News

Proteomics Factories
Proteomics Factories
Figure: Gaetano Montelione and Yuanpeng Huang of Rutgers UniversityX-ray crystal structure of human basic fibroblast growth factor. With a bit of luck and sometimes decades of dedication, scientists have in recent years revealed fascinating vistas of biological structures at the atomic level using X-ray crystallography and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy. In 1997, Timothy Richmond, a professor of X-ray crystallography at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, complete
Gene Therapy Institute Faces Uphill Battle
Gene Therapy Institute Faces Uphill Battle
The University of Pennsylvania's Institute for Human Gene Therapy (IHGT) and its director, James M. Wilson, faced increasing pressure from the federal government in late January. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration suspended all eight of the institute's gene therapy clinical trials on Jan. 21. A few days before, the Office for Protection from Research Risks at the National Institutes of Health launched an investigation into whether a clinical trial violated federal regulations governing patien
Structure and Function
Structure and Function
The masses of sequencing information that now confront genomic scientists raise a huge question: Exactly what do the products of these genes do? About 30 genomes have been completely sequenced, and up to 100 will be done by year's end, perhaps including a roughly finished sequence of humankind's 100,000 or more genes. Sequence data can identify gene products involved in disease, but the challenge facing researchers is far broader than that. Somehow, they must characterize the biochemical functio
Doing Their Homework
Doing Their Homework
The problems of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection require legions of researchers and an urgency that relies on teamwork, creative thinking, and previous studies. The Scientist went behind the scenes of two unrelated HIV papers that appeared in the January 2000 issue of Journal of Virology to find out what tweaked the researchers' imaginations and led to intriguing results. The papers lay at opposite ends of the HIV spectrum. One looked at T-cell responses in infected children; t
President's Budget Pushes Research
President's Budget Pushes Research
University-based researchers have reason for optimism following President Bill Clinton's request in his fiscal year (FY) 2001 budget for a $2.8 billion increase in science funding. As negotiations begin in Congress on the long, bumpy track toward budget approval, the fastest starter out of the gate is the National Science Foundation, which would receive double the largest dollar increase in its half-century of existence. The National Institutes of Health likewise is in line for a substantial fun
With GM Crops, Who Needs Vitamin Pills?
With GM Crops, Who Needs Vitamin Pills?
Most soldiers in the biotech revolution think the public will eventually accept genetically modified (GM) foods, thereby ending hostilities. However, science must first offer something of value, such as improved nutrition. Just making life easier for farmers with pest-resistant crops won't outweigh real or imagined risks to people or butterflies. That's the message of a new consumer poll done by Roper Starch Worldwide for the American Farm Bureau Federation.1 Metabolic or nutritional genomics--
News Notes
News Notes
Bioinformatics Tools With efforts mounting to characterize protein functions following genome sequencing, bioinformatics has emerged as a key technology. Three such developments were showcased at a recent genomics conference in San Diego: WHALES (Web Homology Alert Service)--This keeps National Institutes of Health intramural scientists aware of new releases in the databases for DNA and protein sequences. It's based on stored, user-defined profiles that are processed weekly, with results return

Letter

More on Science and Courts
More on Science and Courts
In his commentary "Expert Witnesses: Legal Legionnaires,"1 ... Dr. Deftos is correct regarding the broad discretion (and responsibility) given trial court judges by the Daubert ruling and its follow-on rulings. But his statement leads one to believe it is he who has it backward. It was the Frye ruling of 1923, not the Daubert ruling, which established the "general acceptance" standard for scientific expert testimony in court. In the Daubert ruling, the Supreme Court specifically repudiates the
Theology: Supernatural Science
Theology: Supernatural Science
I tend to agree with Charles Darwin. Why should his theories shock the religious feelings of anyone? Why should any conflict exist between science and religion? Steve Bunk's Perspective article "Is Science Religious?"1 states that "... [science] concerns itself with the profane realm of that which is knowable, while religion dwells on that which is unknowable." In reality, science deals with what is natural, and theology, not religion, concerns itself with the supernatural. We still use the term

Commentary

It Helps to Push Harder
It Helps to Push Harder
Sometimes a little interruption is a good thing. For instance, during production of this issue of The Scientist, we thought we had the content completely planned and mostly prepared by Thursday, Jan. 20. Then President Bill Clinton made a speech in California on Friday, Jan. 21, and we gladly shuffled some pages around and arranged to include the news from his speech. It was too important to delay, much less ignore. As contributing editor Steve Bunk reports in "President's Budget Pushes Re

Cartoon

Cartoon
Cartoon
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Perspective

Gene Therapy's Trials and Tribulations
Gene Therapy's Trials and Tribulations
When I was a medical resident at Harvard Medical School's cancer center, I had an experience that was both unnerving and illuminating. In the wee hours of the morning, I was about to give a patient her scheduled dose of an experimental chemotherapeutic agent, but I had trouble getting the air bubbles out of the syringe. So there I was, muttering and tapping on the syringe, when the patient suddenly sighed deeply ... and died. Had all gone smoothly, I'd have given the drug 20 seconds earlier, she

