Editorial

Conveying Ideas or Chattering Idly?
Conveying Ideas or Chattering Idly?
In his latest article (February 1892), Prof. Garner says that the chatter of monkeys is not meaningless, but that they are conveying ideas to one another. This seems to me hazardous. The monkeys might with equal justice conclude that in our magazine articles ... we are not chattering idly but are conveying ideas to one another.- Samuel Butler, 1835–1902Butler hit the nail on the head, at least as far as these editorials are concerned: It is happily admitted that they are idle chatter. Whic

Opinion

Institutionalized Plagiarism
Institutionalized Plagiarism
During the Dark Ages a guild of professional assassins, rogues, and thieves willfully misled inquiries as to the guilt of fellow associates in order to exonerate them of their crimes. Although this behavior probably originated with the dawn of humanity, the thieves' guild was first to codify the dastardly practice. Centuries later, gangsters and professional mobsters, typified by Lucky Luciano and John Dillinger, exploited the tenets of the thieves' code of silence so successfully that it permea

Letter

Recruitment in Italy: Two Views
Recruitment in Italy: Two Views
The Italian University recruitment system is definitely not efficient and malpractice occurs, but this happens more because of individual unethical and/or illegal behavior rather than being endemic, as alleged by Doncarli et al.1 Their main issue is the limitation on the number of papers submitted with the application. This is not peculiar to Italian selection committees; it is common in North America and concerns only papers that are physically submitted. Its purpose is to permit a judgment bas
Epigenetics and Addiction
Epigenetics and Addiction
Epigenetics explains how nongenetic forces can alter generational phenotypes in a heritable manner.1 Certain addictions are not 100% heritable yet are still completely genetic in causation. An epigenetic effect via environmental exposure could play a role in addiction and should certainly be studied by behavioral geneticists. It's a valid alternative to psychobabble or conscious, willful decisions made by the addicts.Dan F. UmanoffPresident and Founder, The National Association for the Advanceme
Debating Open Access
Debating Open Access
In the opinion article by Peter Farnham and William R. Brinkley,1 those who advocate open access to science literature were portrayed as launching a "broad-based attack on all business models for scientific publication other than their own." This is an unfortunate characterization. They just propose an alternative that avoids the serious drawbacks of the subscription system.It is beyond dispute, one hopes, that full access for research scientists to the literature is highly desirable. Traditiona
Lab Vultures
Lab Vultures
In industry we don't bother to "adopt" the goods of labs as described by Caryn Evilia.1 Rather, we are "... self-empowered to reallocate underperforming corporate assets in an effort to maximize shareholder value ...""Stealing" has such a negative connotation.Peter J. BonkRhodes Technologies Coventry, RI peter.bonk@pharma.com
"Ricki Lewis' Law"
"Ricki Lewis' Law"
The Closing Bell for July 5 was headlined as a lament for the passing of eponyms in science.1 It is unlikely that we will soon dispose of Mendel's Laws or Avogadro's Number. If scientists are jealous about being properly cited in bibliographies, that is a large step towards an eponymic tradition. There may be less of the natural history and surprise observation in science today, but there is no lack of theoretical synthesis that might invite the dignity of being inscribed as a "Law."Self-anointe

Notebook

Tissue + Manchester = UK Biobank
Tissue + Manchester = UK Biobank
Five years after the UK Biobank first won financial backing in principle from the Wellcome Trust and the Medical Research Council, it has just about reached the point where bricks and mortar are being added to grand ideas and cautious plans. (When was originally approved in 1999, the Biobank resembled the UK Population Biomedical Collection, which sounded more like something you could order from a curio shop at the Census Bureau than a repository for tissue samples.)So even as Biobank fever arou
IPO + Biotech = Uncertainty
IPO + Biotech = Uncertainty
After a long famine, and buoyed by the stock market's overall health over the past 18 months, investors are once again feasting on initial public offerings (IPOs). Prominent among them are biotech firms. The news is good for the cash-starved biotech companies, since they finally have a place to raise money. But the news is not as good for IPO investors, who are getting uncertain returns in the post-IPO aftermarket."Although the general markets have been choppy all year and are likely to remain s

First Person

Aaron Klug
Aaron Klug
Aaron Klug
Aaron Klug's career has taken many turns, spanning physics, biology, chemistry, and administration. 

