Editorial

Genetics is not Politically Correct
Genetics is not Politically Correct
"A good marriage would be between a blind wife and a deaf husband"1Actually, it seems that good marriages occur between a deaf husband and a deaf wife: Such is the attraction that, in the United States, 85% of individuals with profound deafness marry another deaf person. One consequence of this, according to a potentially explosive article in the American Journal of Human Genetics, is that the incidence of nonsyndromic deafness may have increased two-fold over the past 200 years.2The article is

Opinion

Entering the Italian Academic Community: Publish-and-Perish Rules
Entering the Italian Academic Community: Publish-and-Perish Rules
In Italy, a committee comprising three members grants tenured positions atthe lowest level, namely research assistant professor. These committees draw members from two sources: The institution that makes the position available nominates one person, and the others are elected, at the national level, by professors in the field. National regulations require that the applicants submit a limited number of published papers. The universities specify the number; the applicants choose which papers are su

Letter

Ethylene in Your Coffee
Ethylene in Your Coffee
The opening page of the Technology section in the June 7, 2004, issue (18[11]:37) had a short article about using ethylene to ripen coffee beans. The story closed with this: "By application of ethylene to the entire plant, the entire plant will ripen at once, making manual and mechanical harvesting of coffee more productive. Hopefully they'll wash it off before Starbucks gets the beans."Ethylene is a gas with a boiling point of -104°C. There is no need to wash it off.John Spevacek, PhDAspen
Time for a Paradigm Shift?
Time for a Paradigm Shift?
How long before the United States reforms its policies regarding skilled technical professional immigration? There is the typical lifetime salary and benefit reduction of $1 million (US) for millions of high skilled American scientists, engineers, and programmers who have been permanently displaced from the fields they trained in by cheap, pliant foreign labor, often from third-world nations, who labor under conditions of quasi-indentured servitude. Their employer-designed work visas are conditi
The Enormity of Obesity
The Enormity of Obesity
The May 24th issue of The Scientist has two articles as different as possible about approaches to weight control. Blackman describes the last 10 years of molecular obesity research into the multitude of complex, overlapping metabolic and hormonal pathways being studied in an attempt "to find a chemical cure for the seriously overweight."1 Lewis in her personal note, "Drs. Atkins and Agatston, you were so right,"2discusses her loss of 25 pounds adhering to the newly appreciated effects of a low c
Science and the Media
Science and the Media
Your May 10, 2004, editorial1 brought to mind an experience I had about 40 years ago when I was a graduate student in biochemistry at Penn State University. I got a call from a person in the Public Relations Office who wanted to interview me about my research. It was my first such request and I was delighted to meet with her and proud to tell about what I was doing: studying the biochemical basis of a rare inherited disease in chickens involving vitamin B2 (riboflavin) metabolism.I carefully exp

5-Prime

Mapping Beyond the Genome
Mapping Beyond the Genome
1. What's the next level of mapping?With the human genome sequenced, researchers are charting other cell components. The transcriptome describes all the transcriptional units, coding and noncoding, in the genome. The proteome comprises all proteins made by a cell, while the localizome identifies where each peptide resides. These maps vary depending on a cell's age, type, and condition. The glycome and the lipidome map two other classes of biomolecules, carbohydrates and lipids, respectively.2. H

Snapshot

Methods Rule
Methods Rule
In 1988, The Scientist featured the most highly cited papersin the life sciences. All were method papers, with the venerable Lowry protein measurement technique nominated as the King of Citations.1Looking at papers published in the past 10 years using ISI Essential Science Indicators, we found that method papers still rule, though the focus has changed from measuring cell constituents to conducting computer analysis of nucleic acid and protein sequences.- Alexander Grimwade

