News

Student Bioethics Conference Attracts Big Shots
Student Bioethics Conference Attracts Big Shots
NHGRI director Francis Collins speaks with students after participating in a panel discussion at Princeton's student-run bioethics conference. How might undergraduate students interested in discussing bioethics with the top people in the field get science superstars such as Francis Collins and Ian Wilmut to show up at their doorstep? Simple: E-mail them and ask. At least that's what worked for the group of Princeton University undergraduates who orchestrated the first-ever student-run nationa
Multiple Disciplines, Imagination, and the Big Picture
Multiple Disciplines, Imagination, and the Big Picture
Mars' "Happy Face" crater On March 4--as the Mars Global Surveyor was locking into the red planet's orbit to begin its mapping mission, and two other spacecraft were hurtling toward Mars on other investigative missions--a multidisciplinary group of scientists, along with teachers, artists, writers, and a theologian, gathered to contemplate the Big Picture. During a long weekend in California's Silicon Valley, an estimated 200 people discussed, listened, and watched as future possibilities and p
Multidisciplinary Centers Take Up Challenges
Multidisciplinary Centers Take Up Challenges
Research universities and federal funding agencies are taking a new approach to cutting-edge research in life sciences: multidisciplinary teams of scientists. Already in 1999, two Ivy League universities have announced plans for new institutes that will bring together physical and biological scientists to tackle problems. Other major universities have embarked on similar initiatives within the past year. And a research institute that will open a campus in the Midwest next year plans to carry ou
Genome Project Moves Up Deadline for 'Working Draft'
Genome Project Moves Up Deadline for 'Working Draft'
With private sector sequencing efforts nipping at its heels, the consortium directing the international Human Genome Project recently pushed up the deadline for completing a "working draft" of the human genetic blueprint from December 2001 to spring 2000. A "final draft" of the genome, with gaps closed and errors corrected, is scheduled for completion by 2003.1 The new deadline is based on a recent successfully completed three-year pilot phase of the project. Scientists will construct a worki
Societies Implore Scientists to Write About Data-Release Rule
Societies Implore Scientists to Write About Data-Release Rule
The Joint Steering Committee for Public Policy (JSC), a coalition of four basic biomedical research societies whose mission is to advocate federal funding for basic biomedical research, has asked scientists to respond to a recently proposed Fiscal Year 1999 Freedom of Information Act provision. The seemingly minor addition to last year's omnibus budget bill threatens to have a negative impact on scientific research (E. Russo, "Does accountability legislation threaten integrity of U.S. research
Ribonucleases May Hold Clues to Killing Cancer
Ribonucleases May Hold Clues to Killing Cancer
University of Wisconsin biochemistry professor Ronald T. Raines nominates pancreatic ribonuclease A (RNase-A) as "probably the most-studied enzyme of the 20th century." But in the next breath, he admits, "There are ribonucleases floating through your bloodstream right now, and we don't really know [their function]." Raines and Richard Youle, director of the biochemistry section in the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke at Bethesda, Md., led two research groups that are fri
Mixing Religion and Health: Is it Good Science?
Mixing Religion and Health: Is it Good Science?
As the millennium approaches, spirituality is playing a more prominent role in medical practice. Many Americans believe that religious activity can promote health, and physicians report an increasing number of patients requesting at least discussion of religion in their treatment. In response, about 30 medical schools now offer courses in religion and spirituality.1 Support comes from other sectors too. "The Senate recently appropriated $50 million to set up five major centers to study mind-bo

