ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Feature

Sizing Up Nature's Denizens
Philip Hunter | Oct 5, 2003 | 9 min read
Illustration: Brian Bookwalter From the massive Blue whale to the tiniest plant viroids, size extremes have long fascinated mankind. This is not a trivial pursuit, for size can yield important insights into the physical constraints that govern an organism's evolution, as well as the particular mechanisms that impose a limit at either end of the scale. Some size limits apply broadly to entire classes such as mammals, while others apply more narrowly to a single species because of its particula

Editorial

Precious Right, Necessary Responsibilities
Precious Right, Necessary Responsibilities
"The free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious of the rights of man. Every citizen may, accordingly, speak, write, and print with freedom, but shall be responsible for such abuses of this freedom as shall be defined by law."1 Even before we get to the lab bench, the complexities of being a researcher are daunting. In this issue of The Scientist, questions of freedom of conscience and personal rights are raised. Other topics recently addressed on our Web site or in p

Opinion

The Conscience Clause: Keeping the Independent Scientist Extant
The Conscience Clause: Keeping the Independent Scientist Extant
The Conscience Clause: Keeping the Independent Scientist Extant By Henri-Philippe Sambuc and Frédéric Piguet The few scientists who have had the courage to oppose their employers' silence regarding the harmful effects of products related, for instance, to food, public health, or the environment, have generally seen their lives destroyed. Defamation campaigns, threats, legal actions, and various pressures have made their careers, family lives, and health miserable. Science is a com

Letter

Revisiting Microarrays
Revisiting Microarrays
Revisiting Microarrays Regarding the articles on microarrays,1-3 Pat Brown and the group at Stanford deserve great recognition for their technological innovations that led to widespread use of microarray analysis in biomedical research. However, the concept of computerized gene expression profiling, its reduction to practice, and enumeration of its potential in many areas of disease diagnosis, prognosis, drug sensitivity, and investigation of underlying mechanism has a much longer history.
Live Scientists Society
Live Scientists Society
Live Scientists Society I read your editorial on the subject of scientific societies.1 I joined my first society for the same reason you did, to be identified as a scientist (in my case, as a chemist in the American Chemical Society). It wasn't long thereafter that I realized that a practical advantage of being a member was the opportunity to obtain employment. ACS's publication, Chemical & Engineering News, carries ads from companies seeking new hires and also allows members to advertis

Frontlines

A Discriminating, yet Artificial Palate
A Discriminating, yet Artificial Palate
Frontlines | A Discriminating, yet Artificial Palate Erica P. Johnson Researchers are developing artificial tongues that eventually could detect aromas of cassis and smoky oak in a glass of cabernet. The device uses ultrathin films of conducting polymers as sensing units, which mimic the human taste buds for salty, sour, bitter, sweet, and umami (glutamate, the "fifth taste"). "When immersed in a test solution, each [sensing] unit provides a distinct electrical signal. The electrical respo
The Herpetological 'Hand'
The Herpetological 'Hand'
Frontlines | The Herpetological 'Hand' Courtesy of Gene Ott Snakes cannot properly wear gloves, but cottonmouths do exhibit some form of "handedness," says Eric Roth, a zoologist at the University of Oklahoma. In a recent study Roth demonstrated that the adult female snakes show a tendency to coil clockwise, with the left side of their bodies on the inside of the coil.1 Roth questions whether brain lateralization or other physiological asymmetry, such as the alignment of internal organs,

Snapshot

The International Lab
The International Lab
The 420 print and web readers who responded to our survey about national origins were born in 67 different countries and currently reside in 45 countries. A remarkable 36% of respondents presently work in a place other than their native homeland, and 59% have lived in more than one country for three or more months. "I was born in England, live in Belgium, work in Germany!" says one reader. The countries with the largest percentages of non-native scientists moving in are the United States, Can

Foundations

Dance of the Yeast Genome
Dance of the Yeast Genome
Courtesy of University of California, San Francisco The science of yeast genetics was still in its infancy some 30 years ago, and one of its thorniest problems wouldn't go away: How do diploid yeast cells transform themselves into haploid cells, so that they can mate and reproduce through meiosis? A young University of Oregon researcher named Ira Herskowitz proposed that a cassette of DNA dropped out, only to be replaced by a copy of another cassette of DNA, and that this event altered the ve

