October 2001

News

Human Genes: How Many?
Human Genes: How Many?
Counting human genes ought to be straightforward. Tracking telltale signs--motifs for promoters, translation start sites, splice sites, CpG islands--gene counters must by now be mopping up, finalizing chromosomal locations of every human gene already known, and predicting whereabouts of all the rest. Insert one human genome sequence, turn the bioinformatics crank, and genes gush out like a slot machine jackpot, right? "No, no, no," says Bo Yuan, of Ohio State University, having a laugh over th
Lasker Ceremony: Homage Amidst Angst
Lasker Ceremony: Homage Amidst Angst
Shaken but not disheartened by events 10 days prior, some of the world's leading biomedical scientists gathered in New York, Sept. 21, to honor scientific achievement at the 2001 Lasker Awards ceremony. As James Fordyce, chairman of the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation, welcomed attendees, he asked that they view the World Trade Center wreckage "as a reminder of the precious value of life" and that they "not be deterred" from the life-saving mission of research. Echoing these sentiments through
Mapping Subtelomeres
Mapping Subtelomeres
In genetics, certain terms sometimes mask what scientists do not yet understand, such as "junk DNA." Similarly, the chromosomal regions just proximal to the tips--the subtelomeres--have been dubbed "buffers," ill-defined DNA sequences that somehow support the telomeres, which control the cell cycle and cellular aging. A team of researchers from the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia, the University of California, Irvine, and John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, UK, has used single-copy sequences in
News Notes
News Notes
The Rat Genome Sequencing Consortium announced in September that it had reached a major milestone: the three billionth base pair. From February to September 2001, researchers from this public and private collaboration surged forward to collect the first genome's worth of Rat DNA data at an average pace of 15 million bases per day. Using both shotgun sequencing techniques and the clone-by-clone method, the group is surging to cutting the coverage time in half. Richard Gibbs, director of the Baylo
Oxygen: Putting a Human Face on Science
Oxygen: Putting a Human Face on Science
Oxygen--the 'science-in-fiction' play written by chemists Carl Djerassi and Roald Hoffmann--will permeate the Royal Institution as it debuts in London Oct. 27. With the premiere at the San Diego Repertory Theater in California and publication of the play (Wiley-VCH) last Spring, Djerassi, also known as 'Father of The Pill,' and Nobel laureate Hoffmann garnered kudos from an A-list of science 'critics' and respectable notice in theater circles. From Nobel laureates Harold Varmus and Murray Gell-M
In Cancer Research, Diet and Exercise Roles Strengthen
In Cancer Research, Diet and Exercise Roles Strengthen
The theory that a healthy diet and regular exercise can be key factors in staving off cancer surfaces again. The latest support comes from researchers spanning from the United Kingdom, across the Atlantic, to the shores of the Pacific Ocean--researchers at the Imperial College of Medicine and the UK's Institute of Food Research studying colon cancer, and investigators at the University of California at Los Angeles looking into prostate cancer. The UCLA researchers found that a low-fat, high-fib

Commentary

Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase)
Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase)
When I was young, my mother's father used to read me a poem by the English poet, Leigh Hunt, entitled "Abou Ben Adhem." The poem narrates the story of Abu Ben Adhem, who wakes up one night "from a deep sleep of peace" to find "An Angel writing in a book of gold." Emboldened by the "exceeding peace" of the setting, he asks the angel what he is writing. The angel tells him that he is making a list of those who love the Lord. Abu asks whether his name is on the list. He's told that it is not. In th
The Science Behind Stem Cell Research
The Science Behind Stem Cell Research
President Bush's recent decision to allow federal funding of limited research using embryonic stem cells followed weeks of heated debate among scientists, policymakers, medical experts, and patient advocates. At the heart of the controversy are the complicated moral and legal issues surrounding the source of these stem cells, since those that are most valuable to scientists can only be obtained from human embryos. Yet stem cells may offer unprecedented opportunities for developing new therapies

