News

Frontlines
Frontlines
The movie begins with three compartments, or vacuoles, docked like nanometer-sized flying saucers inside a yeast cell. The boundary membranes, which look like interior walls, are where the three vacuoles meet. Suddenly, they break loose, flapping inside the outer membrane in what has become a single organelle. This is membrane fusion—essential for transferring chemical information inside cells—and, until now, nobody knew how it happened. The previous model of a radially expanding por
Today's Lab
Today's Lab
Tom Sargent remembers the day a student in his lab forgot to add boiling chips to phenol before firing up the heater on the distillation apparatus, and the panicked shouting and tearing off of the lab coat, goggles, gloves, and shoes that ensued when the phenol superheated and boiled over. "Fortunately he wasn't hurt," said Sargent, now chief of the section on vertebrate development at the National Institute of Child and Human Development, "but what a mess." Then, there was the time he hooked up
Interdisciplinary Research Gets Formal
Interdisciplinary Research Gets Formal
See also: "Partners in Research, Competitors in Pay" The year was 1987 and Bill Mahaney was doing what he does; playing in the dirt. Mahaney, a geology professor at York University in Toronto, was standing on a mountain in Rwanda with primatologist David Watts, observing some very hairy miners. The mountain gorillas were digging holes measuring 2 to 3 meters deep, and then eating the soil, presumably, in search of vitamins. Such dining is called geophagy. Courtesy of NASA/Marshall Space Flight
AAAS Topics Span Broad Range
AAAS Topics Span Broad Range
This year's annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science attracted about 6,400 scientists, science journalists, and others to Boston Feb. 14-19. Topics of discussion ranged from bioterrorism to dinosaurs to ice cream to bird brains (www.aaas.org/meetings). Following are notes on just a few of the sessions. Age-Old Dilemma: Genes vs. Environment As neuroscientists strive toward unearthing the very roots of human emotion and thought, the ethical and legal ramifications
Renewing the Fight Against Bacteria
Renewing the Fight Against Bacteria
In the 1940s, the mass production of penicillin led to a sensational reduction in illness and death from bacterial disease. A resulting golden era of bacterial research emerged with new classes of antibiotics, and by 1969, US Surgeon General William H. Stewart told Congress: "The time has come to close the book on infectious disease." As a result, fewer new students specialized in bacterial physiology, and federal funders shifted their focus to more immediately pressing diseases, as did many pha

Commentary

ATP and the Valley of Death
ATP and the Valley of Death
Traveling the road from basic research to marketable product takes a vehicle that can make many turns, twists, dips, and climbs, much of which takes place in the valley of death. That's the period during which a technology or product of research is too new to market; it shows commercial promise, but more research is needed to validate its apparent potential. Until that research is done, and the potential affirmed, traditional funders of commercial ventures—who generally want to know what t

Opinion

Not-So-Intelligent Design
Not-So-Intelligent Design
Some members of the Ohio State Board of Education are maneuvering to have "intelligent design" (ID) taught to Ohio students as an alternative to teaching them about biological evolution.1 These board members were pursuing the inclusion of ID in the biology curriculum despite unambiguous opposition from the relevant science advisory committee. One board member apparently regards this development as a chance for Ohio "to be on the cutting edge." Unfortunately, this cutting edge will only serve to

Letter

Consider Practical Aspects
Consider Practical Aspects
I would like to bring the following aspects into the discussion on deoxygenating ballast water.1 There is a vast difference between real circumstances in ballast tanks and a laboratory circumstance—much bigger difference than usual between the laboratory and the field. To make any even indicative conclusions, some trials should be carried out in a small-scale real situation. The biggest difference is that in an untreated or poorly treated ballast tank you have already various degrees of ru
Hold Off on Mars
Hold Off on Mars
The vision of the International Space Station1 has become a fiasco because of the needless vision that helped create it. It was literally a Star Trek-inspired capital sink, and manned Mars missions will be no better, because there's no scientific imperative for the project. If approved, it will be less a fantasy of exploration than just another massive pork barrel, and almost certainly stripped of any scientific value by the shortcuts built into the project to allow the expensive technological c
Concentrate on Earth
Concentrate on Earth
I can understand that a scientist wants to proceed with all kinds of tests and missions,1 but the truth of the matter is that there is nothing out there [in space] that we know of that is of much value. Sure we can point to the global communications improvements attributed to our encounter with space, and that is a wonderful thing. As a matter of fact, it looks to me like it is the only wonderful thing out there. If Mars were made out of solid gold, we couldn't afford to go get it. Let's be hone

