October 2000

News

Humor: A Mind-body Connection
Humor: A Mind-body Connection
Bill Marx, Harpo Marx's son, makes a "Harpo" face for Justin Ybarra, a patient at the Mattel UCLA Children's Hospital during the Rx Laughter advisory board tour in April. It Came from Hollywood If the scientific community at large was hesitating, the idea that laughter could help heal began emerging on other fronts. Rx Laughter actually came straight from Hollywood, the brainstorm of Sherry Dunay Hilber, a former ABC and CBS network programming executive who oversaw such hit sitcoms as Home Im
Research and Human Subjects
Research and Human Subjects
Times are difficult for researchers using human subjects. Over the past few years the federal Office for the Prevention of Research Risk has temporarily lifted the authority of a number of prestigious institutions to do such research. They included, according to the Office of Human Research Protection, OPRR's successor agency, Duke University Medical Center, Virginia Commonwealth University, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Rush Presbyterian St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago, and the
Biocomplexity: A New Science For Survival?
Biocomplexity: A New Science For Survival?
Excerpts from Rita Colwell's interview with The Scientist.This interview was not published in the print edition. Q. Is biocomplexity your own idea? A. The biocomplexity initiative was begun at NSF after I arrived, building on programs already instituted, such as Life in Extreme Environments. The fundamental and underlying principle is that we must move from strictly reductionist research to research that synthesizes information and work toward a holistic approach to understanding and wisely m
Nature Averts a Disaster
Nature Averts a Disaster
Photo: Susan L. EggertSo much rain fell on North Carolina during the 1999 hurricanes that the water that normally stays in the sound for about a year flushed out to sea in only two months. Has Pamlico Sound become another 'Dead Zone,' a twin of the infamous dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico?1 According to researchers tracking water quality in the sound over the past year, the answer is a resounding "No." One year ago, three hurricanes--Dennis, Floyd, then Irene--slammed into the North Caro
Scientific Analysis: No AIDS-Polio Vaccine Link
Scientific Analysis: No AIDS-Polio Vaccine Link
At a Sept. 11 meeting of the Royal Society of London, convened to discuss the origin of HIV/AIDS, researchers aired scientific data showing that the hypothesis that HIV/AIDS originated from an experimental oral polio vaccine had no scientific merit. The hypothesis was popularized by journalist Edward Hooper in his 1999 book, The River,1 and supported by the late evolutionary biologist William Hamilton. It states that a type of oral poliovirus vaccine (OPV) called CHAT, produced by Hilary Koprows
News Notes
News Notes
Mount Sinai School of Medicine, in collaboration with international researchers, recently announced one of the first studies using the completed sequence of a human chromosome to localize, identify, and explain the function of a disease-causing gene. According to John A. Martignetti, of the departments of human genetics and pediatrics, Mount Sinai Medical School, and one of the project's researchers, working with a 112-plus member Italian family with the inherited bleeding disorder known as May-

Letter

The EPA and Scientists (1)
The EPA and Scientists (1)
The Scientist has presented an important problem, the appropriate use of science within the Environmental Protection Agency.1 If the agency gets really serious about this objective, then it could adopt a model pioneered by the sister agency, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). The NRC has an atomic safety and licensing board panel whose membership includes lawyers, scientists, and engineers. When important cases arise, they are referred to a licensing board for an initial decision, r
The EPA and Scientists (2)
The EPA and Scientists (2)
The author makes a reasoned case for promoting more scientifically based decision-making at the EPA.1 Look closely at his case studies, however, and a clear pattern emerges. He chooses only to take issue with those EPA decisions that restricted corporate interests without, in his opinion, sufficient scientific basis. No mention is made of situations where regulations or enforcement are more lax than scientific evidence would demand. As "damning" evidence, the author quotes a 1992 report that s
The EPA and Scientists (3)
The EPA and Scientists (3)
In general, I think that scientific research needs to be used more in policy evaluation. However, transferring decision-making authority to scientists is, I believe, inappropriate. We scientists need to remember that policy formation is a political process and should not be anything else. It is through debate, discussion, and negotiation among the public at large that policies that affect the public at large should be chosen. Rather than seeking positions of power that avoid the dirty business o

Cartoon

Cartoon
Cartoon
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Commentary

Creative Solutions Are Needed to Protect Digital Information
Creative Solutions Are Needed to Protect Digital Information
We've all gotten a temporary--and likely short-lived--reprieve from front-page news stories about the lawsuit against Napster, the popular Internet music-sharing service. Events in that case so far illustrate the complexities of protecting and sharing copyrighted information in the digital age: Although a district judge ordered the site to shut down, an appeals court granted an emergency stay the next day, indicating that significant questions remain to be answered. Whatever the eventual