First Person

Mildred Cohn
Mildred Cohn
First Person | Mildred Cohn Erica P. Johnson Biochemist Mildred Cohn, 90, is one of the few women whose portrait hangs in the halls of the University of Pennsylvania's John Morgan Building. Retired from research but not from science per se--"I still like to talk science and I read"--Cohn is a small, reserved woman who never let the timing of her birth stand in her way. Her determination got her into college at 14, into Nobel laureate Harold Urey's lab as a student, and later to fellow winne

Science Seen

Drug Potential
Drug Potential
Science Seen | Drug Potential Courtesy of David Scharf  Researchers study marijuana primarily to find a drug that blocks its effects and as a source for potential pharmacological compounds. This electron micrograph of a Cannabis sativa leaf shows the pustules of tetrahydrocannibinol (THC)--the actual psychoactive substance. function sendData() { document.frm.pathName.value = location.pathname; result = false if (document.frm.score[0].checked) result = true; if (document.frm.score

Off The Cuff

What Question Would You Pose to a Dead Scientist?
What Question Would You Pose to a Dead Scientist?
Off The Cuff | What Question Would You Pose to a Dead Scientist? To Marie Curie: Was the discovery of radiation significant enough to warrant your death by radiation toxicity? --Susanne Courtney, Courtney Rainey Group, Toronto To Élie Metchnikoff: Is it harder today to be an acknowledged and famous scientist than, let's say, 50-80 years ago? --Roy A. Dalmo, Norwegian College of Fishery Science, University of Tromsø To Charles Darwin: Now that you're dead and know whether

5-Prime

Tissue Engineering Trends
Tissue Engineering Trends
5-Prime | Tissue Engineering Trends What is tissue engineering? It's the use of engineering and life sciences principles and methods to obtain a basic understanding of structure-function relationships in novel and pathological mammalian tissues and using biological substitutes to restore, maintain, and improve function. What's new? Researchers have developed products and therapies that include a combination of living cells and biomaterials to repair or replace diseased or damaged tissue.

Research

The Secret Lives of Proteins
The Secret Lives of Proteins
The Secret Lives of Proteins Recent research suggests that many structural and enzymatic proteins serve double or even triple duty (see Enzymatic Alter-Egos Unmasked). Three multifunctional proteins identified in higher animals are shown below. Gephyrin Proposed functions: ©2003 American Society for Biochemistry & Molecular Biology  Trimeric structure of gephyrin's N-terminal domain in rat. Secondary structural elements are labeled for one monomer. Black arrows indicate the po
Enzymatic Alter-Egos Unmasked
Enzymatic Alter-Egos Unmasked
Some proteins lead double or even quadruple lives. In 1994, researchers discovered the gene responsible for Wiskott Aldrich syndrome, an X-linked genetic disorder in which affected patients generally succumb to infections or cancer. Because of the observed immune dysfunction, the protein, called WASP, was believed to regulate lymphocytes or platelets.1 But, challenging the traditionally held one-protein-one-function notion, subsequent studies found that WASP had several jobs, among them orga
Microbial Co-op in Evolution
Microbial Co-op in Evolution
Courtesy of Michiel Vos, Max Planck Institute, Tübingen, Germany  FRUIT FOR THE HUNGRY: Myxococcus fruiting bodies emerge from soil particles in response to starvation. Approximately 100,000 cells aggregate and communicate via chemical signals to form the bodies, and a portion of the population differentiates into stress-resistant spores. Most microbiologists consider used flasks, laden with splotches of colonizing bacteria, simply more dishes to wash. Paul Rainey sees more. For Rai
Systems Biology Has its Backers and Attackers
Systems Biology Has its Backers and Attackers
D.F. Dowd Though coined 40 years ago,1 a lot of people still ask, "What's that?" when the term systems biology comes up. "It is used in so many different contexts, nobody is really clear what you mean by it," says John Yates III, a professor at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif. He's not the only one stumped by the term's meaning. David Placek, president of Sausalito, Calif.-based Lexicon Branding, a company that cooks up names for pharmaceutical products such as Velcade and Me
Putting the Buzz in Navigation
Putting the Buzz in Navigation
Getty Images A bee arrives at a flowering bush, rapidly explores it and assesses which flowers to visit. For an insect with a tiny brain and a lifespan measured in weeks, it's an impressive display of navigational skill, learning, and selective perception. A growing body of research into insect vision and cognition has provided not only basic insights into biology and problem solving, but also some surprising robotics, aviation, and military applications as well. Bees and dragonflies use inge

