Perspective
Barry's Experiment: A Question of Perspective
A few years ago, when I was relatively new to the University of Connecticut Health Center, I invited Barry Bloom, my mentor from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, to present a seminar sponsored by a Burroughs Wellcome Visiting Professorship. We have a ritual in the immunology graduate program that is, I suspect, not unique to us. Following the seminar, we arrange for the graduate students in the program to share lunch with seminar speakers and talk to them. This is usually a somew