News

Homing In On Homocysteine
Homing In On Homocysteine
Peruse the aisles of any supermarket, and the message that cholesterol causes heart disease rings loud and clear. But soon attention will likely shift to another culprit: homocysteine. This amino acid is usually scant in the blood. But when slightly elevated, it may set the stage for the atherosclerosis that is so tightly linked to cholesterol. Controlling homocysteine level is a simple matter of taking more vitamins--folic acid in particular. Donald Jacobsen "In the future, a homocysteine
New Definition For Misconduct A Step Closer
New Definition For Misconduct A Step Closer
Is it research misconduct if a scientist lies about her results at a departmental seminar but never publishes the results? Is it research misconduct if a scientist, in discussing research with a competitor at another institution, suggests performing an experiment he knows to be a waste of time, thus delaying and hindering his competitor? Is it research misconduct if a scientist agrees to be a coauthor of a colleague's paper to which he has made no substantive contributions? If
Journal Editors Fight for Control
Journal Editors Fight for Control
Last November, after several hours of tough debate, the Massachusetts Medical Society's House of Delegates voted down a proposal that would give future editors of the society's New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) complete control over the use and marketing of the prestigious journal's logo. Instead, in a concession to supporters of the journal's editors, the group agreed to set up a committee comprising deans of medical schools and schools of public health to arbitrate disputes between futur
More Commerce, Less Data?
More Commerce, Less Data?
The emergence of biology-based commercial enterprises is not only fostering difficulties between the private and public sectors regarding access to research resources; it may even affect the way basic science is conducted. A letter report issued recently by the National Research Council (NRC) identifies the most pressing issues of this multifaceted problem and recommends how to begin solving it. The report, by a 26-member life sciences commission, derives from an NRC conference held in early 199
Online Research Still a Frontier
Online Research Still a Frontier
Life science researchers planning future projects that involve contact with people via the Internet can benefit from a new report based on experiences of sociologists, psychologists, and others. The World Wide Web can be a virtual candy store for research into numerous topics. However, online researchers are discovering that the brave new world of research on the Web challenges them to define more specific frameworks for answering ethical questions of consent and privacy in cyberspace stud
Debate Heats Up On GM Foods
Debate Heats Up On GM Foods
Genetically modified (GM) crops, and foods derived from them, continue to ignite controversy and spur jockeying by trade groups and businesses. At its January convention in Houston, the American Farm Bureau Federation, which represents the interests of farmers, released results of a survey last summer on attitudes toward biotechnology and food. Biotechnology was supported by 57 percent of the 1,002 respondents if it improved taste, 65 percent if it improved nutritional value, 69 percent if it in
Same Labmates, Different Projects
Same Labmates, Different Projects
In 1990 Susumu Tonegawa, winner of the 1987 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine, decided that he'd like to make something of a career change. Tonegawa, who won for his findings on the mechanism of antibody diversity and antigen recognition, chose to move away from his vocation as an immunologist and pursue a longtime fascination with neuroscience. He sought, in effect, to shift the focus of his entire lab. Nine years later, the conversion is complete: Tonegawa recently sent out his last
News Notes
News Notes
Mouse Modelers' Marriage To unite the efforts of scientists working to develop mouse models of human cancers, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) recently formed a consortium of 19 top-tier groups of cancer investigators hailing from more than 30 institutions. Driven by NCI funds, $4.5 million for the first six months and a total commitment of $15 million, it's an experimental arrangement that could become a model for future programs. The consortium will establish a repository for mouse models,
PSA and Cancer: A Paradox?
PSA and Cancer: A Paradox?
Prostate cancer can be detected early, thanks to digital rectal exams and serum measurements of prostate-specific antigen (PSA). Although the role of PSA in cancer is poorly understood, high PSA levels are usually interpreted as bad news about cancer progression. But now scientists at EntreMed, a biotechnology company in Rockville, Md., offer a more optimistic interpretation--one that may explain some paradoxical observations about PSA and cancer. Tumor-secreted proteins called tumor angio

Letter

Scientific Writing (2)
Scientific Writing (2)
Thank you for the story "What's right about scientific writing" by Gross and Harmon.1 They've done a great job. The story presented in a conventional scientific paper does not follow the historical sequence of how ideas developed while the experimental work proceeded. But that does not matter; it is more important that the paper aids the reader in understanding the ideas being presented. However, I regret that these authors did not deal with some associated problems of the science paper. I
News and Newsworthiness
News and Newsworthiness
As a university public relations professional, I was interested in Susan Fitzpatrick's Opinion article, "What Makes Science News Newsworthy?"1 I disagree, however, with her conclusion that scientists (and, by implication, PR people) should be more discriminating in which studies they pitch to the media. University PR people are generally very aware of what the media needs and wants in terms of news. More often than not we gently advise faculty that their studies may not be appropriate for
Scientific Writing (1)
Scientific Writing (1)
The Opinion by Alan G. Gross and Joseph E. Harmon1 was an excellent article. In general, I find that natural scientists write more clearly and concisely than most other professionals. Their subject matter and their highly critical audience demand clear thinking, which is the beginning (although not the whole) of clear writing. Also, as the authors imply, the present standard formats for scientific papers have become established by a kind of natural selection, because they serve their purpose we

Commentary

HIV: A Grouse-shooting Analogy
HIV: A Grouse-shooting Analogy
The Hot Papers article1 of Dec. 6 on the failure of various combinations of antibiotics to eradicate latent HIV gives the false impression that AIDS researchers were not aware of this possibility. ("Scientists are still grappling with the questions raised by this sobering discovery.") Doctors learn at medical school the fundamental rule that antibiotics should be given for short periods in adequate doses to destroy all pathogens and prevent the emergence of resistant strains. As soon as it was

