Editorial

Vaccination Undermined
Vaccination Undermined
For more than 200 years, vaccines have made an unparalleled contribution to public health. The writer and commentator Samuel Butler (1835-1902) wrote: "Vaccination is the medical sacrament corresponding to baptism." Considering the list of killer diseases that once held terror and are now under control, including polio, measles, diphtheria, pertussis, rubella, mumps, tetanus, and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), one might expect vaccination to have achieved miracle status, not just sacrame

Opinion

Natural Is Not Necessarily Better
Natural Is Not Necessarily Better
Getty Images The benefits of breastfeeding are so well recognized that pointing out a flaw usually meets with considerable doubt, if not with outright hostility. Yet what holds true for other areas of physiology and medicine holds true here: What is "natural" is not necessarily flawless. Breast milk is a case in point. Maternal immunoglobulins and leukocytes transferred to the infant by colostrum or milk generally bolster the infant's poorly developed immune response.1 However, in some instan

Letter

A Teacher to Remember
A Teacher to Remember
A Teacher to Remember I am very glad to see you giving Roger Williams1 his due. I often think of him when individual differences in response to medications are mentioned, but this is the first time I have seen him mentioned and given credit. I took his course in biochemistry in 1954, and we were well exposed to his star diagrams of individual differences. He did have one characteristic that was irksome to students: On the first day he told us we didn't have to memorize the structural formula
Cleaning Shop
Cleaning Shop
Cleaning Shop I really appreciate that The Scientist has devoted a space for postdoc talk; however, this space should not be filled with just words.1 I do not think that cleaning a lab bench at Harvard or even on the moon is a thrilling piece of work. I hope that The Scientist will focus on rather innovative ideas to help postdocs further enhance their careers instead of how to clean shelves and benches. Dr. Ziad Jaradat Senior Research Scientist SA Scientific San Antonio, Texas jaradat
Power Laws
Power Laws
Power Laws During the 1930s, Kleiber1 put forward a "law"--more correctly, an empirical generalization--stating that standard metabolic rate is proportional to the three-quarters power of body mass. The recent resurgence of interest in the phenomenon caught the attention of Philip Hunter.2 The West model,3-5 which explains that Kleiber's Law features prominently in the resurgence, and Hunter does this model considerable justice in explaining it for the nonspecialist. However, Hunter's arti
On Publishing Questionable Science
On Publishing Questionable Science
On Publishing Questionable Science Why do I have to make excellent laboratory work to make my papers reviewed (not published) in an average journal (impact of 1.2), whereas Mr. Chapela1 published in Nature a work with so many flaws it wouldn't pass my university's PhD committee? Because he works in a controversial field and obtained results that could put corporations in a bad position. But that is not serious science; that is sensationalism. Millán Cortizo Sabugo Unidad de Fisiolog

Frontlines

Shooting Darts and Counting Eggs
Shooting Darts and Counting Eggs
Frontlines | Shooting Darts and Counting Eggs Mark Heine Illustration Garden snails might seem dull, but the reproductive behavior of Helix aspersa is far from it: These hermaphroditic animals shoot darts at their intended after copulation. They also count their eggs before laying them. Tomasz Antkowiak and Ronald Chase at McGill University in Montreal recently discovered a large nerve in the land snail's ovotestis; the nerve monitors the number of eggs inside. Because laying eggs is a hu
Smallpox Vaccination Plan Is 'Kaput'--Or Is It?
Smallpox Vaccination Plan Is 'Kaput'--Or Is It?
Frontlines | Smallpox Vaccination Plan Is 'Kaput'--Or Is It? On Dec. 14, 2002, the Bush Administration announced its plan to vaccinate within a 30-day period about 400,000 to 500,000 healthcare workers and "other critical personnel" against smallpox.1 That plan fizzled amid concerns about possible serious adverse reactions and confusion about who could be vaccinated safely.2 By Oct. 10, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Web site indicated that only 38,542 people are v

