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Frontlines

Frontlines
Frontlines
Frontlines Image: Anne MacNamara The source of body asymmetry How can a developing body tell its right from its left? An ion pump creates a voltage gradient in embryos that is crucial in determining body asymmetry, according to a team of scientists at the Forsyth Institute and Harvard Medical School (M. Levin et al., "H+/K+-ATPase activity comprises an early step of left-right asymmetry during development," Cell, 111:77-89, Oct. 4, 2002). "We have identified a completely novel mechanism tha

Commentary

The Heart and Soul of Science
The Heart and Soul of Science
Two items recently perused have, in their own separate ways, set me thinking about a debate that should be taking place, but isn't. No, strike debate, it should be a struggle for the hearts and souls of academic scientists. At issue are the behavioral norms that guide the research community. In the red corner, see the Oct. 9 leader (editorial) in the British newspaper The Guardian. Under the title "Patent Justice," the piece applauds the award of the Nobel Prize to John Sulston, and continues

Opinion

The Brain Revolution and Ethics
The Brain Revolution and Ethics
Image: Anthony Canamucio No area of science is command-ing more ethical attention these days than genetics. No other area of science with potential application to plants, animals, and people can match the speed with which new knowledge is being created in genetics. But lurking over in the disciplinary corner--somewhat out of sight of the ethicists' gaze--are the neurosciences. Advances in radiology, psychiatry, neurology, neurosurgery, bioengineering, and psychology are furthering our understa

Letter

More Stem Cell Questions
More Stem Cell Questions
More Stem Cell Questions1 What are the benefits, if any, of using and pushing for research in the use of embryonic stem cells over the use and research in adult stem cells? Tim Bales PO Box 310 Rydalmere, BC, NSW 1701 Australia ** How about: Will venture capital be available to finance the development of stem cell therapies? Steve Edwards, Editor Cell Therapy News, BCC Inc. 25 Van Zant St., Suite 13 Norwalk, CT 06855 1. R. Gallagher, "Questions on stem cells," The Scientist, 16[17]:10
Response to Response
Response to Response
Response to Response The response by Fred Gould and Jennifer Kuzma1 to my description of the fundamental flaws in two reports from the National Academy of Science/National Research Council2 is reminiscent of the story about the drunk searching for his lost keys under the streetlight. A friend who happens upon the fellow asks if he's sure that he lost them there. The drunk answers, "No, I'm sure they're not here, but the light is better." Gould and Kuzma concede the consensus that the risk-r
OOPS! --and on the Cover, Too
OOPS! --and on the Cover, Too
OOPS! --and on the Cover, Too I was very surprised to see the image used for the cover featuring "Chemicals of Commerce" (The Scientist, 16[17], Sept. 2, 2002). No doubt you wanted to illustrate the concept of industrial abuse of the environment, and the picture does seem to depict a chemical plant giving off noxious smoke and filling a lake with vile turquoise contaminants. However, that is not at all the case. The picture is of a tourist site in Iceland called the Blue Lagoon. The plant is

News

Solid Gold Sheepstakes
Solid Gold Sheepstakes
Photo: Courtesy of Agricultural Research Service Move over, Dolly. In the famous sheepstakes, Solid Gold (1983-1993) came first. Solid Gold is the first known sheep to have the callipyge condition--Greek for "beautiful buttocks"--and his descendants are shedding light on genomic imprinting, the difference in expression of a gene depending on which parent transmits it. In humans, derailed genomic imprinting causes cancer, autism, bipolar disorder, and other conditions. In 1983, a lamb was born
Imaging Early Alzheimer Disease
Imaging Early Alzheimer Disease
Image: Courtesy of Dan Skovronsky  The radioactive thioflavin T derivative specifically labels amyloid plaques in the brain of a living mouse (arrows, panel a). Postmortem specimen labeled with a flourescent dye for amyloid (panel b) confirms specific labeling of plaques in vivo. When actor Charlton Heston announced in August that he is "suffering symptoms consistent with Alzheimer's disease," he used qualified language because diagnosis is possible only postmortem. The lack of a clear s
But What About the Others?
But What About the Others?
Image: Anne MacNamara "The history of modern science might be written without going outside the names of the Nobels." --Cosmopolitan, 19061 The Nobel Prize earned universal prestige a mere five years after its inception. With the 102nd Nobel awards this month, the Nobel Foundation continues to lavish acclaim among a thin upper crust of innovators in the life sciences. But the tradition of the science community's grumbling at the Foundation for its omissions will no doubt proceed unabated i
Gene Therapy Trials Hit Obstacle
Gene Therapy Trials Hit Obstacle
For nearly three years, a child with a deadly genetic disease, which left him without functioning B or T cells, has led a relatively normal life. Doctors in France virtually engineered a working immune system for him through gene therapy.1 Early this month, however, researchers revealed that the gene therapy technique used to treat this child's X-linked severe combined immune deficiency (SCID) probably led to a leukemia-like syndrome. The engineered T cells inevitably began proliferating out o