Feature

When Remembering Might Mean Forgetting
When Remembering Might Mean Forgetting
Recall a memory under certain circumstances, and the brain might erase it, recent rodent research suggests. If that possibility seems like science fiction, consider other weird tricks played by the mind's memory machinery. False recollections, for example, can occur during a déjà vu experience or after hypnosis. And true recollections which can reconstruct experiences from decades earlier, often seem almost supernatural, even to those fully aware of the brain's complexity.Because of it

Research

Fruitful Research
Fruitful Research
From the USDA to the NIH to the CDC to the MOM, health officials and parents alike are imploring: Eat more fruit. Recently, researchers following 118,428 participants in the long-term Nurse's Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study found that individuals eating three or more servings of fruit daily had a 36% reduced incidence of maculopathy, an untreatable age-related eye disease, compared to those eating less than one-and-a-half daily servings. Other studies show how specific
Pharmacogenomics Lurches Forward
Pharmacogenomics Lurches Forward
PREDICTIVE POWER:© 2004 Massachusetts Medical SocietyThis analysis of gene expression ranks 36 genes on the basis of their predictive power (univariate z score), with a negative score associated with longer overall survival and a positive score associated with shorter overall survival. The dashed lines represent an absolute univariate z score of ± 1.5. The prediction model is based on the weighted expression of six genes in the equation shown. (N Engl J Med, 350:1828–37, 2004.)Me
New Views On Mind-Body Connection
New Views On Mind-Body Connection
UNPRECEDENTED ACCESS:Courtesy of Fabrizio BenedettiDuring a deep brain stimulation clinical trial, researchers detected elements of the placebo effect. The pre-placebo neuron was recorded from the left subthalamic nucleus as a control. The post-placebo neuron was recorded from the right subthalamic nucleus. Other neurons demonstrated a similiar decrease in activity.Revealing the complexities of the pain experience may offer a window into the mind-body interaction. Several recent studies into the
Receptor Redemption
Receptor Redemption
A MUTANT MAP:Courtesy of Michael ConnAbove are the loci for all known naturally occurring mutants of the human gonadotropin releasing hormone receptor (GnRHR) identified from patients with hypogonadotropic hypogonadism (HH). The vast majority of point mutations can be functionally rescued through the use of a pharmacological chaperone. Some others had not been attempted. Twelve mutations identified in yellow letters result in modest charge changes. A smaller number result in other changes to the
Driving Changes in Ligand Theory
Driving Changes in Ligand Theory
AGONIZING DIFFERENCES:© 2004 Macmillan Magazines Ltd.(A) GPCR agonists increase the proportion of active receptor states; inverse agonists decrease the proportion of active receptor states; and antagonists inhibit the action of other ligands. (B) In systems with low constitutive receptor activity, inverse agonists will seem to have minimal effect, but might have more effect in a system with high activity. (from Nat Rev Drug Disc, 3:577–626, 2004.)Pharmacologists traditionally divide l

Hot Paper

Debaffling Biofilms
Debaffling Biofilms
CAUGHT ON FILM:Courtesy of David Davies and Peg DyrckxPseudomonas aeruginosa biofilm development occurs in five stages. 1. Reversible attachment: Cells transiently affix to substratum, and surface induced gene expression results in a protein profile significantly different from planktonic bacteria. 2. Irreversible attachment: Cells reorient themselves, clusters develop, motility is lost, and the las quorum sensing regulon becomes activated. 3. Maturation I: Cell clusters become thicker than 10 &

