December 1997

News

Nobelists Beat Adversity To Advance Science

Nobelists Beat Adversity To Advance Science

The recipients of the 1997 Nobel Prizes in science, who will receive their awards on December 10, have traveled the vigorous intellectual journey of science. 

Telemedicine Boom Awaits Cost Studies

Telemedicine Boom Awaits Cost Studies

Telemedicine, or the use of telecommunications and information technology to deliver clinical health-care services, has become a fixture in some rural hospitals in the United States. Much of this presence is due to heavy government subsidies and grants, which leaves health officials unsure if telemedicine is cost-effective in these clinical settings. Other barriers-legal, financial, and technological-have limited its widespread use, and some critics charge that telemedicine is an unwise investm

Looming Hepatitis C Epidemic Sparks New Research

Looming Hepatitis C Epidemic Sparks New Research

A virus unidentified until 1989 now threatens to outstrip HIV as a killer by threefold unless interventions emerge. Around the world, an epidemic is quietly building that has the potential to dwarf AIDS in the number of people affected. The culprit, hepatitis C virus (HCV), is not as consistently lethal as HIV but nevertheless can kill. Development of a broadly useful vaccine seems unlikely, and the only therapeutic agents currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are recomb

UCLA Taking A Leading Role In Mandating Cyberlearning

UCLA Taking A Leading Role In Mandating Cyberlearning

For students at the University of California, Los Angeles's College of Letters and Science (CLS), learning has taken on a new dimension this quarter-a cyberdimension. Each one of the roughly 1,000 courses that the college offered during the quarter had its own home page on the World Wide Web. But the concept of Web-based courses, made mandatory at CLS as of September 25, has drawn plenty of controversy. It has also spurred the growth of a cottage industry-the preparation of course home pages-th

Cartoon

Cartoon

Cartoon

"Of course its safe. It has no preservatives, no additives, no artificial coloring . . . "

Opinion

Show Me The Data: A Nobel Lesson In The Process Of Science

Show Me The Data: A Nobel Lesson In The Process Of Science

The recent award of the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine to Stanley Prusiner, a professor of neurology, virology, and biochemistry at the University of California, San Francisco, for his work on prions sharpened the focus on the concept of data-driven ideas in science. In contrast is the challenge to the well-accepted idea that HIV causes AIDS by Peter Duesberg, a professor of molecular and cellular biology at the University of California, Berkeley. The two hypotheses are iconoclastic, ear

Commentary

Congress' Pusillanimity Prevents Real FDA Reform

Congress' Pusillanimity Prevents Real FDA Reform

Congress has lost a stunning opportunity to reform the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The authorization for the agency's critical "user fees"-approximately $100 million paid annually by regulated industry to help FDA expedite the approval of new medicines-expired on October 1. The need for another five-year reauthorization provided a strong incentive for the Clinton administration to accept meaningful reforms. Characteristically, however, the Congress settled for a half-baked compromise di

Letter

Macroevolution And Microevolution

Macroevolution And Microevolution

I just received from another teacher a copy of your article regarding evolution (R. Moss, The Scientist, Oct. 13, 1997, page 7). Like author Robert Moss, I teach evolution in a religious-based college, but unlike him, I do discuss the evolution of species and man. I have never been cautioned about this topic and have actually been encouraged to present all the scientific evidence for evolution. Why have I been successful? I think it is because I get the definitions straight. I divide evolution

Evidence For Evolution

Evidence For Evolution

Thanks for a good, concise article on evolution (R. Moss, "The Problem With Evolution: Where Have We Gone Wrong?", The Scientist, Oct. 13, 1997, page 7). Moss is absolutely right-the problem is not the religious nuts, but the timidity and lack of interest of most science teachers, especially in high school. I'm a physician in Mississippi, and I've debated some creationists. I always say that we don't know how life got started but that we have overwhelming evidence that it changes just as Moss s

Folic Acid

Folic Acid

Paul Smaglik's article entitled "Folic Acid Deficiency's Role Expands Beyond Birth Defects" (The Scientist, Oct. 13, 1997, page 10) cites several recent epidemiology studies that link folate deficiency with increased plasma levels of homocysteine and heart disease without reviewing the older scientific literature. Such a review would have provided an answer or insight to the question posed in the article as to how a folate deficiency or homocysteinemia is related to heart disease or stroke. Mor

Safety First

Safety First

I was very impressed with the focus and quality of the research safety article on the front page of The Scientist, Oct. 27, 1997 (R. Lewis, "Researchers' Deaths Inspire Actions To Improve Safety"). It went beyond the usual coverage of chemical hazards to address the larger picture of research risks, their prudent assessment, and responsible management. All researchers need to recognize these "common sense" activities as essential components to their work: anticipation, recognition, evaluation,

Research

Advances In Bone Marrow Transplantation Improve Safety

Advances In Bone Marrow Transplantation Improve Safety

Since the first successful bone marrow transplant in 1959, thousands of patients with lethal diseases such as severe leukemia, aplastic anemia, and inherited immune deficiencies have been successfully treated with hematopoietic stem cells (HSC). But for all the success stories, transplant physicians seeking to make HSC safer and more widely available continue to grapple with the problems of a limited donor pool, graft rejection, and graft-vs.-host disease (GVHD). Bone marrow for many years was

