December 2001

News

Ancient Ancestry
Ancient Ancestry
Your ancestors didn't travel to the New World on the Mayflower? Not listed in Burke's Peerage and Baronetage? No worries, mate. For a couple of hundred bucks, Oxford Ancestors, a new British biotech company, will add cachet to your lineage by extending it back at least 10,000 years.
NSF Funding Research in Biocomplexity
NSF Funding Research in Biocomplexity
Traditionally, high school and university curricula neatly fragment science into physics and chemistry, geology and biology. But that's not the way that the natural world works. In recognition of this disconnect, the National Science Foundation's "Biocomplexity in the Environment" program is funding explorations of the links that connect the living and nonliving components of the planet. Research sites involved in the effort span the globe, from coral reefs to estuaries, from urban/rural bound
Not Enough Researchers In the Clinic?
Not Enough Researchers In the Clinic?
In June, word leaked out that something terrible went wrong with a clinical trial at Johns Hopkins University. A healthy, 24-year-old employee of one of the clinics died while participating in a research study on asthma. Such negative events are not unheard of: in 1993, half the participants in a 10-person trial of the anti-hepatitis B drug, fialuridine (FIAU), carried out at the National Institutes of Health, died. Two others became severely ill.1 In the ensuing investigations of the Johns Ho
Why Leaves Turn Color in the Fall
Why Leaves Turn Color in the Fall
Next to 'why is the sky blue' and 'where do babies come from,' 'why do leaves turn color in the fall' might be the most frequently asked question about nature. Every autumn, millions of Americans make a pilgrimage of sorts--not to religious shrines in the usual sense, but to express a deeply seated, perhaps evolutionary based sense of wonder at nature. From car windows, scenic overlooks, well trod trails and hotel balconies, they gaze at the display of leaf color in America's mountains and valle
Mainstreaming CAM
Mainstreaming CAM
In biomedical research, is the "gold standard" of controlled studies that analyze individual therapies the only way to get trustworthy results? That question is central to what has arguably become America's most profound public health development: the boom in complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). That question also was pondered frequently at the fourth annual Comprehensive Cancer Care Conference recently in Arlington, Va. Cosponsored by the nonprofit Center for Mind-Body Medicine in Wa
John Scott Award Goes to Recent Nobelist
John Scott Award Goes to Recent Nobelist
To say that K. Barry Sharpless has had an eventful year might be as understated as saying that he likes chemistry. In addition to receiving the Nobel Prize for chemistry on Dec. 10, Sharpless, W.M. Keck Professor of chemistry at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif., returned to his hometown of Philadelphia earlier in April to receive the Benjamin Franklin Medal, and then again this autumn to receive the John Scott Award. The latter award was bestowed by the Philadelphia Board of Ci
News Notes
News Notes
Surgeons may have rethink the way they operate on children with crossed eyes, or strabismus. This is thanks to the discovery by Joseph Demer, Jules Stein Eye Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles of the orbital pulley system. Using MRI and cadaver dissection, Demer found that each extraocular muscle consists of a global layer contiguous with the tendon and that inserts into the eyeball, along with a similar-sized orbital layer forming the extraocular muscle's pulley, which con

Letter

Williams Syndrome
Williams Syndrome
Brendan Maher did an excellent job in the article: Music, the Brain, and Williams Syndrome.1 In the study on absolute pitch, it should be noted that none of the five Williams participants were able to read musical notation. They were selected for the study because they were familiar with the names of musical notes and understood that those names are linked to musical tones. Both skills are rare in Williams people. Howard M. Lenhoff Oxford, Mississippi 1.B. Maher, "Music, the brain, and Williams
The Good Old Days
The Good Old Days
Bravo to T.V. Rajan's well written commentary on "The Good Old Days."1 The article flooded my memory with quite vivid (and recent) memories of the good old days in graduate school where one encountered either the mean-spirited or the easy-going professor, who shaped our present careers. As we look back, the human mind seems to remember the tough professor, who forced us to study just a bit harder or give a more detailed presentation than we would have given. However, the presence of the more com

Cartoon

Cartoon
Cartoon
Sidney Harriswww.ScienceCartoonsPlus.com

Commentary

Watch for Changes in 2002
Watch for Changes in 2002
At The Scientist, we try to make incremental improvements in our publication every issue. The improvements may include spending extra time editing stories to make them easier to read, or calling additional sources to procure artwork to properly illustrate an article. A 24-times-a-year publication schedule leaves little leeway between issues to make major changes, but we still keep our sights set on making each issue better than the last. Now, after this, our final issue of 2001, we really have

Research

Plugging Up the Injured Spinal Cord
Plugging Up the Injured Spinal Cord
After spending the early 1970s studying regeneration in the Xenopus frog tadpole's optic nerve, Paul J. Reier began to ponder how mammalian spinal cord injuries (SCIs) might heal. Eventually, the junior professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine chose to enter an emerging field: fetal cell transplantation into the spinal cord. A colleague called the career move crazy--a judgment that Reier now admits wasn't totally unwarranted. "The spinal cord injury field was clouded by pessimi
Research Notes
Research Notes
A silicon chip biosensor the size of a grain of sand and developed at the University of Rochester can distinguish Gram-negative from Gram-positive bacteria. According to Benjamin Miller, assistant professor of chemistry, and Philippe Fauchet, professor and chair of electrical and computer engineering, this "smart bandage" offers promising applications in diagnostics, forensics, and food safety (S. Chan et al., "Identification of Gram negative bacteria using nanoscale silicon microcavities," The