Research

Bitter-Sweet Research
Bitter-Sweet Research
By design, humans crave sweet-tasting foods, which supply necessary calories, and avoid bitter-tasting foods, which could be poisonous. But an individual's genetic makeup can acutely tune taste buds. Visitors to Linda Bartoshuk's Yale University lab can take a simple taste test to discover genetic influences on their food intake. The test measures sensitivity to the chemical 6-n-propyl-thiouracil, which is intensely bitter to acute taste buds, moderately bitter to a medium taste bud, and tastele
A New Role for a Kinase Subunit
A New Role for a Kinase Subunit
Once, researchers thought that only the kinase IKKb--and not its second catalytic subunit, IKKa--had a direct role in activating NF-kB, the much-studied transcription factor that is implicated in activating genes responsible for inflammatory responses and apoptosis.1 However, new research by Michael Karin, professor of pharmacology at the University of California, San Diego, and colleagues at Pennsylvania State University and the University of Ulm, Germany, have demonstrated the role of IKKa in
A Genomic View of Oceanic Life
A Genomic View of Oceanic Life
Last year, scientists discovered a unique, energy-generating, light-absorbing protein previously unknown to exist in oceanic life. They named the protein proteorhodopsin.1 The bacteria that harbor it are a distinct phylogenetic group known as SAR86. This year, scientists learned that as much as 10 percent of the ocean's surface is occupied by these proteorhodopsin-containing bacteria--as many as 1x105 cells per milliliter of sea water.2 The researchers, led by marine microbiologist Edward DeLo
Estrogen Replacement and Cognition: Ready for Prime Time?
Estrogen Replacement and Cognition: Ready for Prime Time?
While estrogen replacement therapy shows promise in helping post-menopausal women preserve important cognitive abilities such as memory, its effectiveness is still being questioned. In studies at the National Institutes of Health and at the University of California, Los Angeles, researchers have demonstrated that in some women, this hormone alters brain blood flow and improves performance on certain mental tests. But other studies are not as definitive, suggesting that improved cognitive abiliti
Research Notes
Research Notes
It once took several months, even years, to identify the role of a particular gene. Thanks to a breakthrough from researchers at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, those months have been reduced to days. By removing transposons from Drosophila and then inserting and activating them in Caenorhabditis elegans, the group developed a new technique that will speed up gene identification (J.L. Bessereau et al., "Mobilization of a Drosophila transposon in the Caenorhabditis elegans germ line," N

Hot Paper

Identifying the First Sleep-Related Genes
Identifying the First Sleep-Related Genes
For this article, Jennifer Fisher Wilson interviewed Emmanuel Mignot, Center for Narcolepsy, department of psychiatry, Stanford University School of Medicine, in Stanford, Calif., and Masashi Yanagisawa, Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, department of molecular genetics, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. 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.

Technology

SearchLight Increases Throughput
SearchLight Increases Throughput
ELISAs, a quick and reliable way of quantifying protein concentrations, have a significant drawback in the age of high-throughput experiments: Each ELISA only measures the concentration of a single protein. Although the amount of sample volume required to test for a single analyte is not large, volume can become a limiting factor when assaying several proteins. The Pierce Boston Technology Center offers a way around this problem with its new SearchLight™ Proteome Arrays, which measure the
Card Addresses Multiple Concerns
Card Addresses Multiple Concerns
In most labs, refrigerator and freezer storage space are commodities as valuable as oceanfront real estate. Naturally, the death of one of these appliances incites nothing less than a panic, because all of those precious samples have to go someplace cold, and quickly. Now researchers can eliminate hours of worry and frustration with just a few minutes' work, using CloneSaver™ 96 cards from Clifton, N.J.-based Whatman Bioscience. Used as either a primary or backup storage system, these card