Research

Seeking Smart Drugs
Seeking Smart Drugs
Image: Anne MacNamara Cognition--memory, perception, and attention--is a prerequisite to success, an essential for a normal life. When it becomes impaired through illness or accident, a person's life is turned upside down. Existing memory enhancement drugs treat maladies that rob memory, but they are relatively ineffective and have significant side effects. Some researchers, realizing the huge market that an aging, memory-slipping population can generate, are working to modify some drugs curre
For Fear of a 'Cognitive Divide'
For Fear of a 'Cognitive Divide'
Image: Anne MacNamara Though not suffering from any particular ailment, a 70-year-old woman becomes frustrated with the forgetfulness that often accompanies old age. She consults her doctor, who prescribes a memory enhancer. Within weeks, she can find her car keys and phone her children without using the speed-dial. Overwhelmed with reading assignments, a college freshman contacts his physician. The doctor prescribes a cognition enhancer: The student aces his exams. A soldier fights next to
The Irony of Paraneoplastic Disorders
The Irony of Paraneoplastic Disorders
Image: Courtesy of Koichiro Sakai  DYSFUNCTIONAL FAMILY: Hypothetical mechanisms of paraneoplastic neurologic syndromes. Cancer cells share the antigens with neurons or muscle cells; the antigens are exposed to the immune system and sensitize T-cells and B-cells. The sensitized cytotoxic T-cells may directly attack the neuronal cells, or the sensitized helper T-cells and B-cells may induce autoantibodies which cause dysfunction in the neurons or the muscle cells. For over 100 years, scie
Picturing Fear
Picturing Fear
Image: Courtesy of Ahmad Hariri, NIMH  FEAR AS SEEN BY fMRI: The blue crosshairs in each fMRI image highlight the increased activity in the amygdala of patients with one or two short alleles in response to fearful stimuli. The alleles are in the promoter region of the serotonin transporter, which is associated with higher concentrations of synaptic serotonin and increased rates of anxiety and neuroticism. A team of scientists at the National Institute of Mental Health has found that a

Hot Paper

Transgene Triggers Parkinsonian Neurodegeneration
Transgene Triggers Parkinsonian Neurodegeneration
 SELECTIVE DISAPPEARANCE: Compared to nontransgenic controls, transgenic (tg) mice that express human a-synuclein (SYN) show a loss of dopa-minergic terminals in the brain's basal ganglia, which include the striatum. In the half-decade after human a- synuclein (ha-syn) was discovered in amyloid plaques purified from brains of patients with Alzheimer,1 neuroscientists logically suspected that this synaptic protein played a role in Alzheimer disease. Codiscoverer Eliezer Masliah began to d
Is Presenilin-1 Really Guilty of Dismembering Alzheimer Protein?
Is Presenilin-1 Really Guilty of Dismembering Alzheimer Protein?
Image: Courtesy of Yue-Ming Li  HOW PHOTOACTIVATION WORKS: When a benzophenone group is attached to a g-secretase inhibitor and exposed to light, the benzophenone's oxygen turns into a triplet biradical, which bonds covalently with a nearby protein. Many neuroscientists think that the master criminal behind Alzheimer disease is AB-secretase-42, the 42-amino-acid peptide that forms amyloid plaques in the brain. Two accomplices, the enzymes B-secretase-secretase and g-secretase, consecutiv

Wed, 01 Jan 1000 00:00:00 GMT

Nitrogenase: Reaching the Core
Nitrogenase: Reaching the Core
The Faculty of 1000 is aWeb-based literature awareness tool published by BioMed Central. For more information visit www.facultyof1000.com. Plants need nitrogen to grow, which they derive from 'fixed'or chemically available nitrogen in the soil. How the nitrogen is extracted happens through a process called biological nitrogen fixation. About half of the world's fixed nitrogen exists because of it; the other half is industrially supplied as fertilizer. But to scientists, the natural fix is wha

Technology Profile

The Spin on Rotary Culture
The Spin on Rotary Culture
Image: Courtesy of Leoncio A. Vergara, UTMB, Marguerite Sognier & Nasa/JSC Musculoskeletal Tissue Engineering Lab SPACE-AGE CELL CULTURE: This 3-D human rhabdomyosarcoma cell aggregate was grown in a disposable High Aspect-Ratio Vessel (HARV) in Synthecon's Rotating Cell Culture System. Biotechnology advances at a furious pace, yet for the most part, cell culture remains fixed in the past. Over the last decade, however, a new technology has emerged that models the microgravity of space--
Tissue Microarrays: Advancing Clinical Genomics
Tissue Microarrays: Advancing Clinical Genomics
Image: Courtesy of Biocat SCORES OF CORES: Each tissue core on this microarray provides another datapoint that helps researchers better define the molecular characteristics of interesting genes. In 1997, Juha Kononen, a postdoctoral fellow at the National Human Genome Research Institute, was pondering the significance of the recently developed DNA microarray. He was studying genetically altered genes in cancerous cells using fluorescence in situ hybridization and immunostaining of indivi
Proteomics Breakthrough
Proteomics Breakthrough
Photo: Courtesy of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory Measuring the faint expression of a low-level protein in a complex biological system is a bit like playing Where's Waldo in a moving picture with tens of thousands of extras. Without technology that can process the system quickly, accurately, and repeatedly, there's no telling how long each investigation will take. Scientists at the US Department of Energy's (DOE) Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) in Richland, Wash., report t