Research

Retracing Steps to Find New Antibiotics
Retracing Steps to Find New Antibiotics
When linezolid (Zyvox) received federal approval in early 2000, it was the first completely new antibiotic compound to reach the pharmaceutical market in 35 years. The synthetic compound even proved effective against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecium (VRE) bacteria, for which no other line of defense existed. Its creator, New Jersey-based Pharmacia, sounded confident that few people would become resistant to the drug. It was not to b
Using Transgenesis to Create Salt-Tolerant Plants
Using Transgenesis to Create Salt-Tolerant Plants
Crop agriculture has succeeded because growers have identified and cultivated useful plant variants through selective breeding and environmental alterations. Transgenic technology improves the precision of agriculture, modifying crops in ways that are uniquely useful that probably would not have arisen naturally. Salt tolerance is one such coveted trait. Recent research on promoting salt tolerance through transgenesis focuses on boosting salt-sequestering physiological mechanisms within species,
Notable
Notable
J.S. Andersen et al., "Directed proteomic analysis of the human nucleolus," Current Biology, 12:1-11, Jan. 8, 2002. F1000 Recommendation: Must Read "This is a good paper showing the large scale analysis of a very large protein complex, the nucleolus. [Points of interest]: The size of the complex and that it is dynamic. The mass spectrometry methods used here were a combination of high throughput (matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization coupled to time of flight detection) and low throughpu
TAPping the Power of Proteomics
TAPping the Power of Proteomics
The Faculty of 1000 is a Web-based literature awareness tool published by BioMed Central. It provides a continuously updated insider's guide to the most important peer-reviewed papers within a range of research fields, based on the recommendations of a faculty of more than 1,400 leading researchers. Each issue, The Scientist publishes a list of the 10 top-rated papers from a specific subject area, as well as a short review of one or more of the listed papers. We also publish a selection of comme

Hot Paper

The Delicate Balancing Act
The Delicate Balancing Act
For this article, Laura DeFrancesco interviewed Lorenz Hofbauer, head of the Molecular Bone Biology Laboratory at Philipps University, Marburg, Germany; Colin Dunstan, senior research scientist, Amgen Inc., in Thousand Oaks, Calif., and Sundeep Khosla, professor of medicine, Mayo Medical School. Data from the Web of Science show that Hot Papers are cited 50 to 100 times more often than the average paper of the same type and age. L.C. Hofbauer, S. Khosla, C.R. Dunstan, et al., "The roles of oste
IAP: Antagonizing the Antagonist
IAP: Antagonizing the Antagonist
For this article, Laura DeFrancesco interviewed David Vaux, principal research fellow, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, Melbourne, Australia. Data from the Web of Science show that Hot Papers are cited 50 to 100 times more often than the average paper of the same type and age. A.M. Verhagen et al., "Identification of DIABLO, a mammalian protein that promotes apoptosis by binding to and antagonizing IAP proteins," Cell, 102: 43-53, July 7, 2000. (Cited in 176 papers) Apoptosis, or programmed c

Technology Profile

Nanotech Dreams
Nanotech Dreams
Nanotechnology hit the big time in July 1995, when it debuted on the television show, The Outer Limits. In an episode entitled "The New Breed," a scientist develops nanorobots capable of repairing damaged cells and correcting physical defects. But, like any good morality play, the experiment goes horribly wrong, turning a panacea into a nightmare. Clearly, nanotechnology makes for good science fiction, but scientists have been working to make it an interesting reality, too. Nanotechnology refers
Better Living Through Toxicogenomics?
Better Living Through Toxicogenomics?
Toxicologists traditionally use animals to test the toxicity of chemicals and other substances. But the brand new field of toxicogenomics, which applies a whole-genome approach to toxicology questions, is changing all that. Still in its infancy, this field is destined to change the way toxicologists think and act, and could even help optimize the drug-development process. "It holds great promise for the future," says Jay Goodman, a Michigan State University toxicologist. "Toxicogenomics is a to

