November 1997

News

Science, Policy Issues Put AIDS Vaccine On Slow Track
Science, Policy Issues Put AIDS Vaccine On Slow Track
The start of a clinical trial with an AIDS vaccine developed by French company Pasteur-Mérieux Connaught made front-page news in several major papers in September. The vaccine, composed of three HIV genes inserted into a canarypox vector, was administered to 420 human volunteers in a Phase II trial that tested the vaccine's safety and ability to provoke an immune response. Some researchers view the undertaking as one more trial of a technology that is unlikely to result in a useful compo
NIH Research Funding Reality Fails To Keep Pace With Rhetoric
NIH Research Funding Reality Fails To Keep Pace With Rhetoric
SCIENCE PRIORITY: Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Texas) is sponsoring legislation to double all nondefense research funding in 10 years. Congress has been discussing proposals to double biomedical research funding over five years, double nondefense research funding over 10 years, and raise additional funds to benefit science. So should scientists start celebrating a renaissance in research funding? INFLATION EROSION: AAAS's Al Teich notes that science funding in many categories has declined over the pas
National HIV Reporting Approaches, But Privacy Remains Paramount
National HIV Reporting Approaches, But Privacy Remains Paramount
TIME TO RETHINK: The old discussions about reporting HIV infection must be reviewed in light of a changing epidemic, says CDC's John Ward. As the AIDS epidemic enters a new phase of changing demographics and combination drug therapy, support is mounting for a national system of HIV case reporting. Even some civil rights activists who previously opposed HIV reporting now are admitting the need for it to help contain the elusive disease. However, the long-debated question of whether HIV-positive
Office Of Alternative Medicine Gets Unexpected Boost
Office Of Alternative Medicine Gets Unexpected Boost
A proposal to elevate the National Institutes of Health's Office of Alternative Medicine (OAM) into an institute fell short during the appropriations process, but a 60 percent increase in funding represents a victory of sorts for the office. The $8-million boost proposed by a conference committee would raise OAM's current $12-million budget to $20 million for FY1998. The conference committee's decision was a surprise considering earlier requests. The House and the Clinton administration both so
The Indispensable Dispenser: The Micropipetter
The Indispensable Dispenser: The Micropipetter
Distributed by Vanguard International, the Proline is available in five separate models that cover a total volume range of 0.5 µl to 5 ml. Volume is adjusted by turning the piston knob; each incremental change is accompanied by an audible "click" that sets the volume. The digital display window is located on the side of the barrel and is visible during right-handed use. Tip ejection is achieved by depressing a thumb-controlled button on the back of the handle, and a balancing hook on the fr

Cartoon

Cartoon
Cartoon
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Opinion

Homelessness Should Be Treated As A Major Health Issue
Homelessness Should Be Treated As A Major Health Issue
It is incongruous that in an era of great economic strength, with low unemployment, low inflation, a booming stock market, and high consumer optimism, a walk down the streets of any of our metropolises will reveal homeless people who are bedraggled, poor, and in many cases disabled by illness. It is all the more perturbing when one considers that these visibly destitute individuals, the sight of whom often offends the sensibilities of passersby, represent the mere tip of an iceberg of poverty

Commentary

Lessons From The Trenches
Lessons From The Trenches
Does your department have a bully who routinely belittles and berates the support staff or rules his or her students through fear and intimidation? Do you have a colleague whom you've learned not to trust on matters small or large? If this conduct is going unaddressed, you are party to a pattern that is inimical to an academic community, because academic communities rely upon truth, trust, and collegial behavior to function well. Alone, you may not be able to change this behavior, but you can c

Letter

Electronic Dissertations
Electronic Dissertations
In what seems like a parody of the academic process, C. Robert Phillips III, a classics professor at Lehigh University, suggests that Ph.D. dissertations be filed and forgotten, rather than exposed to public view (P. Gwynne, "Electronic Posting Of Dissertations Produces Publishing Dilemmas," The Scientist, Oct. 27, 1997, page 1). He worries: "In five years' time, people may not want to be associated with their Ph.D. dissertations. With my own, I thought: 'I'm really glad that this isn't on libr
Transgenic Insects
Transgenic Insects
We read with interest Harvey Black's recent article on transgenic insects ("Scientists Refining Methods For Genetically Altering Insects," The Scientist, Oct. 13, 1997, page 1). While the report was timely and informative and included the majority of the major transposon systems being examined for this purpose, the highly promising results that have been obtained using the piggyBac transposon in diverse insect orders were overlooked. This short, inverted-repeat transposon was originally isolate
Defining Evolution
Defining Evolution
Robert Moss's desire to clarify the meaning of "evolution" for students is one that I share. Unfortunately, in his Opinion piece (R. Moss, "The Problem with Evolution: Where Have We Gone Wrong?", The Scientist, Oct. 13, 1997, page 7), Moss perpetuates an elementary confusion. He writes that evolution "is correctly defined as 'descent with modification.'" Fine. But just a few lines down he agrees with Darwin that evolution is "a process of change over time, by natural selection. Period." Evidenc

Research

Advances Help Researchers To See The Cornea More Clearly
Advances Help Researchers To See The Cornea More Clearly
The cornea used to be the Rodney Dangerfield of the eye. Once jokingly dismissed as a mere dust cover by scientists who study the retina, the cornea is gaining new respect as research reveals its complexities. IMPETUS FOR INTEREST: UC-Davis's Mark Mannis maintains that advances in technology and molecular and cell biology are spurring interest in cornea research. "Probably the reason for the interest, first of all, is the burgeoning technology in refractive surgery and in implantation devices