Letter

Cognitive Enhancers and Ethics
Cognitive Enhancers and Ethics
Eugene Russo's story "Are cognitive enhancers less ethical than eyeglasses?"1 raises some interesting points. A record-breaking athlete who tests positive for banned substances has his record nullified. The situation is slightly different in the intellectual field. Suppose that, over a period of months, a physicist took a cognitive enhancer, and during this time he developed The Grand Unified Theory, which united all the fundamental forces of nature. Furthermore, this theory was experimentally
Software vs. Fetal Pigs in the Lab
Software vs. Fetal Pigs in the Lab
In an article in the Feb. 1 issue of The Scientist,1 Ricki Lewis asks whether the pig is replaceable as a laboratory research animal. The fetal pig as a specimen for biology dissection labs is indeed replaceable--not by [a] multitude of other animals ..., but by viable and effective alternatives, including Pierian Spring Software, BioLab Pig, and ScienceWorks, and DissectionWorks: The Pig. The article states that students accept the fetal pig as an ethical "alternative" to other animals. Yet on
Broader Ph.D. Training
Broader Ph.D. Training
Regarding the article "Broader Ph.D. training can benefit science and society,"1 I totally agree with the opinion from L.J. Escote-Carlson that society will be better served by having highly educated and well-trained graduates working in different disciplines. But where are the opportunities? If a Ph.D. applies for a job in a corporation, executives think, "This lab creature won't fit the corporate culture because his training is limited to the bench and his desk." This type of attitude in corp

Commentary

Cancer, Commerce, and Communication
Cancer, Commerce, and Communication
Author: Larry Hand Date: March 29, 1999  They're common complaints among scientists: News reports oversimplify scientific data, and movies and television stereotype scientists. Although these complaints may be well founded, the remedy may be more in the hands of scientists than the media. The essence of the adage, "If you want the job done right, do it yourself," keeps popping up wherever science and the media are discussed. Increasingly, scientists are being urged to do more communicating

Opinion

What's so Standard about Standards?
What's so Standard about Standards?
During the past decade, educators, professional groups, politicians, and others have discussed much information (and misinformation) about national education standards. In 1989, when the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) released its landmark document Curriculum and Evaluation Standards for School Mathematics, a stampede of education standards followed, including the release in 1996 of the National Science Education Standards. Now nearly every content area has developed standar

Profession

Talking Science with Nonscientists: A Personal Communication
Talking Science with Nonscientists: A Personal Communication
I remember it clearly. It was a warm Friday evening in August. I stood with a beer in my hand, making small talk at a graduate school party. It wasn't long before a new acquaintance, a student of ethnic music, asked, "What does an organic chemist do?" "Mmm ...," I muttered. I stared intently at my beer, swirled it a bit, and wished fervently for a napkin, a ballpoint pen, and a hard, clear surface to write on. But ... no. Complex drawings and scattershot arrows wouldn't interest her, and I'd h

Hot Paper

Cancer
Cancer
J. Li, C. Yen, D. Liaw, K. Podsypanina, S. Bose, S.I. Wang, J. Puc, C. Miliaresis, L. Rodgers, R. McCombie, S.H. Bigner, B.C. Giovanella, M. Ittman, B. Tycko, H. Hibshoosh, M.W. Wigler, R. Parsons, "PTEN, a putative protein tyrosine phosphatase gene mutated in human brain, breast, and prostate cancer," Science, 275:1943-7, 1997. (Cited in more than 270 papers since publication) Peter A. Steck Comments by Ramon Parsons , professor of pathology and medicine, Columbia University Cancer Center,