Cartoon

Cartoon
Cartoon
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Research

Eyes and Muscular Dystrophy
Eyes and Muscular Dystrophy
The quest for a treatment for muscular dystrophy has led some scientists to focus on the half-dozen muscles surrounding the eyes. These extraocular muscles, which control eye movement, remain untouched by the disease. Some researchers think they understand why and hope to turn that understanding into a treatment. Normal distribution of dystrophin at the muscle cell surface and utrophin at sites of neuromuscular junctions (nmj). In animal models of Duchenne dystrophy, utrophin appears to expand b
Research Notes
Research Notes
More Efficient Cloning Scientists at the University of Connecticut have made a conceptual breakthrough in cloning by culturing nuclear donor cells for up to three months. Cloning had previously been successful only with fresh or short-term cultured cells. "It is shocking to us that we found long-term cultured cells not only can support development of offspring, but their efficiency for cloning is actually better than short-term culturing," comments Xiangzhong Yang, head of the University of Conn

Hot Paper

Cloning the Capsaicin Receptor
Cloning the Capsaicin Receptor
For this article, Steve Bunk interviewed David J. Julius, assistant professor of cellular and molecular pharmacology, University of California, San Francisco. 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.J. Caterina, M.A. Schumacher, M. Tominaga, T.A. Rosen, J.D. Levin, D. Julius, "The capsaicin receptor: a heat-activated ion channel in the pain pathway," Nature, 389:816-24, Oct. 2
Immortalizing Human Cells
Immortalizing Human Cells
For this article, Steve Bunk interviewed Woodring E. Wright, cell biology professor, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. 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. A.G. Bodnar, M. Ouellette, M. Frolkis, S.E. Holt, C.P. Chiu, G.B. Morin, C.B. Harley, J.W. Shay, S. Lichtsteiner, W.E. Wright, "Extension of life-span by introduction of telomerase into normal human cells,"

Technology

Fountain of Youth
Fountain of Youth
Studying biological phenomena in a physiologically relevant environment is one of the biggest challenges for life scientists. Using primary cells directly from an animal is one way to lend credibility to observations, but these cells have a limited life span in culture, are not always readily available, and can be difficult to propagate. To study long-term gene expression, many resort to using transformed cell lines, which will grow indefinitely in culture. Artifacts specific to the transformed
Pain-free Cloning?
Pain-free Cloning?
Imagine cloning a gene into several different expression vectors without restriction enzymes or ligations. Invitrogen's Echo Cloning System promises just that. Based on the Univector Plasmid-fusion System developed by Steve Elledge at Baylor College of Medicine, the Echo System avoids having to PCR amplify and sequence an insert every time it is subcloned into a new vector.1 The newly released Echo System combines Invitrogen's proven TOPO® Cloning System for five-minute cloning of PCR produ

Bench Buys

Bench Buys
Bench Buys
Strip Ease Labnet's EZ-8 strip tubes and rotor Labnet's new EZ-8 strip tube combines eight standard 1.5 ml microcentrifuge tubes into a handy strip for easy handling. Compatible with standard multichannel pipettes, the EZ-8 strip tube also has an attached hinged cap that seals all eight tubes in one step. Quick transfer of samples to a microcentrifuge is achieved using EZ-8 strip tubes in combination with a specially designed rotor that accommodates four strip tubes (32 samples) and fits a varie

Technology Profile

Suite Dreams
Suite Dreams
Most researchers would agree that manually performing a hundred or so plasmid preps after a low-efficiency cloning stifles the spirit of exploration that attracted them to science. Minipreps don't end with merely being tedious, repetitive, and time consuming--frequent exposure to hazardous chemicals adds to the misery. However, minipreps are a necessary evil in research, and the number of sequencing templates to prepare never seems to dwindle. For example, a small lab running four sequencing gel
The Secret Language of Cells
The Secret Language of Cells
Cell Signaling Reagents All biological processes result from integrated and concerted molecular events. For example, enzyme catalysis is not defined solely by kinetic activity; it is the culmination of a series of events, including activation of the enzyme, substrate synthesis and availability, direct and indirect product and substrate feedback control, and interactions with inhibitors or stimulators. In essence the entire process of protein activation is a cascade of events, each serving as a

Profession

Finding a Job in Y2K
Finding a Job in Y2K
Julie Vick (left) and Mary Heiberger Now that humankind has survived the Y2K bug threat, it's time for many budding scientists to get back to a more pressing task--finding a job. The prospect can be daunting. But career counselors and experienced job seekers say there are many strategies to make the search easier. Personal contacts, Internet and print ads, job fairs, and search firms (for job seekers with a few years under their belts) are the main places to concentrate your efforts, say the e
Profession Notes
Profession Notes
Biomedical Research Funding Government and private agencies are supporting biomedical research in the face of managed care cutbacks and changes in traditional funding. Forty-one medical schools will receive a total of $92 million over the next four years from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI). The awards will help the schools find new ways to combine basic research and clinical treatment of patients, as well as support bioinformatics programs. This follows an $80 million award granted b

Opinion

An E-Journal for a Vanishing Resource
An E-Journal for a Vanishing Resource
How can we learn from the exciting times of post-World War II, when American experimental biology was revolutionized and propelled to the forefront of world science, and now, of biotechnology? Part of the answer could be in establishing an electronic journal of the type proposed by former National Institutes of Health director Harold Varmus, one that is not edited or refereed. The unique feature of this journal would be that it is particularly aimed at having retired scientists as authors. Bef