Hot Paper

The Hunger Hormone Unharnessed
The Hunger Hormone Unharnessed
Redrawn from images by Masayasu Kojima  THE ONE SIDE OF HOMEOSTASIS: Ghrelin, produced by the stomach, increases appetite, growth hormone (GH) release, and adiposity. But the process is far less straightforward than previously thought. Obesity is big. A public with a seemingly insatiable appetite for weight-loss products spends more than $35 billion (US) annually on diet products or programs in North America, according to the US Federal Trade Commission. And, basic research findings are

Research Briefs

The Spice Ain't Always So Nice; Three Methyls and You're Out; Interdisciplinary Research
The Spice Ain't Always So Nice; Three Methyls and You're Out; Interdisciplinary Research
The Spice Ain't Always So Nice Anne Macnamara Capsaicin, the fiery alkaloid of chili pepper fame, sets tongue and skin afire, a sensation that some find irresistible. But, researchers recently associated it and its chemical cousins with chest pain.1 Isolated more than a century ago, capsaicin's structure was revealed in 1919, and its target, the vanilloid receptor 1 (VR1), was cloned in 1997. "VR1 functions as a molecular integrator of painful chemical and physical stimuli, including heat an

Technology Front Page

I Spy ... Something Green!; Soldering Issue; Putting a Pretty Face on Multiple Sequence Alignment
I Spy ... Something Green!; Soldering Issue; Putting a Pretty Face on Multiple Sequence Alignment
FASHION WATCH | I Spy ... Something Green! To most eyes, a mouse is a mouse is a mouse. It's the underlying genetics, of course, that matter, and those are usually hard to see. But scientists working with green fluorescent protein (GFP)-expressing transgenic mice have a new gadget that will help them spot their mice with ease. Constructed like goggles with a miner's headlight, the GFsP-5, manufactured by Biological Laboratory Equipment, Maintenance, and Service (BLS) in Budapest, Hungary,

Technology Profile

Body by Science
Body by Science
Ned Shaw Margaret Atwood's novel Oryx and Crake describes a gruesome future for organ transplantation: Pigoons, genetically altered pigs that grow surplus human organs. Though this scenario may never come to pass, it is easy to see why the science of human replacement parts ignites the dystopian imagination: It was not too long ago that Charles Vacanti of the University of Massachusetts and coworkers injected a polymer scaffold seeded with cartilage cells into the back of the mouse and created
Scaling Up Cell Culture
Scaling Up Cell Culture
Courtesy of New Brunswick Scientific  WAY BIGGER THAN A T-225: The CelliGen Plus bioreactor with packed-bed basket option. The packed-bed system is fully scaleable, from 500 mL to 150 L. Scientists routinely press eukaryotic cells into service as organic factories, cranking out everything from antibodies to viruses. How much biomass these researchers need to conduct their research, however, varies. Individual researchers can generally get what they need to coat the wells of an ELISA plat

Technology

Probing Ion Channel Function
Probing Ion Channel Function
Courtesy of Cellectricon The beating of a heart, the ability to learn and remember, and the movement of a sperm cell's tail all have at least one thing in common: They depend on the function of ion channels, the membrane proteins that control the flow of ions between cells. Currently the only method for measuring ion channel activity is the patch-clamp method, in which a cell's membrane is pierced by the tip of an electrode-containing micropipette. The electrode detects electrical current pas
Smooth Landing for Protein Arrays
Smooth Landing for Protein Arrays
Reprinted with permission from AAAS (Science, Vol 301, p.1351, 2003) Researchers in the laboratory of R. Graham Cooks at Purdue University have developed a mass spectrometry-based method of creating protein arrays. The technique, known as ion soft-landing, selects proteins by their mass/charge ratio after ionization and deposits them gently onto a liquid or solid surface.1 After separating and landing a mixture of four proteins by this method, Cooks and colleagues demonstrated that each of th
A Clean Getaway
A Clean Getaway
Courtesy of Dynal Biotech Immobilized metal affinity chromatography (IMAC) separation is commonly used to purify proteins of interest from a crude mixture. A variety of companies offer nickel-based beads of uneven shapes to isolate histidine-tagged proteins from solution. The problem with these beads is that their nonuniformity and nickel ions hamper the isolation of pure recombinant proteins, says Beate Rygg Johnsen, international product manager for the Dynabead® product line offered by