Research

Is Pollution Causing Cancer in Beluga Whales?
Is Pollution Causing Cancer in Beluga Whales?
Photo: Marco Langlois. University of Montreal This female beluga whale was found dead floating in the St. Lawrence near Tadoussac, Quebec. The head of her calf was visible at the external genital opening when the whale was submitted for postmortem. The St. Lawrence River is so polluted, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation warns people who fish the river off New York's shores not to eat any American eel, channel catfish, carp, Chinook salmon, lake trout over 25 inches in
Research Notes
Research Notes
HIV Hitches a Ride The statistics are grim: More than 34 million people worldwide affected with HIV/AIDS, and 800,000- 900,000 cases in the United States with a steady rate of 40,000 new HIV infections each year. Fueled by such statistics, HIV research continues with scientists at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) recently discovering a mechanism providing insight into the pathogenesis of the virus in which HIV may hitch a ride from select cells to target cells.

Hot Paper

Master Cell Controller
Master Cell Controller
For this article, Eugene Russo interviewed Yosef Shiloh, a professor of human genetics at Tel Aviv University's Sackler School of Medicine, and Michael Kastan, chairman, department of hematology-oncology at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn. Data from the Web of Science (ISI, Philadelphia) show that Hot Papers are cited 50 to 100 times more often than the average paper of the same type and age. S. Banin, L. Moyal, S.Y. Shieh, Y. Taya, C.W. Anderson, L. Chessa, N.I. Smorodin

Technology

Hidden in the Details
Hidden in the Details
Courtesy of Optronics Live dinoflagellate image Image Content Technology LLC of New Britain, Conn., has developed Lucis software, an easy-to-use image processing tool that improves image contrast and uncovers previously hidden image details. According to company president and chief executive officer Barbara Williams, Lucis enhances contrast patterns in color and black and white images based on variations in intensity. Desired features are enhanced and unimportant details diminished, resul
Now That's Service
Now That's Service
Microarray enthusiasts take note: It is now possible to study relative changes in the expression levels of hundreds of proteins simultaneously thanks to the new PowerBlot Western Array Screening Service offered by BD Transduction Laboratories, a division of BD Biosciences located in Lexington, Ky. With an approach that complements the current nucleic acid methods for monitoring gene expression, this novel service analyzes cellular changes on the protein level and provides a powerful tool for pro
Combating Phage Rage
Combating Phage Rage
Life Technologies' MAX Efficiency DH5a Competent Cells now guard against infection by bacteriophage T5 In the past, a researcher may have lost an Escherichia coli culture to a phage infection and just chalked it up to a failed transformation or inoculation. According to Heather Lustig, marketing manager for Life Technologies of Rockville, Md., bacteriophage contamination didn't really become a major concern until genome centers began sequencing large numbers of clones in parallel. Whereas good

Technology Profile

Well Read
Well Read
Microplate Readers Microplate Readers (continued) Laboratory nights are interrupted every so often by the noise of a microplate reader finishing up one plate, then another, and another. But everybody--researchers and students alike--is sound asleep at home, thanks to the newest bunch of microplate reading and juggling machines. The microplate reader was created from the tube spectrophotometer designs of the 1970s to save precious antibody samples. At first clumsy and inaccurate, absorbance mic
Delivering the Goods
Delivering the Goods
Gene Delivery Systems Stratagene's AdEasy adenoviral vector system One of the most promising approaches to treating genetic diseases, infectious diseases, and cancer is gene therapy, in which genes are transferred directly to an organism. These transferred genes may replace defective genes or target cancerous tissue for selective inhibition of gene activity. Gene therapy has the potential to treat the cause of disease at the genetic level. In ex vivo gene therapy, cells with defective genes ar

Profession

Another Study Raps Ph.D. Overproduction
Another Study Raps Ph.D. Overproduction
Shirley M. Tilghman At a meeting right after Labor Day, Princeton University's molecular biology department surveyed the plans of its recently graduated seniors, and professor Shirley M. Tilghman wasn't happy with the results. Thirty-one out of 72 students awarded bachelor's degrees last June were going to medical school, eight planned to do community-service work--and only three were heading directly for Ph.D. or M.D.-Ph.D. programs. Recalling the meeting, Tilghman notes that the cohort of do
Profession Notes
Profession Notes
DOE to Increase Women Scientists in Workforce Fueled by a booming economy, unemployment record lows have caused concern about the nation's future workforce in foundational areas such as science, engineering, and technology. The federal government is among concerned employers. Department of Energy secretary Bill Richardson says, "The Department of Energy, like the rest of America, has a soaring demand for a technically skilled workforce." DOE points out that in the next two decades, the workfor

Opinion

Evaluation of Scientific Productivity
Evaluation of Scientific Productivity
As the amount of scientific research proliferates and science becomes more costly to produce, funding agencies around the world are increasingly interested in objectively assessing the quality of academic research. Several governments with centralized academic funding mechanisms (e.g., the United Kingdom and Australia) have already implemented research evaluation systems and distribute at least a portion of research funding on the basis of quality assessments. The National Science Foundation is