Research

The Connexin Connection
The Connexin Connection
Biologists are vigorously and enthusiastically exploring the structure and function of channels known as connexins, which link cells to one another. Connexin research is "hot," says one scientist heavily involved in the field, as investigators seek to answer a host of questions ranging from what passes through these channels to when and why they appear and disappear. Understanding how these channels work may also lead to improved drugs for diseases linked with connexin mutations. "From my perspe
Research Notes
Research Notes
Multipurpose Hormone Scientists at Baylor College of Medicine have identified a new role for leptin: potent inhibitor of bone formation acting through the central nervous system (P. Ducy et al., "Leptin inhibits bone formation through a hypothalamic relay: a central control of bone mass," Cell, 100:197-207, Jan. 21, 2000). This is the first indication that the brain has a central role in controlling bone formation and density. The researchers worked with two groups of mice; one mutant strain was
Leptin Lizards
Leptin Lizards
Female fence lizard (Sceloporus undulatus) Conversations between neighbors in the biology department at the University of Akron have spawned a broader evolutionary view of leptin, the hormone that periodically makes headlines as a potential obesity cure-all. First described as an "adipostat" in mammals that signals the status of fat stores, leptin has since been implicated in feeding behavior, body temperature regulation, and onset of puberty.1,2 Its recent discovery in reptiles suggests a role

Hot Paper

Nuclear Hormone Receptors
Nuclear Hormone Receptors
For this article, Nadia S. Halim interviewed Ronald Evans, professor in the gene expression laboratory, Salk Institute, La Jolla, Calif., and Hongwu Chen, postdoctoral fellow, Salk Institute. Both are coauthors of this Cell paper. Data from the Web of Science (ISI, Philadelphia) show that this paper has been cited significantly more often than the average paper of the same type and age. H. Chen, R.J. Lin, R.L. Schiltz, D. Chakravarti, A. Nash, L. Nagy, M. L. Privalsky, Y. Nakatani, and R.M. Evan
Apoptosis: Orderly Dismantling
Apoptosis: Orderly Dismantling
For this article, Nadia S. Halim interviewed Shigekazu Nagata, professor of genetics, Osaka University Medical School, Japan, coauthor of this Nature paper. Data from the Web of Science (ISI, Philadelphia) show that this paper has been cited significantly more often than the average paper of the same type and age. M. Enari, H. Sakahira, H. Yokoyama, K. Okawa, A. Iwamatsu, and S. Nagata, "A caspase-activated DNase that degrades DNA during apoptosis, and its inhibitor ICAD," Nature, 391:43-50, Jan

Technology

The Lives of a Sell
The Lives of a Sell
Ever gotten a great deal on a 1970s Charlie's Angels lunchbox on eBay and wondered why you couldn't do as well on an HPLC unit for your lab? With the September 1999 launch of BioBid.com, great deals on used lab equipment are now available at the click of a mouse. The dynamic nature of the biotech industry leads to a large number of surplus instruments and perfectly functional equipment collecting dust. It is not unusual for companies to start and abandon a project in a very short time. But wit
Bright Solutions
Bright Solutions
MultiMark Multi-Colored Protein Standard Remember those old horror movies starring the evil, mad scientist, the obedient assistant, and the latest menacing, yet somehow misunderstood, laboratory creation? All that boiling and bubbling and zapping, experienced only in black and white. Much to our enjoyment, in recent years scientific laboratories have experienced an explosion of color. The necessary consumables--tubes, racks, pipette tips, and lab coats--are available in rainbow-colored assortmen
That Certain Glow
That Certain Glow
Grow 'n' Glow GFP Two Hybrid System Many genetic and cellular processes rely on highly specific protein-protein interactions. Two-hybrid systems provide a way to systematically identify pairs of proteins (referred to as "bait" and "prey" proteins) that form stable contacts, and further, to identify which protein segments or domains are necessary to form the complex. MoBiTec's Grow 'n' Glow GFP Two-Hybrid System combines a relatively straightforward two-hybrid strategy with inducible expression,

Technology Profile

The Art of the State of Nucleic Acid Sequencing
The Art of the State of Nucleic Acid Sequencing
State of the Art Nucleic Acid Sequencing Systems Imagine, if you will, an artist's satisfaction upon completing a potential masterpiece--the colorful presentation of a life experience. For those fortunate few in molecular biology who encounter the "artistry" of nucleic acid sequencing provided by the chromatogram of a successful run, the feelings can be quite similar. Oh, those wonderful colors! But life in the molecular fast lane was not always so aesthetically pleasing. To the pioneers of nucl
The Resolution Solution
The Resolution Solution
Confocal Microscopy Systems Drosophila wing imaginal disc showing expression of apterous (red), wingless (blue, and Delta (green). (Bio-Rad confocal system) In the early 17th century, Anton van Leeuwenhoek peered through a simple construction of lenses and screws and observed "animalcules" dancing through a drop of water. Ever since this discovery, humankind has been fascinated with the microscopic world. The ability to distinguish objects invisible to the naked eye has revolutionized our daily

Profession

From Classroom to Boardroom
From Classroom to Boardroom
Some in academia liken it to the world's oldest profession. Others to selling your soul. But when you ask former academics who now work in the business world, switching was the best decision of their professional lives, despite some of the disparaging comparisons their university colleagues may have made. For these researchers--at various stages of their careers, from postdoc to full professor--the lure of the private sector had more to do with finding a suitable career fit than anything
Profession Notes
Profession Notes
Staying on Top of Science Yale University announced last month that it will invest $500 million in science and engineering buildings, one of the largest one-time building plans in academic history. About 40 percent is earmarked for new buildings and the rest for remodeling existing space. Yale's president, Richard C. Levin, has indicated that this will probably result in more hiring and spending in the scientific disciplines. The university has already committed to adding four positions in engin

Opinion

Is It Your Karma--In New Clothes?
Is It Your Karma--In New Clothes?
In the National Institutes of Health initial review group (IRG) on which I serve, we are now reviewing at each session a handful of proposals that seek to analyze the genetic basis of susceptibility to the infectious diseases that afflict great masses of the world's population. There is much excitement among my peers about these proposals, and by and large they have done reasonably well, in that they usually receive fundable priority scores. This trend in the Tropical Medicine and Parasitology