October 2001

News

Plague Genome: The Evolution Of a Pathogen
Plague Genome: The Evolution Of a Pathogen
Plague has earned a place in history books as the Black Death of medieval Europe, and in novels, from Albert Camus' classic The Plague, to the more recent Year of Wonders.1,2 A different medium for telling the tale of the plague bacterium Yersinia pestis is its genome, recently sequenced by researchers at the Sanger Centre, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the Royal London School of Medicine and Dentistry, and the Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine.3 In addi
Algal Research
Algal Research
To many people, the term seaweeds refers to the yucky brown or green stuff that sticks to your legs at the beach. To others, however, it means big business, and to some researchers, seaweeds equals big science. Marine biologist Thierry Chopin, University of New Brunswick in St. John, Canada, citing United Nations statistics, says that in 1998, 21.7 percent of the 39.4 million metric tons of aquaculture products sold worldwide consisted of seaweeds, totaling $5.9 billion. Moreover, seaweeds accou
Translation Just in the Cytoplasm? Think Again
Translation Just in the Cytoplasm? Think Again
Paradigms don't shift easily. But in a recent paper,1 researchers-nearly four years after their initial observation and one year after boarding the journal-submission carousel-are challenging one of modern biology's central tenets. For at least 25 years, biologists have believed that although transcription and translation are coupled in bacteria, they are separated in eukaryotic cells. However, new work from Peter Cook's laboratory at the University of Oxford, UK, which demonstrates translation
EPA Reauthorizes Bt Corn
EPA Reauthorizes Bt Corn
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced on Oct. 16 that it had reauthorized commercial planting of genetically modified corn varieties transformed with genes from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis. Bt corn, as it's known, makes toxic Cry proteins lethal to caterpillars of the European corn borer and other damaging insects.1 The proteins are harmless to humans. As a result of EPA's action, seed companies can now market the products for another seven years, depending on compliance wi
New Adventures in Science Publishing
New Adventures in Science Publishing
Nearly a year ago, a group of high-profile scientists came together in hopes of sparking widespread reform throughout the science publishing industry.1 Although publishers certainly took notice, these scientists' efforts to establish a so-called Public Library of Science (PLOS) have fallen well short of initial objectives. PLOS founders have now decided to maintain their principles but change their strategy by launching a freely accessible, author fee-funded, peer reviewed online journal. In a
Cell Cycle Control Giants Win Nobel
Cell Cycle Control Giants Win Nobel
Rest, synthesize, divide: The complex and delicate system controlling the life cycles of a cell has long fascinated scientists, and it may open the door to new cancer therapeutics and detection techniques. For their epochal work on which today's knowledge of cell cycle is built, American Leland H. Hartwell of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and Britons R. Timothy Hunt and Sir Paul M. Nurse of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund, will receive the Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine t
Forging Ahead on Arabidopsis
Forging Ahead on Arabidopsis
With completion of the genome sequence of the tiny mustard plant Arabidopsis imminent, researchers began anticipating the logical next step. Meeting in the fall of 1998 and again in January 2000 under the aegis of the National Science Foundation, they drew up a plan called the 2010 Project, which, if successful, would catalog the functions of all of 'the weed's' 25,000 or so genes. Their goal was ambitious: "to understand every molecular interaction in every cell throughout a plant life cycle."1
News Notes
News Notes
The Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory (MDIBL) in Salisbury Cove, Maine, has received a $3.75 million, five-year National Institutes of Health grant to develop a Comparative Toxicogenomics Database focusing on aquatic species. Slated to go online in 2006, it will be the first database in the world to provide genetic information on aquatic species to the international scientific community (See also, A.J.S. Rayl, "How to create a successful fish tale," The Scientist, 15[16]:1, Aug. 20, 2001

Cartoon

Cartoon
Cartoon
Sidney Harris

Commentary

The Scientist at 15
The Scientist at 15
This issue, Oct. 29, 2001, marks the beginning of the 16th year of publication of The Scientist. It is remarkable and sobering to look back over these relatively few years and to see how much has changed in the landscape of science, and even more remarkable how many things have stayed the same. Public awareness of the life sciences has dramatically increased. Stem cell research, the human genome project, and now the grisly threat of bioterrorism mean that life scientists are now more than ever i