Hot Paper

Virology

Virology

Edited by: Stephen P. Hoffert B.J. Doranz, J. Rucker, Y. Yi, R.J. Smyth, M. Samson, S.C. Peiper, M. Parmentier, R.G. Collman, R.W. Doms, "A dual-tropic primary HIV-1 isolate that uses fusin and the beta-chemokine receptors CKR-5, CKR-3, and CKR-2b as fusion cofactors," Cell, 85:1149-58, 1996. (Cited in more than 230 publications through November 1997) Comments by Benjamin J. Doranz, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of Pennsylvania While the cell surface protein recep

Apoptosis

Apoptosis

Edited by: Stephen P. Hoffert T. Fernandes-Alnemri, A. Takahashi, R. Armstrong, J. Krebs, L. Fritz, K.J. Tomaselli, L. Wang, Z. Yu, C.M. Croce, G. Salveson, W.C. Earnshaw, G. Litwack, E.S. Alnemri, "Mch3, a novel human apoptotic cysteine protease highly related to CPP32," Cancer Research, 55:6045-52, 1995. (Cited in more than 140 publications through November 1997) Comments by Emad S. Alnemri, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Kimmel Cancer Center, Thomas Jefferson University, Philade

Profession

Be Advised: Your E-mail Is Not As Private As It May Seem

Be Advised: Your E-mail Is Not As Private As It May Seem

IDENTITY CRISIS: PCPS's John Porter investigated a case of inadvertent E-mail forgery that embarrassed everyone involved. John R. Porter, an associate professor of biology at the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science (PCPS), likes to tell two stories that illustrate some of E-mail's advantages and disadvantages. Porter exploits the advantages in teaching an undergraduate cell biology course. One of his assignments calls for the students to read some recent articles in an area of c

Technology

No More Mixed Signals

No More Mixed Signals

from Stratagene Signal transduction seems like such a simple concept: transmitting messages within and between cells. But when you consider the hundreds of genes that are involved in signal transduction-receptors, kinases, phosphatases, to mention but a few-achieving an understanding seems like an onerous task. To make matters worse, what these signaling molecules do in a test tube, more often than not, is not what they do in a living cell. Stratagene's novel reporting systems for signal transd

This Product Could Save Your Life

This Product Could Save Your Life

CARDIAC T® Rapid Assay Of the more than 5 million people in the United States reporting to hospital emergency departments with chest pain each year, up to two-thirds are admitted for further evaluation. Of the patients subsequently discharged, 4 to 5% suffer myocardial infarction or sudden death within 72 hours of discharge (T.H. Lee et al., American Journal of Cardiology, 60:219-24, 1987). Past studies have shown that cardiac troponin T (cTnT) is a sensitive and specific marker for minor m

Technology Profile

Picture Perfect -- Systems for Gel Documentation and Analysis

Picture Perfect -- Systems for Gel Documentation and Analysis

If you really think about it, data is only as good as the ability to acquire, quantitate, and compare various points that may be significant to the underlying observation. During the "historic" era of science most analyses were performed by visually evaluating a series of films or other forms of data and making side-by-side comparisons and interpretations. Conclusions were, for the most part, qualitative in nature, and rarely could true quantitative values be ascribed to particular bands or spo

The Death of a Cell

The Death of a Cell

Another characteristic of apoptotic cells that can be exploited in this death quest is the appearance of phosphatidylserine (PS) on the outer surface of the membrane. Annexin V binds with high affinity to PS and can be used to spotlight dying cells. Fourteen companies offer Annexin V with a variety of tags and detectors attached that can be used immunohistochemically or with the flow cytometer (Alexis, BioWhittaker, Boehringer Mannheim, Chemicon, CLONTECH, Immunotech, Genzyme Diagnostics, Kamiy

Megaseparation Anxiety

Megaseparation Anxiety

Manufactured by Biometra (Germany), the Rotaphor utilizes patented Rotating Field Electrophoresis (ROFE) technology to allow separation beyond the limit of conventional horizontal agarose gel electrophoresis. With this method, an electric field between two primary sets of electrodes is stabilized by two sets of secondary electrodes. The electrodes are positioned within a rotor that is rotated above a stationary gel. This format gives users enormous flexibility by choosing vector angles between

New Products

New Products

New Products

NuVision Technologies (Beaverton, Ore.) launched the 60GX Wireless Stereoscopic Glasses into the international marketplace this month. These glasses are unique in their ability to deliver stereo performance at an affordable price. NuVisions' patented high-speed pi-cell technology allows crisp, clear, and flicker-free images over the entire display. The lightweight glasses can be installed in seconds, fit over prescription glasses, and are fully compatible with all of today's stereo-ready wor

Notebook

Notebook

Notebook

November was a rollercoaster month at the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). First, the United States Supreme Court declined to hear NASA's appeal of a lower court ruling subjecting the academy and its committees to the Federal Advisory Committees Act (FACA) of 1972. Animal rights groups argued that under FACA there should have been more public representation on a committee set up to revise the NIH Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals (R. Finn, The Scientist, July 22, 1996, page 1)