Frontlines

The Physics of Double-Dutch
The Physics of Double-Dutch
If you were twirling double-dutch ropes and someone shook the ropes back and forth from the middle, you and your partner would be pulled together. These are the kinds of large-scale behaviors of cellular polymers that David Weitz studies at Harvard University.To measure the flexibility of actin, Weitz and his colleagues exploited the stiffness of scruin, a glue-like protein that holds the actin fibers together.1 In this scenario, "the joints are stiffer than the fibers, so the properties of the
Recycling the Energy of Waste
Recycling the Energy of Waste
Every resource carried onto a manned spaceship is precious, because it costs hundreds of dollars to lift each pound of material past Earth's surly bonds. Now that NASA is in the process of planning a trip to Mars that might take up to two years, no type of recycling can be overlooked. One thing that can provide three basic raw materials (water, energy, and fertilizer) needed for a long space journey: human waste.Most methods of recycling organic waste involve the production of methane, a flammab

Foundations

Dscam Reveals its Bountiful Plan
Dscam Reveals its Bountiful Plan
Courtesy of Dietmar SchumuckerI got this cDNA sequence alignment for the Dscam gene in October 1999 while working in Larry Zipursky's lab. The gap in the alignment hinted at alternative splicing of the transmembrane domain. But that was just the tip of the iceberg: The handwritten inset is from my notes indicating not only this successful sequencing reaction but also that two reactions failed – much to my frustration (see the question marks). It turned out, however, that this was good news

First Person

Richard Dawkins
Richard Dawkins
Amid stacks of books in the front room of his house near Oxford University, writer and evolutionist Richard Dawkins points to a piece of memorabilia: A replica of the Australopithecus africanus skull known as "Mrs. Ples," a gift to him from a 1997 lecture in South Africa. Dawkins, who spent the first two years of his life in East Africa, still remembers the whitewashed huts his parents built near the Mbagathi River, a scene he calls his private Eden. "On a larger scale, Africa is Eden to us all,

Feature

Validating the Interactome
Validating the Interactome
MOLECULAR CARTOGRAPHY:Recognizing that much of the cell's work is done not by individual proteins but by large macromolecular complexes, researchers increasingly are trying to map protein-protein interactions throughout the cell. This map of the C. elegans interaction network, or "interactome," links 2,898 proteins (nodes) by 5,460 interactions (edges). (reprinted with permission, Science, 303:540–3, 2004.)If you want a sense of one of the hottest trends in biology today, open the hood of

Research

Fertility Practices Meet Ethics Around the World
Fertility Practices Meet Ethics Around the World
FINE LINESThom Graves MediaThe ethical dimension of assisted reproduction cannot be divorced from the science, as was illustrated by two seemingly contradictory decisions by the United Kingdom's Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority. The HFEA approved an application for use of preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) for a couple that had an existing child with Fanconi anemia. They wished to conceive a second child, both free of the disease and HLA compatible with the first. Stem cells tak
Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis
Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis
FISHING FOR A HEALTHY BABY:Courtesy of the Reproductive Science Center of the San Francisco Bay Area, http://www.rscbayarea.comMulticolor Fluorescence in Situ Hybridization (FISH) can detect chromosomal abnormalities, such as aneuploidy, in cells removed from a developing embryo.Fast improving techniques for detecting genetic and chromosomal abnormalities via preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) may boost the success rate of in vitro fertilization (IVF). Some clinics report a twofold to three
Computing Gene Regulation
Computing Gene Regulation
TRANSCRIPTIONAL DIVERSITY:Horst Feldmann, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität MüchenTranscription by Pol II is dependent on a number of multi-subunit complexes including TFIID, a general transcription factor complex, and SAGA. Both deliver the TATA-box binding protein (TBP) to promoters and they share a number of TBP associated factors (TAFs). While they have overlapping contributions to gene expression, TFIID function appears to dominate gene regulation at 90% of the measurable genome, mos

Hot Paper

Embryonic Stem Cells Work
Embryonic Stem Cells Work
HALF A MIND:©2002, The National Academy of SciencesLesioned brains 16 weeks after embryonic stem cell transplant stain positive for tyrosine hydroxylase (TH: green), dopamine transporter (DAT: red), and aromatic amino acid decar-boxylase (AADC: blue) in an overlaid image. Bar equals 25 μm.Since drawing the attention of scientists, ethicists, and policymakers, stem cells have not lost their place as one of the most promising yet controversial scientific discoveries of the 20th century.