Hot Paper

Long-Term Potentiation Equals Spinal Growth
Long-Term Potentiation Equals Spinal Growth
For this article, Leslie Pray interviewed Tobias Bonhoeffer, managing director, chairman of the board, and cellular and systems neurobiology department head at the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology in Munchen-Martinsried, Germany. Data from 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. F. Engert, T. Bonhoeffer, "Dendritic spine changes associated with hippocampal long-term synaptic plasticity,
New Cells Thrive in Brain's Learning Center
New Cells Thrive in Brain's Learning Center
1. T.J. Shors et al., "Neurogenesis in the adult is involved in the formation of trace memories," Nature, 410:372-5, March 2001. For this article, Leslie Pray interviewed Tracey Shors, behavioral neuroscientist and associate professor in the psychology department at Rutgers University. Data from 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. E. Gould, A. Beylin, P. Tanapat, A. Reeves, T.J. Shors,

Technology

Western Blots Go High-Throughput
Western Blots Go High-Throughput
To drive the proteomics revolution forward, scientists must develop high-throughput research tools. One of these tools is the new Multi-Replica Blotting Kit by Rockville, Md.-based 20/20 Gene Systems Inc. Also called the Layered Proteomics Analysis System for 1-D Gels, the kit allows investigators to make 10 replicate blots from a single one-dimensional protein gel. According to company spokesperson, Liz Marcus, the kit allows researchers to study protein gels faster and more efficiently than co
Maximizing Freezer Space
Maximizing Freezer Space
Some samples are too precious for over-stuffed, easy-access freezers. Fortunately, modified freezers that provide sample security and added features will soon be available. Charlottesville, Va.-based Biophile Inc. has modified -40°C and -80°C freezers to allow restricted sample access while offering rapid, automated sample storage and retrieval. The company's Sample Process Management System is expected to become available in spring 2002. The system is based on standard upright Harris

Bench Buys

Bench Buys
Bench Buys
Roche Molecular Biochemicals of Indianapolis is offering a 30 percent discount on its Ribonucleoside Triphosphate set with the purchase of T7, T3, or SP6 RNA Polymerases. The offer is valid until December 31, 2001. To receive the discount, mention promotional code RN4 when ordering. Roche Molecular Biochemicals, (800) 262-1640, www.biochem.roche.com My-O-Mycoplasma La Jolla, Calif.-based Stratagene is offering 50 percent off any item of choice with the purchase of one Mycoplasma Plus™

Technology Profile

Some Like It Hot: A Thermal Cycler Roundup
Some Like It Hot: A Thermal Cycler Roundup
It was bound to happen. During the growth of PCR, many companies joined the thermal cycler bandwagon. But since The Scientist's last thermal cycler review,1 some of these manufacturers--such as Ericomp--have left the cut-throat market and a number of the machines listed in previous LabConsumer profiles have been discontinued. Market niches remain for those companies and product lines that have survived the intense competition. One such niche is real-time thermocyclers, previously reviewed in T
Microarray Readers: Pushing the Envelope
Microarray Readers: Pushing the Envelope
To truly reap the benefits of the flood of information coming out of sequencing factories worldwide, investigators must move beyond the traditional notion of "one-gene, one-experiment," in favor of highly parallel, automation-friendly, and miniaturized assays. One such tool is the microarray--a matrix of biomaterials attached to a support such as glass or plastic.1-3 Using microarrays, scientists can perform hundreds or thousands of experiments in parallel, all thanks to a chip usually no bigge

Profession

Outlook 2002: Jobs Abundant Despite Recession
Outlook 2002: Jobs Abundant Despite Recession
Two months after the September 11 terrorist attacks the US government finally acknowledged that an already anemic economy had slipped into recession. It wasn't exactly a stop-the-presses moment. Everyone, from the guy with a few nickels in a 401k plan to big money investors, knew that Wall Street's run had ended. While every sector of the economy has suffered, the slowdown has refocused attention on the life sciences, which venture capitalists had shunned only a few years ago. In biotechnology
Dealing in Relationships
Dealing in Relationships
Joseph Schlessinger would hardly fit most people's definition of the unworldly scientist. Originally a physicist, Schlessinger has conducted groundbreaking work in identifying and characterizing molecules in the signaling pathways of receptor tyrosine kinases. Elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2000, Schlessinger, William H. Prusoff professor and chairman of pharmacology at Yale University, has achieved the acclaim some scientists yearn for. Yet in 1991, when he set out to build a c
The Odyssey of Online Grant-Making
The Odyssey of Online Grant-Making
Grant proposal writing for the life scientist may get easier in 2002 with the filing of a uniform electronic application for noncompetitive grants, but technical and bureaucratic tie-ups delay attempts to bring science funding into the computer age. The National Science Foundation has made strides in this direction by receiving applications electronically via a system called Fastlane, but the agency prints and circulates paper rather than electronic copies once the applications arrive. At the Na
Profession Notes
Profession Notes
Many life science graduate students surveyed recently by the National Association of Graduate-Professional Students (NAGPS) expressed either dissatisfaction with, or a lack of knowledge of the career guidance and placement services provided by their institutions. Of the 7,400 life science graduate and doctoral students surveyed, 41-76 percent rated their institutions less than satisfactory on each of four measures of professional development listed in the National Doctorate Survey or reported th
Funding Opportunites in the Life Sciences
Funding Opportunites in the Life Sciences
Click to view our current database of Funding Opportunites in the Life Sciences.

Opinion

The Disregard Syndrome: A Menace to Honest Science?
The Disregard Syndrome: A Menace to Honest Science?
We are witnessing the continuation of an accelerated, unprecedented explosion of scientific information that might make the life of a serious investigator unbearably complicated. Unlike our pioneering investigators, however, we are fortunate to have access to modern information-retrieving pools such as Medline, Biological Abstracts, and more recently selected electronic journals. These allow us, at the press of a key, to choose desired scientific citations. A search for articles in the medical