Technology

An Integrated Approach to Fluorescence Imaging
An Integrated Approach to Fluorescence Imaging
Image: Courtesy of TILL Photonics TILLvisDECO in action. Image before (middle) and after (right) deconvolution. The quality of the data obtained from fluorescence imaging studies depends on the system of components used to acquire, analyze, and process the fluorescent images. As an alternative to building a system piecemeal, using components from several vendors, TILL Photonics of Gräfelfing, Germany, offers its fully integrated TILLvisION system and software modules for fluorescenc
I Can See Clearly Now...
I Can See Clearly Now...
Image: Courtesy of Atto Bioscience SHARPER IMAGE: A section of mouse intestine imaged with both confocal and non-confocal microscopy Confocal imaging systems offer a number of improvements over conventional wide-field fluorescent microscopes, including greater spatial resolution and enhanced image quality. Most commercial confocal systems employ laser scanners, but these systems are generally expensive to purchase and maintain. And, because a given laser source can be tuned to emit at on
Going for Gold
Going for Gold
Traditional array detection systems employ fluorescence or radionuclide labeling, but these methods can lead to photobleaching or high background noise. Valencia, Calif.-based QIAGEN recently launched the HiLight™ Array Detection System to address this problem. The HiLight system uses a method called Resonance Light Scattering (RLS), which takes advantage of the light-scattering properties of nanoscopic metal particles in suspension. When irradiated with white light, these particles sca

Profession

New Antiterrorism Tenets Trouble Scientists
New Antiterrorism Tenets Trouble Scientists
Artwork: Anne MacNamara When the anthrax assaults of last fall transformed bioterrorism from theoretical possibility to reality, Congress wasted little time cranking out new laws that target laboratory operations. Within weeks of the attack on the World Trade Center, the USA Patriot Act whipped through Congress and became law, adding criminal sanctions to existing "biological weapons" statutes. A scant seven months later, the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Response Act was signed, un
The Select Biotech: How to Choose
The Select Biotech: How to Choose
Image: Erica P. Johnson Research scientists devote decades to learning how to evaluate complex chemical and biological systems. Once they master that, they may be asked to join a biotech firm. And that can thrust them into a new science--Wall-Street style analysis--to verify the firm's financial promise. Even for seasoned venture investors biotech is one of the more difficult industries to evaluate. Add to that the uncertainty raised by a rash of corporate accounting scandals in the past yea
Journal Publishers to Police Themselves
Journal Publishers to Police Themselves
The cost of commercial scientific, technical, and medical journals has risen faster than inflation as publishers' profits soar, according to a September report by the British Office of Fair Trading.1 Yet, despite the report's conclusion that the profits have risen at the expense of education and research institutions, the British OFT, a consumer-protection agency that aims to ensure businesses operate fairly, concluded that free-market forces may eventually correct the journal market imbalance
Brain Food
Brain Food
Researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) have recently made a breakthrough linking the effects of genes to cognition and certain emotions, and several funding opportunities are available that may give rise to the next milestone in cognitive neuroscience. FUNDING OPPORTUNITIES IN COGNITIVE NEUROSCIENCE Grass Foundation Subject: Neuroscience fellowship for young investigators Deadline: December 15, 2002 Contact: Steven Zottoli (grassfdn@aol.com) (781) 843-0219 Columbia
Read any Good Papers Lately?
Read any Good Papers Lately?
Life moves pretty fast. If you don't look up once in a while you'll miss it." This worn standard of high school yearbooks holds as true for scientists as for the hero of the 1980s movie, Ferris Bueller's Day Off. The glut of journals and papers can turn a small lapse of attention into a permanent state of catch-up for researchers who try to stay abreast of the latest findings in their fields. "Reading tends to fall by the wayside when people get consumed by their own work," says Kathy Lee, pos

Turning Points

Get Help to Win Grants
Get Help to Win Grants
File Photo I remember well the angst over writing grant proposals. When I was a fisheries PhD student, I wrote a few while indulging in long, intimate bouts with coffee. Two proposals got funded--a large one, prepared with my advisor's help, by a federal agency, and a small one by a sports fishing research organization. This experience helped me write an aquarium's funding proposal later, when I started science writing full time. (Unfortunately that one didn't get funded.) If you are a PhD st

News Profile

Robin Weiss
Robin Weiss
Photo: Courtesy of Robin Weiss Robin Weiss characterizes himself as a "one-track scientist." He researches "retroviruses, retroviruses, retroviruses." His colleagues, however, say he's a scientist's scientist who combines his prodigious knowledge with a propensity to ask questions others might not for fear of rocking the boat. Take, for example, the day in March 2001 when Weiss gave the Leeuwenhoek lecture at the London School of Tropical Medicine. According to Robert May, president of The Ro
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