Vision

Target Selection in Drug Discovery
Target Selection in Drug Discovery
FIGURE 1: Competing elements that influence target selectionIn drug discovery, a research director faces considerable challenges trying to make consistently good decisions concerning target selection. The task is comparable to a treasure hunt with many enticing clues about where to dig, leading often to large, empty holes.Many perceive the pharmaceutical business as being in a state of crisis. Financial survival and growth mandates the introduction of three or four new chemical entities each yea

Briefs

Interdisciplinary Research
Interdisciplinary Research
These papers were selected from multiple disciplines from the Faculty of 1000, a Web-based literature awareness tool http://www.facultyof1000.com.O.O. Glebov et al., "Lipid raft proteins have a random distribution during localized activation of the T-cell receptor," Nat Cell Biol, 6:238–43, March 2004.This study ... challenges the view that lipid rafts exist as large and stable physical structures with functional roles, at least in T cells. Using FRET [fluorescence resonance energy transfe
Laying Down the Chips
Laying Down the Chips
Looking to improve the quality of tools for discovering genomic regulatory regions, researchers at the National Institutes of Health combined Chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) of hyper-acetylated histones, with serial analysis of gene expression (SAGE) technology. The process that they call genome-wide mapping technique (GMAT) could provide an alternative to ChIP-on-a-Chip techniques.1Developers and others call it unbiased and quantitatively better. "They sequence everything they bring down,
A Virus to Fight Addiction
A Virus to Fight Addiction
Perhaps a nose-full of virus can fight cocaine addiction. Researchers at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif., report that a bacteriophage with anticocaine antibodies can be used to block or sequester cocaine in the brain.1 Chemist Kim Janda and colleagues injected the antibody-displaying phages nasally, finding that treated rats moved less and showed reduced rearing and sniffing when injected with cocaine.Other attempts to block cocaine have used antibodies in the blood stream, bu

Patent Watch

Protein Expression Profiling
Protein Expression Profiling
Though DNA microarrays let researchers rapidly identify the expression levels of genes associated with diseases and pathways, they say little about how much protein these transcripts produce. A new patent (US 6,753,142) assigned to NewLink Genetics of Ames, Iowa, describes a method for fast protein profiling and quantification in any type of cell. The information obtained from the technique can be used to identify disease pathways and/or drug targets.The method involves incorporating a polynucle

Software Watch

Reactome Explores Biological Processes
Reactome Explores Biological Processes
Courtesy of http://www.reactome.orgReactome, a new knowledgebase of human biological processes, launched on June 2 http://www.reactome.org. An NIH-funded collaboration between Lincoln Stein's lab at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CHSL), NY, and Ewan Birney's lab at the European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI), Hinxton, UK, the Reactome supersedes an earlier project called the Genome Knowledgebase.Flexible searching tools allow users to explore biological processes and pathways in a variety of way

Tech Watch

Nikon Unveils New Eclipse
Nikon Unveils New Eclipse
Courtesy of Nikon InstrumentsNikon Instruments of Melville, NY, is looking to blot out irreproducible results. Sporting new optics and enhanced usability features, the company's Eclipse 90i helps microscopists make the most of their data. "Photographs are fine, but you need digital data to satisfy your peers, and you need to be able to resolve that data to a degree that others come to the same conclusion you do," says Stan Schwartz, vice president of products and marketing.Nikon redesigned its l

Technology

Protein Microarrays Mature
Protein Microarrays Mature
THE 4-1-1 ON PWG:Courtesy of ZeptosensPlanar waveguide (PWG) technology (right) has the advantage over conventional epifluorescence excitation (left) for surface-confined assays in that only surface-bound fluorphores respond to the excitation source. Labels that are located more than about 400-nm from the surface do not fluoresce. Zeptosens uses PWG technology to enhance sensitivity of its protein arrays.While not as ubiquitous as their DNA counterparts, pro tein arrays are starting to hold thei
Sugars Get an 'Ome of their Own
Sugars Get an 'Ome of their Own
To the lay public, sugars are the villains behind expanding waistlines and rotting teeth, and until recently, the view from the lab bench was not much different. Sugars were considered so irrelevant, says Massachusetts Institute of Technology researcher Ram Sasisekharan, that biochemists "mainly developed tools to remove them from proteins they were studying."Today, however, the mood is decidedly different. Sugars, or more properly, the complex sugars called glycans, are now recognized as critic