Vision

A Periodic Table for Biology
A Periodic Table for Biology
COOPERATIVE CELLS:Courtesy of Michael CarrollThe evolution of complex biologic organisms began with the symbiotic relationship between pro- and eukaryotes (I). This relationship gave rise to mitochondria (II), and the resulting diversity of unicellular organisms (III) led to their metabolic cooperativity (IV) mediated by ligand-receptor interactions and cell-cell signaling. Natural selection generated an increasing complexity (V). Failed homeostatic signaling (VI) recapitulates hylogeny/ontogeny

Briefs

Life Down Under ... Zero, That Is
Life Down Under ... Zero, That Is
Courtesy of Brian OakleyResearchers say they have identified bacteria thriving at the lowest temperatures for which such activity is documented. Several such ultracold microbe findings are making the possibility of life elsewhere in the Solar System seem less distant and are presenting new biotechnological possibilities.The University of Washington's James Staley and colleagues say they cultured rod-shaped bacteria, tentatively named Psychromonas ingrahamii, from off Alaska's coast, at -12°
CdLS Gene Discovered
CdLS Gene Discovered
Courtesy of Trident Photographic ServicesUK and US teams independently pinpointed a gene for Cornelia de Lange syndrome (CdLS), ending a 15-year search.12 Tests for the disorder may be forthcoming. CdLS occurs in 1 in 30,000–40,000 births, causing debilitating growth problems and deformities as well as behavioral difficulties. Misdiagnoses can result in patients succumbing to potentially fatal problems such as twisted bowel.Independently, Tom Strachan1 at University of Newcastle, UK, and I
Connecting Connexin 26, Deafness, and Language
Connecting Connexin 26, Deafness, and Language
People love to talk, and such chattiness may have catalyzed a divergence from chimpanzees. A clue to how that may have happened lies in deaf populations where sign language has facilitated marriage between individuals with the same type of recessive deafness, an example of assortative mating.Walter Nance, the human genetics professor at Virginia Commonwealth University who recently modeled such relaxed selection on connexin 26 deafness,1 sees a bigger picture. "Assortative mating brings together

Software Watch

Biopython Hits Version 1.3
Biopython Hits Version 1.3
Cindy MageeThe Biopython project http://www.biopython.org released its new version 1.3 last month. Hosted by the Open Bioinformatics Foundation (OBF), Biopython is an international effort to build reusable, open-source tools and libraries for bioinformaticians using an interpreted language called Python http://www.python.org.Like its sister projects (BioPerl, BioJava, and BioRuby) at OBF, Biopython includes code to manipulate and annotate sequences, communicate with remote databases, parse file

Patent Watch

The DNA Jet Set
The DNA Jet Set
Courtesy of Priscilla FurthScientists have tried at least four methods for delivering nucleic acids to mammalian tissues for the purpose of inducing exogenous gene expression: scarifying the epithelium with a razor blade, then smearing the skin with DNA; scratching the skin with the back of an 18-gauge needle followed by smearing on of DNA; intradermal inoculation and puncture 200 times with a 27-gauge needle; and interdermal inoculation using a jet injector. The first two techniques didn't work

Tech Watch

Leica Releases Commercial 4Pi 'Scope
Leica Releases Commercial 4Pi 'Scope
Courtesy of Leica MicrosystemsConfocal and multiphoton microscopes are standard fare in academic imaging facilities, but ultrahigh-resolution systems generally have a smaller user base – namely, their inventors. Soon facilities around the world can have a piece of the pie – 4Pi, that is.Leica Microsystems http://www.leica-microsystems.com recently introduced a new microscope featuring the 4Pi technology developed by Stefan Hell of the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, G

Technology

Fighting Fraud With DNA
Fighting Fraud With DNA
Next time you buy a designer shirt, be sure to check the label. What you don't see may surprise you. Hidden within the ink or fibers of that shirt could lie an authentication device made not of plastic or metal, but of DNA."DNA has become the gold standard, the highest barrier to product counterfeiting, diversion, and piracy," says Julia Hunter, executive vice president of Applied DNA Sciences in Los Angeles. In this case, though, the term gold is both literal and figurative. The International C
Neural Tissue Engineering
Neural Tissue Engineering
GETTING ON YOUR NERVES:Left: courtesy of Anthony Windebank; right courtesy of Christine SchmidtTo facilitate nerve regrowth, tissue engineers employ biodegradable polymer scaffolds. Shown at left, a micrograph of an actual scaffold used to stimulate spinal cord regeneration in rats. Center, a piece of neural tissue grows on an electrically conductive polymer used primarily for peripheral nerve repair (image colored for effect). At right, stained section of a peripheral nerve showing axons in red