Snapshot

Political Scientists
Political Scientists
Our 344 readers who answered our recent survey on political attitudes and involvement show that scientists are not sitting in ivory towers and turning their backs on politics. The majority of the respondents, 76%, regularly discuss politics with friends and family, and 72% keep informed through the media. More than 80% vote in national and local elections, and 21% have written a letter on a political topic to a newspaper or magazine. Of course, it is likely that these politically involved sc

Foundations

DNA Damage Response
DNA Damage Response
Foundations | DNA Damage Response Courtesy of Stephen J. Elledge In 1986, I was trying to identify a RecA-related protein in Saccharomyces cerevisiae whose abundance increased in response to DNA damage. I expected a recombinase but when I cloned the gene, it encoded ribonucleotide reductase, which cross-reacted with the antibody I used. I was initially depressed by these findings. However, I soon realized this meant that eukaryotes took great care to ensure that DNA replication was protect

5-Prime

Birds in Biology: A Chronology
Birds in Biology: A Chronology
5-Prime | Birds in Biology: A Chronology 1835 Charles Darwin first surveyed the now famous finches of the Galapagos Islands, but not until a decade later did he fully understand the implications of his observations and incorporate them into his theory of speciation by natural selection. Since then researchers, including David Lack and Peter and Rosemary Grant, have flocked to the hallowed islands to study competition, evolution, and speciation. 1911 Peyton Rous discovered the first oncog

So They Say

So They Say
So They Say
So They Say "Our research implies that genes account for some of the differences between male and female brains .... If we accept this concept, we must dismiss the myth that homosexuality is a 'choice' ..." --UCLA geneticist Eric Vilain, on his team's reported findings of sexuality genes. From Windy City Times. "The sound is rather like a large jet plane flying 100 feet (30m) above your house in the middle of the night." --University of Washington physicist John Cramer, trying to explain w

Science Seen

No Pumpkin Here
No Pumpkin Here
Science Seen | No Pumpkin Here ©2003 Eye of Science/Photo Researchers Inc.  This electron micrograph, taken by the German science graphics firm Eye of Science, shows the surface of a lavender leaf. The herb's thistly hairs protect the oil sac, but when stressed enough, they pierce the sac and release the fragrant oils. function sendData() { document.frm.pathName.value = location.pathname; result = false if (document.frm.score[0].checked) result = true; if (document.frm

Calendar

December Calendar
December Calendar
December Calendar Click to view enlarged December calendar (170K) --Compiled by Christine Bahls(cbahls@the-scientist.com) function sendData() { document.frm.pathName.value = location.pathname; result = false if (document.frm.score[0].checked) result = true; if (document.frm.score[1].checked) result = true; if (document.frm.score[2].checked) result = true; if (document.frm.score[3].checked) result = true; if (document.frm.score[4].checked) result = true; if (!result) alert("P

Feature

Mechanisms of Speciation
Mechanisms of Speciation
Mechanisms of Speciation New examples of sympatric speciation revive some nagging questions | By Leslie Pray "A new species develops if a population which has become geographically isolated from its parental species acquires during this period of isolation characters which promote or guarantee reproductive isolation when the external barriers break down." --Ernst Mayr, Systematics and the Origin of Species, 19421 The duration of a cell cycle lasts anywhere from one hour to one day; Droso
Ernst Mayr, Darwin's Disciple
Ernst Mayr, Darwin's Disciple
Christine Bahls His hair is pure white; his speech, still tinged with his native German, is a tad slow. The body bows a bit to its achieved 99 years--even living legends shuffle in slippers and need sweaters. Ernst Mayr, who began studying birds and ended up studying the world, who introduced biodiversity into the synthesis of evolutionary biology, thereby evolving a new strain of study, cannot let science go. Each morning, he critiques someone's work, pours over his own pending publication,