Tools and Technology

Mind Your Data with Neurodatabase.org
Mind Your Data with Neurodatabase.org
Courtesy of http://Neurodatabase.orgCompared to gene and protein data, which involve relatively simple sequences, the diverse nature of data characterizing brain activity is, well, mind-boggling. Data can range from functional magnetic resonance images of brain structures to action potentials. According to the Society for Neuroscience, more than 70 neuroinformatics databases and tools are in development right now; but most of them gather imaging, rather than action potential, data. A select few,
Building a 3-D Protein Model, Literally
Building a 3-D Protein Model, Literally
Courtesy of Center for Biomolecular Modeling, Milwaulkee School of EngineeringUntil recently structural biology has been limited by the fact that it relies on two-dimensional computer representations of three-dimensional objects. Now 3D Molecular Designs http://www.moleculardesigns.com of Wauwatosa, Wis., hopes to make the field truly three-dimensional, allowing new insights into known structures and giving hope to those not blessed with the space-manipulation skills needed to make sense of flat
Paracel's New Search Tool Makes Sequence Alignment a BLAST
Paracel's New Search Tool Makes Sequence Alignment a BLAST
Courtesy of ParacelResearchers use BLAST to search previously characterized DNA or protein sequences for partial or total matches. For the last 12 years, Pasadena, Calif.-based Paracel http://www.paracel.com has been a major provider of clustered hardware and software used to perform these searches. Now the company offers a new release optimized for Paracel's latest 64-bit cluster hardware based on Advanced Micro Devices' (AMD's) Opteron processor."Unlike NCBI [National Center for Biotechnology

Profession

Bush and Science at Loggerheads
Bush and Science at Loggerheads
At the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in San Diego, Fred Gage and colleagues examine how a generic embryonic stem cell evolves into a highly specialized brain cell. Their hope is that understanding stem-cell evolution will reveal what keeps cells healthy and lead to new therapies. But federal restrictions on human embryonic stem-cell research are discouraging Gage and others. "I would say that I'm limiting my effort in this field," he says. "It's been time consuming. Resources are taken a
The Heart of Europe's Biotech Sector
The Heart of Europe's Biotech Sector
More than 5,000 scientists with higher academic degrees work in public research in Europe's Upper Rhine valley, making this area one of the highest densities of life sciences-related research in the world. Now, the triangle region from Basel, Switzerland, in the south to Strasbourg, France, and Freiburg, Germany, in the north is striving to become the European heart of the biotechnology sector.The Dreiländereck or la Régio, as the region is called locally, has a lot going for it: excel
How to Be a Good Mentor
How to Be a Good Mentor
In the juggling act that is your work, a new student in the lab might make you feel that you have one more thing to keep aloft. Nonetheless, a mentor's job is to transform that student into a juggler, too. That student must first help keep your hoops airborne and eventually juggle as a standalone act.Your main responsibility is providing opportunities to conduct research. That involves providing a hypothesis or two, bench space and equipment time, training in techniques, office space and a lab c

Closing Bell

Fat Tax, a Recipe for a Healthy Population?
Fat Tax, a Recipe for a Healthy Population?
Taxation of fat, an idea that has been kicked around on both sides of the Atlantic for a few years, has suddenly been elevated to the forefront of government consciousness in the United Kingdom. The premise, which is dubious at best, is that a fat tax might make the population healthier and happier, and simultaneously reduce the financial burden of healthcare. Here I examine this compulsion to legislate the populace towards health. Can it possibly be good for us?PROBLEM 1The confusion of a mixed