Hot Paper

Biochemistry
Biochemistry
Edited by: Paul Smaglik J.G. Herman, A. Merlo, L. Mao, R.G. Lapidus, J.J. Issa, N.E. Davidson, D. Sidransky, S.B. Baylin, "Inactivation of the CDKN2/p16/MTS1 gene is frequently associated with aberrant DNA methylation in all common human cancers," Cancer Research, 55:4525-30, 1995. (Cited in more than 145 publications through October 1997) Comments by James G. Herman and Stephen B. Baylin, Johns Hopkins University Oncology Center During the high-profile days of genome building and gene sequenc
Signal Transduction
Signal Transduction
Edited by: Paul Smaglik D.R. Alessi, A. Cuenda, P. Cohen, D.T. Dudley, A.R. Saltiel, "PD098059 is a specific inhibitor of mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase in vitro and in vivo," Journal of Biological Chemistry, 270:27489-94, 1995. (Cited in more than 150 publications through October 1997) Comments by Alan R. Saltiel, department of signal transduction, Parke-Davis, Ann Arbor, Mich. The chemical signals triggering cellular growth resemble multiple pathways more closely than a single trail

Profession

Instructors Reconsider Dissection's Role In Biology Classes
Instructors Reconsider Dissection's Role In Biology Classes
HONING SKILLS: Trinity biologist Robert Blystone says dissection provides the opportunity for students to develop scientific observational skills. Poring over a frog's insides once was nearly synonymous with biology class. Although many life scientists contend that dissection is crucial to understanding body form and function, several factors have converged to challenge such use of animals in the classroom. "The dissection of anatomical specimens such as the fetal pig has fallen on hard times

Technology

Gene Whiz: Gene Construction Kit 2 (GCK2) from Textco, Inc.
Gene Whiz: Gene Construction Kit 2 (GCK2) from Textco, Inc.
Textco Inc. a software company based in West Lebanon, N.H., has introduced an updated version of its Gene Construction Kit for the design and tracking of complex plasmids. This version incorporates a number of features not contained in the original version, many of which were suggested by users. The original Gene Construction Kit, released in 1990, was given a perfect 10 rating by Biotechnology Software and Internet Journal for the "wealth of functions for publication quality graphics, database
Protein Polyacrylamide Gel Electrophoresis in Half the Time with Novex's NuPAGE Neutral pH Electrophoresis System
Protein Polyacrylamide Gel Electrophoresis in Half the Time with Novex's NuPAGE Neutral pH Electrophoresis System
Consistency may be the hobgoblin of small minds, but it is absolutely essential to studies requiring electrophoretic separations of proteins. Consistency, high resolution, and stability are all important when trying to determine levels of protein expression, for example, or when documenting a purification scheme of a protein. Novex's latest offering of precast polyacrylamide gels, the NuPAGE Neutral pH Electrophoresis System, provides advantages in all these areas. Western blot of proteins syn
Automated Immunostaining From BioGenex: The OptiMax Plus Automated Cell Staining System
Automated Immunostaining From BioGenex: The OptiMax Plus Automated Cell Staining System
Simplicity, high throughput, reagent compatibility-all considerations when searching for an automated cell stainer. BioGenex (San Ramon, Calif.) has addressed these considerations with its OptiMax Plus Automated Cell Staining System, available in two system configurations. The Open System configuration includes a programmable user interface for custom protocols with up to 16 user-defined steps. Special rinsing, blocking, and pause/alarm steps can be introduced at any step. Simplified Cell Cult

Technology Profile

Kits to Dye For: A Profile of Sequencing Kits for Automated DNA Sequencers
Kits to Dye For: A Profile of Sequencing Kits for Automated DNA Sequencers
Date: November 10, 1997 Chart 1 In the long series of events inherent in automated DNA sequencing, cranking out DNA labeled with fluorescent tags is, of course, the most important element of a successful procedure. Without properly labeled sequence ladders to analyze, those expensive, automated DNA sequencers have little to do. So to keep them busy, LabConsumer checked out fluorescent automated DNA sequencing kits from eight manufacturers. The kits profiled exploit two methods for labeling se
Readers In The Storm: A Profile Of Automated DNA Sequencers
Readers In The Storm: A Profile Of Automated DNA Sequencers
Date: November 10, 1997 Chart 1 Chart 2 It was a busy evening at The Eagle. Less than half a century ago, inside this small Cambridge pub, two gentlemen raised their glasses to salute their remarkable genetic findings. At the time, the two men (and a few close colleagues) were the only souls on the planet privy to the molecular structure of DNA. Does it seem odd, then, that researchers around the globe could be toasting the description of the entire human genome less than ten years from now? Y

Notebook

Notebook
Notebook
Putting the Freeze on Menopause In Defense of Pesticides Pushing Drug Discovery Race and Health Tumor Stopper Jewel of a Specimen Birth of a Journal Conservation Wins GOLDEN EGG: Michael Tucker caused a media stir when he facilitated the birth of twins using frozen eggs. The birth of twins rarely makes national headlines. But this pair, whose birth was announced on the front page of the New York Times on October 17, sparked a flurry of media attention. A team of researchers at Reproductive Bi