Tools and Technology

A Bioassay with a Heart of Gold
A Bioassay with a Heart of Gold
EXQUISITE SENSITIVITY:In the new assay system used at the Mirkin lab, the protein to be detected (in this case, prostate specific antigen, PSA) is sandwiched between a magnetic microparticle (MMP) and a gold nanoparticle (NP). The system detects the bio-bar-codes present on the NPs with sensitivity five orders of magnitude greater than that of ELISA. (Reprinted with permission, Science, 301:1884–6, 2003.)As any 5-year-old child will tell you, magnets are great for lifting things off the fl
Applied Bio Enters Microarray Market
Applied Bio Enters Microarray Market
Courtesy of Applied BiosystemsFoster City, Calif.-based Applied Biosystems http://www.appliedbiosystems.com has officially entered the microarray marketplace. Combining chemiluminescent detection with improved probe design, the new Expression Array system provides an average sensitivity of 0.5 copies per cell, compared to the one to three copies per cell afforded by most fluorescent platforms.Chemiluminescence addresses a major drawback of fluorescence-based detection systems: The light used to
Finding Mutations Without Sequencing
Finding Mutations Without Sequencing
Courtesy of TrimGenIf you are not lucky enough to have a restriction enzyme site in your mutation-of-interest, chances are you have had to fall back on sequencing to detect it. But this time-consuming method of detecting mutations could soon be a thing of the past, thanks to new technology called Mutector from Sparks, Md.-based TrimGen http://www.trimgen.com.According to marketing manager Brad Oswald, Mutector eliminates false positives and negatives and produces results in 2–3 hours, comp

Data Points

Industry Snapshot
Industry Snapshot
Applications and approvals for new molecular entities (NMEs) in the United States continue to fall ...... while it continues to dominate R&D spending and total pharmaceutical sales.- Ken Kostel

Profession

Let Them Eat Protease Inhibitors
Let Them Eat Protease Inhibitors
Activists campaigning to get AIDS treatments and other critical medicines to poor people around the world propose radical changes in the financing of global pharmaceutical research and development. The activists suggest that the World Trade Organization (WTO) discard global intellectual property protections and replace them with incentive programs for scientists. The companies that research, design, and produce the drugs would no longer support large sales teams to persuade physicians to prescri
The Best Places to Work in Industry
The Best Places to Work in Industry
The formula for the best workplace: a product to be proud of, appreciative management, and trustworthy colleagues. That's the opinion of participants in The Scientist's Best Places to Work in Industry survey.Our 2004 survey aimed to define what attracts highly talented workers to a company, and what initiatives keep those workers happy once they sign on. We also asked survey participants to identify the employers who come closest to realizing these ideals.Pride in the product ranked first among

Science Rules

How to Talk About Ethics
How to Talk About Ethics
File PhotoAssessing whether a laboratory practice makes great science or an invitation to an ethics investigation is not always easy in the highly charged atmosphere of a research enterprise. Information doled out in small doses, without explanation or context, can prompt rank-and-file workers to fret that results are being skewed, or convince postdocs that their contributions have been deliberately overlooked."A lot of times people don't understand what's going on when they suspect, for example

Closing Bell

Getting Hip, Getting Tested
Getting Hip, Getting Tested
I must admit I was jealous that Craig Venter donated his own DNA to Celera's sequencing project; his sense of self has reached the molecular level. So, I was thrilled recently to see direct-to-consumer genetic testing on the Internet.Don't misunderstand; I'm not advocating that we should get an APOE test [for Alzheimer disease] at the mall in between buying shoes and downing a Frappucino. There's serious genetic testing, for metabolic syndromes, and familial breast cancer, for example. And then