Letter

Increasing the Tribe: 1
Increasing the Tribe: 1
The Oct. 15 commentary1 by T.V. Rajan was a delight to read and a pleasure to think about. Let me extend your metaphor a little. Some years ago, I too was a researcher at the University of Connecticut Health Center. I was then engaged in research in a field even more obscure and recondite than Demodex folliculorum. I was trying to analyze the volatile organic compounds in human breath, first, because it seemed like a challenging and enjoyable thing to do, and second, (somewhat perversely) becaus
Increasing the Tribe: 2
Increasing the Tribe: 2
As one who has always extended his hand to the stranger in his midst, my greatest fear is that the terrorists will create a society that is closed, fearful, and suspicious. If more people publish and ponder words such as yours,1 I know that the future will be even better than the past. In the end, it is only through love that we will win the war against terrorism. Only when young men and women have more to live for than to die for will there finally be peace. I wrote this to assure T.V. Rajan th
Sept. 11 Living Memorial
Sept. 11 Living Memorial
If American society is now threatened by a philosophy utterly alien to all we value as scientists, the nation can turn again to its immigrant roots for a great symbol of its endlessly renewable inspiration. The strength in melding together the traditions and talents of immigrants, each freely choosing to adhere to American ideals, with the skills of those born here is nowhere more evident than within American science. Albert Einstein--himself fleeing a terrible terror--is but its most visible fa

Research

Pain Research Comes into Its Own
Pain Research Comes into Its Own
In the first case of its kind, a jury earlier this year found a physician guilty of undermedicating a patient for pain. Claiming that such an action amounted to elder abuse and recklessness, the judge awarded $1.5 million to the patient's family. The precedent-setting case occurred after the passage of a Congressional provision, the Decade of Pain Control and Research, which went into effect Jan. 1. Signed into law by then-President Bill Clinton and sponsored by the American Academy of Pain Medi
Beta Stem Cells: Searching for the Diabetic's Holy Grail
Beta Stem Cells: Searching for the Diabetic's Holy Grail
Diabetics have few practical therapeutic options. Daily insulin injections, while life-saving, are not without problems. Millions could benefit from islet cell transplantation, but only a few thousand healthy pancreases (where islet cells are located) become available each year. The solution to this dilemma has been clear for some time: the creation of new, healthy beta cells. Researchers want to cultivate beta cells, the insulin-producing cell found in the Islet of Langerhans, that would grow l
Research Notes
Research Notes
Scientists recently uncovered the first gene known to contribute to the genesis of human language. Called FOXP2, this transcription factor might help researchers understand the neurodevelopmental process that culminates in one of humankind's most mysterious attributes. After studying the pedigree of a family affected with a rare monogenetic language-impairment disorder, researchers at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics, University of Oxford, mapped the gene to a locus on chromosome 7 a

Hot Paper

GPCRs: Researchers Disprove the Single Polypeptide Theory
GPCRs: Researchers Disprove the Single Polypeptide Theory
For this article, Jim Kling interviewed Bryen A. Jordan, postdoctoral scientist in the lab of Edward Ziff at the New York University School of Medicine's department of biochemistry; Theresa Branchek, vice president of research at Synaptic Pharmaceutical Corp. (Paramus, NJ); and Christophe Gerald, vice president of target discovery and assessment at Synaptic Pharmaceutical. Data from the Web of Science (ISI, Philadelphia) show that Hot Papers are cited 50 to 100 times more often than the average