Research

All in the Superfamily
All in the Superfamily
Click to view detailed diagram of ATP Binding Cassette Transporters (104K) ATP Binding Cassette (ABC) Transporters are a family of proteins that share fairly conserved ATP binding domains and diverse transmembrane regions. They are found in mutant form in various genetic diseases and are conserved across plants, animals, and prokaryotes (see Hot Papers | A Tale of Two Transporters). Perhaps most startling, though, is the balance sheet. The human's 49 known ABC genes are beat out by fly, worm a
High-Throughput Technology Tackles Circadian Rhythms
High-Throughput Technology Tackles Circadian Rhythms
Like watchmakers, biologists have hunkered down over their respective model organisms, meticulously seeking out biological timekeepers, the genes important for regulating life's internal clock. Up until now, classical approaches had not uncovered the finest details of the machinery that synchronizes life processes with light and darkness, let alone how these rhythms affect behavior and metabolism. "[They] haven't identified genes other than the main components such as the central transcriptio
Saving Statins
Saving Statins
Thom Graves Media Recent findings have some researchers and health professionals calling statins the next aspirin. Some 25 million people worldwide take these enzyme inhibitors to lower cholesterol, creating a nearly $20 billion (US) market in the process. But just as aspirin has expanded its repertoire beyond headaches, statins are showing promise in treating ailments such as Alzheimer disease, multiple sclerosis, and osteoporosis, and some researchers think they could prevent cancer. Nevert
Hormone Therapy in Rehab
Hormone Therapy in Rehab
 A COMPOUND SCREEN:Screening strategy used to (A) identify mechanistically distinct antiprogestins and (B) to identify estrogen receptor (ER)-sparing antiprogestins.Click for larger version of diagram (33K) Progestins, synthetic progesterone analogs, joined estrogen as part of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) some two decades ago, to reduce perceived risks of endometrial cancer from estrogen alone. But for almost as long, researchers have suspected that progestins block some benign effec

Hot Paper

A Tale of Two Transporters
A Tale of Two Transporters
Courtesy of Kaspar Locher  B12 TRANSPORTER EXPOSED: Ribbon diagram of the B12 transporter BtuCD from E. coli, with cyclotetravanadate bound at the ATP-binding sites. The transporter is assembled from four subunits, two each of the membrane spanning BtuC (yellow and red) and the cytoplasmic BtuD (green and blue). The ATP binding cassette transporters epitomize nature's ability to re-use a successful protein motif. With diverse membrane-spanning regions, but highly conserved soluble ATP bi

Research Briefs

Research Briefs
Research Briefs
Risky Trials Could Herald Cure for Prion Disease Patients with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease generally face inevitable neurological decline and death. But, researchers are following closely the case of UK teenager Jonathan Simms, whose symptoms have been halted after he received 12 intracerebral injections of pentosan polysulfate (PPS) that started in January 2003. "By rights we would have expected him to have died eight months ago," says Stephen Dealler, a consultant microbiologist at East Lanc

Technology Front Page

Front Page
Front Page
SOFTWARE WATCH | Green Tea, Anyone? Scientists who have unlimited hardware budgets, a dedicated IT staff versed in the arcana of networks, and lots of time on their hands probably find setting up a computer cluster a breeze. Everyone else knows it's difficult and expensive. A new Java software program called GreenTea (www.greenteatech.com) offers an alternative. Instead of a cluster, GreenTea works as a peer-to-peer client, chopping large computing tasks into smaller, more workable fragmen

Technology Profile

Antibody Drug Development: On Target
Antibody Drug Development: On Target
Courtesy of Abbott Laboratories  BETTER LIVING THROUGH IMMUNOLOGY: Though the exact cause of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is unknown, people suffering from the disease have an excess of tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-a) that accumulates in their joints. Abbott Laboratories' Humira, a humanized monoclonal antibody that targets TNF-a, helps prevent the inflammation characteristic of RA and inhibits the progression of structural joint damage. As soon as Köhler and Milstein described hyb
Microplate Reader Madness
Microplate Reader Madness
Courtesy of Cellomics The ArrayScan VTI HCS Reader Microtiter plates have become standard consumables in both research and clinical laboratories. Also known as microwells and microplates, microtiter plates essentially are flat trays bearing a number of isolated reaction chambers, from six to 1,536, and arranged in a 3n x 2n array (e.g., for a 96-well plate, n=4). All the plates share a common footprint (approximately 128 x 86 mm) regardless of manufacturer and configuration, so that robot
Hands-On Power
Hands-On Power
Courtesy of Mike Curtis  TAG, YOU'RE SICK! School children learn about communicable diseases with handheld computers and a program called Cooties. In the 1830s, Charles Darwin used a pen and paper to document finches and other fauna and flora in the Galápagos Islands. For the next century and a half, most scientists relied on the same tools to take notes or collect data. Today, Dave Anderson, associate professor of biology at Wake Forest University, follows in Darwin's footsteps--