Research

Delving into the Choreography of DNA Repair
Delving into the Choreography of DNA Repair
Photo: Coriell Institute for Medical Research COLD STORAGE: Cells from Coriell Institute for Medical Research that have been collected by and distributed to scientists from around the world, have played a key role in advancing the understanding of DNA repair. If early conceptions of DNA repair could be characterized as a dance, the process essential for maintaining genomic stability could be portrayed as an enzyme-to-enzyme pas de deux. However, a more accurate understanding of this DNA repai
Increasing Genomic Stability to Decrease Cancer
Increasing Genomic Stability to Decrease Cancer
Cancer can be boiled down to a question of stability. "Genomic instability is, in essence, the final common denominator in the ... evolution of cancer," comments Errol C. Friedberg, professor of pathology at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. Defects to a cell's genome--whether they be mutations or damage caused by ultraviolet (UV) rays--that don't get fixed through DNA repair mechanisms will be passed on to new cells, he notes. "Anybody interested in understanding the
A Cell's Journey: Repository Plays Key Role in XP Research
A Cell's Journey: Repository Plays Key Role in XP Research
The progress in nucleotide excision repair research could be traced in the journey of cells--from donor, to clinician, to repository, to researcher, and into the literature. The journey began with a sample from a patient with xeroderma pigmentosum (XP), taken by skin biopsy by National Institutes of Health scientists from a young United States man in 1972. The disease provides a good model for understanding the mechanisms behind nucleotide excision repair: Patients with XP have mutations in bo

Technology

Stack 'Em High
Stack 'Em High
"Buy real estate; they're not making it anymore," or so the saying goes. Indeed, few pieces of property are more valuable, in relative terms, than the bench space situated between your pipettor and that benchtop tube holder you bought last summer. With each new acquisition, the painful process of evicting longtime residents in favor of new arrivals becomes more difficult. Which device is going to occupy the prime location next to the bunsen burner, and which instrument, heaven forbid, will end
Bench Buys
Bench Buys
The following products were chosen by LabConsumer either for their exceptional prices or for their ingenious solutions to the everyday problems faced by bench scientists. Although LabConsumer does not officially endorse these products, we do invite our readers to evaluate for themselves what we consider to be some of the most competitively priced and novel tools available. We understand that scientists engaged in research don't have the time to stay current on the latest technology or prices. T
Good Things Come in Small Packages
Good Things Come in Small Packages
Beckman Coulter's Microfuge 18 Today's laboratory instruments seem to be following the same path as computers and cellular phones--smaller, faster, and harder to figure out. It seems that in their quest to miniaturize and accelerate the tools we use, technologists sometimes forget that one tenet of progress is simplicity. Beckman Coulter steers clear of technological one-upmanship and emphasizes convenience and utility in the development of its instruments. The new Microfuge 18 is a good exam

Technology Profile

Gene Analyses--Sunny Side Up!
Gene Analyses--Sunny Side Up!
Chemiluminescent Gene Reporter Systems Features of Luminometers How is the expression of a given gene controlled? That is a question asked of many in the biological and medical sciences. "Reporter genes," which encode quantifiable enzymes or proteins, are often employed by researchers seeking to better understand how the expression of genes of interest is controlled. In these assays, the coding region of the gene under study is replaced with the sequence that encodes the reporter gene. Report
Get the Gel Out of Here
Get the Gel Out of Here
Date: March 29, 1999Fragment Purification Products Table Purifying DNA fragments from gels is one of those chores that no one likes to talk about--it's not glamorous, yet it is essential for a functioning molecular biology lab. There are almost as many methods around for doing this as there are researchers. And everyone swears by his or her favorite method. The fact is that probably all methods work to some degree, and most work reasonably well. There are two basic approaches to isolating fragm
Field Of Genes
Field Of Genes
In a recent issue of The Scientist, I reviewed, in a very general way, the status of data mining and presentation software with specific reference to gene expression arrays. In the course of that effort it became clear to me that detailed reviews of some of the more well-known and widely used of these software packages would be useful. This is the first in a series of articles designed to explore these packages. It is my intention to use each of the applications reviewed in an analysis and pres

Notebook

Notebook
Notebook
Above is a photomicrograph of the spinal cord terminal of a sensory axon. The neuron's immunoreactivity for human preproenkephalin suggests that the preproenkephalin gene, which was delivered via a herpes virus vector, is being expressed in sensory neurons. TELOMERE TROUBLES Lack of telomerase makes mice old before their time, a new study shows, but what effect this might have on age-related disease remains uncertain (K.L. Rudolph et al., "Longevity, stress, response, and cancer in aging telom