Bench Buys

Bench Buys
Bench Buys
Gene Tec Corp. of Durham, N.C., has introduced the Gene Flow™ Chamber, an innovative liquid handling device for microarray processing. The Gene Flow Chamber uses a capillary system for flow and mixing and facilitates uniform hybridization over a 2-cm square array. The chamber eliminates the need for valves or a pressurized fluid system. Gene Tec Corp.(919) 493-2022www.ncbiotech.org/genetec.htm Glow and Behold BioVision of Mountain View, Calif., is offering a 20 percent discount on its Ca

Technology Profile

Software Solutions to Proteomics Problems
Software Solutions to Proteomics Problems
As genome sequencing becomes a regular occurrence, biology's attention can turn to the next logical step: proteomics. Fundamentally, proteomics is nothing less than the complete catalog of every protein in a given tissue, organ, or organism under a defined growth or disease state. Sometimes this definition is expanded to include protein-protein interactions. The data describe the types and quantities of proteins present and also indicate other proteins with which these molecules are complexed.
Spectrophotometers: An Absorbing Tale
Spectrophotometers: An Absorbing Tale
In 1940, nearly 30 years after Danish physicist Neils Bohr explained how light energy affects the electrons orbiting atomic nuclei, Coleman Instruments produced an instrument to take advantage of this principle. The device was an attachment to the company's pH meter that could measure absorbance of light in the ultraviolet (UV) region.1 In the 61 years since, absorption spectroscopy has become one of the most widely used analytical techniques in scientific research. Investigators routinely emplo

Profession

Training for the Bioinformatics Boon
Training for the Bioinformatics Boon
Call it a nerd's world. The explosion in genomic and proteomics research has ignited the demand for life scientists who can write computer code or make sense of the complex algorithms of genome sequencing research. The bioinformatics discipline preceded the genomic revolution, but because of the human genome research and its related studies, scientists with a yen for binary code can just about name their salaries at the world's burgeoning biotech companies. Feeling constricted by commerce? Big
Cathy Wu at the Crossroads
Cathy Wu at the Crossroads
Even standing still, Cathy H. Wu gives the impression of being on the move. In the foyer of the National Biomedical Research Foundation (NBRF) at Georgetown University, she listens while founder and president Robert S. Ledley tells an anecdote to a visitor. Wu, diminutive and neat in a lilac blouse and dark slacks, smiles and almost imperceptibly fidgets in place until it's time to lead a visitor away. Then she's off, veering around the corner toward the library like a commuter spotting a gap in
Federal Aid Boosts Stem Cell Job Market
Federal Aid Boosts Stem Cell Job Market
Scientists with experience cultivating stem cell lines may profit from an expansion of private and public investment sparked by President George W. Bush's decision to provide limited federal funding for human embryonic stem cell (ESC) research. Tommy Thompson, secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) last month suggested that a "ballpark" of $100 million in federal funding for human ESC research would be available for research starting in early 2002. This money will top the $250 million in f
Profession Notes
Profession Notes
The Japanese government wants US life scientists to help transform Japan into a science and technology powerhouse, according to Koji Omi, minister of state for science and technology policy. Many jobs are available in laboratories and university research centers. "Because we believe that the life sciences have great potential to benefit humanity, the plan [the Second Basic Plan for Science and Technology, effective April 1] places strategic importance on this field," Omi recently told representa
Funding Opportunites in the Life Sciences
Funding Opportunites in the Life Sciences
Click to view our current database of Funding Opportunites in the Life Sciences.

Opinion

Science is Service
Science is Service
Like it did for so many others on the East Coast of the United States, my day of Sept. 11, 2001 dawned clear and bright. Later, the day would grow warm, but the morning air held the crisp promise of autumn. The streets of the neighborhood around the Bethesda hotel hosting the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism-sponsored conference seemed peaceful and safe in the early light. The sunshine matched the conference's optimistic mood. We were a multidisciplinary group of scientists bra