Technology

An Alternative to Two-Hybrid
An Alternative to Two-Hybrid
Researchers most often use techniques such as coimmunoprecipitation and yeast two-hybrid screening to study protein-protein interactions. These methods are time-consuming-the yeast two-hybrid technique can take several months to perform-and prone to false positive results. Millbury, Mass.-based Hypromatrix recently introduced AntibodyArray™ technology to combat these problems. Hypromatrix developed the AntibodyArray for the study of protein-protein interactions and protein phosphorylation,
Improving Cell Death
Improving Cell Death
The process of apoptosis removes infected, mutated, and aging cells from the body. Gene-directed apoptosis, or programmed cell death, occurs normally during development and in many pathological conditions. In 1989 the cell surface receptor, Fas (CD95), was identified as the antigen recognized by antibodies that initiate cell death. Normally, Fas initiates cell death by binding the Fas ligand (FasL). Understanding and manipulating the interactions between these two proteins plays a critical role
Redesigning a Web Pioneer
Redesigning a Web Pioneer
The oldest Web resource for life scientists just got a facelift. Bio.com got a new design and editorial focus last month; by year's end the site will also feature customized information for its users and an improved online store. Bio.com, established in 1992, can claim to be one of the first 50 sites on the World Wide Web. "Until 1994-95 there was nothing similar," says Lee Jensen, Bio.com CEO and founder. Since then, however, the number of Web sites that provide quality information and resou

Technology Profile

Making Every Nanoliter Count
Making Every Nanoliter Count
Microfluidics, the science that underlies technologies for manipulating minute volumes of liquids, is the new buzzword in biology-and with good reason. Microfluidics has the potential to revolutionize the way routine molecular biology experiments are carried out. This technology is being used to miniaturize biological separation and assay techniques so that entire experiments can be accomplished within diminutive devices that are about as large as a computer chip. Picoliter-to-nanoliter volumes
In Search of Genomic Variation
In Search of Genomic Variation
The fairly nebulous term mutation detection addresses two fundamentally different questions: "Do any mutations-or, more broadly, polymorphisms or variations-exist in a given gene?" "How frequently does a specific mutation occur in a population?" Getting the answer to each question presents different challenges, and scientists must address each using different technologies. The first question is answered with mutation scanning or screening techniques, the second with mutation scoring, or genot

Profession

The Biotech Triangle
The Biotech Triangle
Editor's Note: This is the fourth and final installment this year of a series that focuses on regional hot spots in the United States John Hamer, a tenured professor of microbiology at Purdue University, decided he had reached the top of the academic career ladder three years ago and wanted more involvement in technology development. With the genomics and bioinformatics revolution under way, Hamer had his pick of companies and cities. But rather than relocating to an urban biotech center in Cal
Tiny Technology Promises Tremendous Profits
Tiny Technology Promises Tremendous Profits
See also, "Making Every Nanoliter Count," Microfluidics, the technology of handling liquids on an extremely small scale, promises to enter the commercial marketplace in a big way during the next three years. This so-called lab-on-a-chip technology may offer enormous cost advantages in scientific processes ranging from artificial insemination in cattle to lab analyses in hospitals. Scientists expect it to increase the efficiency of biological tests and analyses by requiring far smaller amounts o
Protecting Intellectual Property
Protecting Intellectual Property
The rigors of proper intellectual property protections go against the grain of many researchers, but lawyers who clash over ownership of ideas urge scientists to learn some basic legal principles. Pharmaceutical and biotech companies forage university labs for new discoveries in medicines and therapies, for which they will make available big research bucks. But if a scientist's ideas can't be patented, the corporate coffers close. Courtesy of UCLA, School of MedicineStanley G. Korenman "Unive
Profession Notes
Profession Notes
Celera Genomics Group and Myriad Genetics Inc., two of the largest US genomics companies, are dedicating their DNA sequencing and typing expertise to the massive effort of identifying victims in last month's World Trade Center attack. The companies are creating DNA databases from victims, their personal effects, and from relatives. Myriad, a Salt Lake City, Utah, biopharmaceutical company, is using short tandem repeats (STR) to quantify the number of DNA repetitions on each of 13 nonfunctional g
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

Peer Review: Do Studies Prove Its Effectiveness?
Peer Review: Do Studies Prove Its Effectiveness?
The Fourth International Congress on Peer Review in Biomedical Publications, organized by JAMA-The Journal of the American Medical Association and the BMJ Publishing Group, meeting in Barcelona Sept. 14-16, featured three days of presentations of original research on peer review. Despite coming on the heels of the terrorist attacks in the United States, 275 of the 410 registered participants attended. Many scheduled speakers whose flights were canceled were able to E-mail their presentations, w