Profession Front Page

Pointers for Would-Be Bioentrepreneurs; British Biologists Finally Bond; PhD Salaries by Age
Pointers for Would-Be Bioentrepreneurs; British Biologists Finally Bond; PhD Salaries by Age
TIP TROVE | Pointers for Would-Be Bioentrepreneurs Courtesy of Mark Tang 1. Work with experts. Look for help and good advice early on from lawyers (intellectual property and corporate), business advisers, and venture capitalists (VCs). 2. Get FREE money and take as much money as you can get. But keep the number of investors who expect a cut to the minimum. Seek out grants and big pharmaceutical partners. You may need more money than you think. 3. Aim for proprietary technology, platform t

Profession

Putting his Mind to the British Science Machine
Putting his Mind to the British Science Machine
 Colin Blakemore Colin Blakemore has always excelled at communicating science to the public. As president and now chair of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, he has been at the forefront of scientific dialogue in the United Kingdom for years. In his 1988 BBC television series, The Mind Machine, he proved that even "the most complex piece of machinery in the universe" could be made accessible to nonscientists. He was thrust into the spotlight more reluctantly in the 1
Berkeley Tenure Tiff Restarts GM Food Joust
Berkeley Tenure Tiff Restarts GM Food Joust
In early June, University of California, Berkeley, assistant professor Ignacio Chapela moved his office chair to the main quad of the campus and started conducting his affairs in public. Yes, Berkeley has nice enough weather to work outside, but Chapela was not there for the sunshine. He was staging a protest to decry his lack of tenure. Chapela's protest did not last more than a few days. He returned to his air- conditioned office after getting a promise of fair treatment from the chancello
Sweet Charity: New Funds for Discovery
Sweet Charity: New Funds for Discovery
Nonprofit foundations are not, by definition, out to make money; but they are making deals. Discontented with more traditional channels of scientific advancement, patient advocacy nonprofits are now working directly with industry to bring ideas to the bench and treatments to the marketplace. For a company in early-stage drug development, the timing couldn't be better. With seed money rare and willing venture capitalists (VCs) scarce, industry can turn to the succor of venture philanthropy (VP

Science Rules

Emerald Isle of Opportunity
Emerald Isle of Opportunity
File Photo A new association will be launched in New York City this month to unite Irish expatriates in the United States who are involved in life sciences. The aim of BioLink USA-Ireland, to be officially launched Oct. 9, is to help people reconnect with their home country and help develop the Irish biotech industry. Enterprise Ireland (EI), the trade and technology board of the Irish government, is setting up the project. Over the past year, EI established contacts with 400 people involved

Postdoc Talk

Midnight Oil Provides Too Little Light
Midnight Oil Provides Too Little Light
Courtesy of Christine Pullar Why is it that the one day you turn up at the lab a little later than normal, your supervisor requires your immediate attention and is frantically looking for you? It couldn't be the day that you started working at 5 a.m., or the evening when you left the lab after midnight. I once had to miss my own housewarming party to start a four-hour experiment at midnight, only to be condemned the next morning when I walked into the lab at 10 a.m. I think that you can come

Closing Bell

Biology Is Hard
Biology Is Hard
Many years ago, after finishing my residency, I decided to become a researcher. Around the same time, I went home to India for a visit. In those days, one of the standard accoutrements found in the living room of a Tamil Brahmin home was a wooden swing. My grandfather was still alive then and would occupy the swing each night. I remember once sitting by his side during this postprandial ritual. We sat swinging peaceably, no doubt immersed in our own thoughts, when he turned and asked, in his
ADVERTISEMENT