Technology

21st Century Antibiotics
21st Century Antibiotics
Three decades ago, it was widely believed that antibiotics had conquered bacteria. But as antibiotic-resistant bacteria have proliferated, pharmaceutical companies have searched for a broad-spectrum drug that could kill them quickly and safely without falling prey to bacterial resistance (See 'Renewing the Fight Against Bacteria' and 'Retracing Steps to Find New Antibiotics'). Now, in the first supramolecular approach to antibiotic drug design, the answer may be near. Researchers at The Scripps
Arraying the Genome
Arraying the Genome
Santa Clara, Calif.-based Affymetrix's new GeneChip® Human Genome U133 set is the first commercially available microarray set designed using the April 2001 draft of the human genome. Affymetrix incorporated 2.7 million source sequences in the array's design; the final product includes 45,000 probes in a two-array set representing 39,000 transcripts from 33,000 well-substantiated genes. "Each of the arrays in the set has over 500,000 individual oligonucleotide features," says marketing direct
Chemiluminescent Collaboration
Chemiluminescent Collaboration
Researchers looking for highly sensitive RNA quantitation and the ability to multiplex often turn to the ribonuclease protection assay (RPA). In an RPA, the RNA sample is incubated with labeled RNA probes complementary to specific target sequences. After the target sequences and probes hybridize, the sample is treated with ribonuclease to degrade any unhybridized probe, and the "protected" probe/target hybrids are separated on a polyacrylamide gel, detected, and quantitated. Unlike Northern blo
Easing Transgenics
Easing Transgenics
Transgenic animals have been a boon to scientific progress. But long hours spent microinjecting can cause fatigue and reduced efficiency as workers repetitively switch focus between injection and viewing equipment. Microscope manufacturer Leica Microsystems Inc. has teamed up with Eppendorf AG to create the Leica AS TP transgenic platform, an automated system that allows users to keep their eyes on the specimen while adjusting multiple equipment parameters with a single hand movement. The compa

Profession

Partners in Research, Competitors in Pay
Partners in Research, Competitors in Pay
Early in his career, Russ Altman and members of his lab at Stanford University devised a new data analysis strategy. They drafted the manuscript about their approach and, before sending it to a computer science journal, showed it to the biologists whose raw data they had used. These colleagues expressed great distress at seeing their results in the methods paper, and insisted the team delay submitting the manuscript until they prepared a paper detailing the biological conclusions. Altman agreed
Networking: A Career Necessity
Networking: A Career Necessity
A gadabout scientist in business suit and silk tie replaces yesterday's white-coated gent stuck in the lab. Today's life science researcher works in an interactive profession that requires enormous amounts of conversation, idea sharing, and plenty of social skills. "Science is politics," says Alexander Heyl, a genomics researcher at the Max Planck Institute in Berlin, Germany. And networking is part of the politics. "Networking is important because it keeps you current in your field and makes yo
Turning Points: Women Transform the Life Sciences Workplace
Turning Points: Women Transform the Life Sciences Workplace
When I gave birth to my son a couple of years ago, I wondered how I would balance my work and family life, day to day. How would I meet a big deadline if the daycare center informed me my son had a fever? What would happen if my train from the office got delayed? I decided to work at home, and with my husband's help, my family has muddled through. Bench scientists usually can't work at home, however. They can only seek employers who will allow them to dash to daycare centers should their childr
Light Moments in the Lab
Light Moments in the Lab
Groucho Marx, Cleopatra, and Thor. Such popular names from history and mythology often enter discussions in a gene lab, and usually not even during the coffee breaks. Though seemingly trivial, and unrelated to the business of genetics, these mythic monikers not only help postdoc trainees and their mentors weather long hours of workplace toil, but they also offer answers to a tall question: "So what do I name this gene?" Mountains, machines, and maneuvers typically take their discoverers' surname
Funding Opportunities in the Life Sciences
Funding Opportunities in the Life Sciences
Click to view our current database of Funding Opportunities in the Life Sciences.

News Profile

Tracey McNamara
Tracey McNamara
It may still be winter, but the United States is already girding for a resurgence of human West Nile virus infections. This year, the sentinels for the advent of West Nile season will be not only dead crows on city streets or in suburban backyards, but animals at zoos nationwide, thanks to a program that is the brainchild of veterinary pathologist Tracey McNamara of the Wildlife Conservation Society, Bronx, NY. McNamara, who, in 1999, first realized that the dead birds found on the grounds of th