Profession Front Page

Front Page
Front Page
FUNDING FORUM | GMO Shade Genetically modified organisms are growing on trees. No, they are trees. More than 200 notices of field trials for genetically-engineered (GE) trees have been filed in the United States during the past decade, with about half coming since 2000. In addition to making trees disease- and insect-resistant, researchers hope to genetically engineer bioremediation traits so trees can help remove environmental toxins. Other goals include accelerating tree growth and reducin

Profession

AstraZeneca Early-Risk Research Strategy On Trial
AstraZeneca Early-Risk Research Strategy On Trial
Courtesy of AstraZeneca The purple profit machine driven by AstraZeneca's $6 billion flagship medication, Prilosec, finally wound down last year. Once the world's largest selling prescription drug, the patents have expired, and the bright purple pill is now pink and sells over the counter at cut-rate pricing alongside Tums and Pepto-Bismol. Shares of the company sank with Prilosec's fortunes, and some analysts questioned whether AstraZeneca, the world's fifth-largest drug maker, would rebound
Tempted by Biotech in Toronto
Tempted by Biotech in Toronto
Courtesy of Bill Latta After 14 years in North Carolina's Research Triangle Park, Judd Berman decided it was time for a change. As he looked around, says Berman, former director of high-throughput chemistry for GlaxoSmithKline, he was certain he'd end up in San Diego, where he has relatives. But an unexpected invitation from a Toronto biotech startup called Affinium Pharmaceuticals intrigued him. "I fell in love with the people as well as the city itself," Berman explains, a year after reloca
Fitting into Research Careers
Fitting into Research Careers
Courtesy of Paul Cohen Andrey Frolov As the October sun streams through the seventh-floor windows at the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, Andrey Frolov ponders a career choice that he didn't expect to wrestle with for another decade. "I'm still thinking about what I want to do," confesses Frolov, a 27-year-old physician, who is finishing his postdoctorate in molecular biology. "I think I would like to teach, so I want to see myself employed in a university setting. But there are a
Rejection
Rejection
Gerad Taylor Your grant went unscored; the review panel returned the manuscript without review. Your reaction may reveal how well you deal with rejection, and even whether you want to pursue a science career. Still angry? You say the reviewers were, um, less than intelligent? That may not be a constructive reaction, according to studies and experts. A study by ecologists Phillip Cassey of Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris and Tim Blackburn of University of Birmingham, UK, examined failure-to-

Postdoc Talk

Explore the World at Your Bench
Explore the World at Your Bench
Courtesy of James Loss In today's fast-paced, publish-or-peril world of science, it is difficult for a postdoc to focus on anything but work. We can be so focused on research that we fail to take the time to get to know our colleagues. Yet, academia offers a unique setting where intelligent people from all over the world have a chance not only to work together, but to learn from one another as well. One encounter has developed into a friendship I could never have imagined, for our similaritie

Closing Bell

A Biomedical DARPA? Yes, But Not at NIH
A Biomedical DARPA? Yes, But Not at NIH
Creating a health-research counterpart to DARPA, the Pentagon's legendary Defense Advanced Research Project Agency, makes tremendous sense. DARPA, the freewheeling, cash-laden nest of sci-tech wizards, sired the Internet, stealth technology, the global positioning system, the Predator unmanned aircraft, and many more innovations throughout the Cold War and beyond. Call the biomedical version BARPA, and let it roll. Great. But if it's going to happen--and there's currently an influential prop