Editorial

The Organic Food Placebo
The Organic Food Placebo
Last month my parents threw a party to mark their 50th wedding anniversary. After dinner, dad gave a speech recalling their honeymoon, for which they traveled from Scotland to Port Bou, a village on the France-Spain border squeezed between the Mediterranean Sea and the Pyrenees. While he was discretely sketchy about certain aspects of the adventure, he vividly described meals as though he'd just eaten them.Food rationing was just ending in the Britain of 1954. After years of compulsory restricti

Opinion

Crafting a Consensus on Therapeutic Cloning
Crafting a Consensus on Therapeutic Cloning
American scientists seem to have forfeited their chance to convince the government to support research into therapeutic cloning as the source of a new generation of rational therapies. It was not always this way. As a young scientist working at Cold Spring Harbor in the early 1970s, my telephoning Paul Berg at Stanford University concerning his work on recombinant DNA and tumor viruses led to the Asilomar conferences, from which the voluntary moratorium on recombinant DNA work emerged, leading t

Letter

The Original, Original Biotech
The Original, Original Biotech
Recent articles mistakenly identified first Genentech1 and then Cetus2 as the first biotechnology company. In fact, both were preceded by some 10 years by Collaborative Research, Inc., which I founded in 1961.Collaborative Research enjoyed the services of two Nobel laureates, Salvatore Luria and David Baltimore, as scientific advisors, the latter serving as a member of the board and chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board for 10 years. On the basis of an earlier publication by two members of t
An Eye On Ethics
An Eye On Ethics
In your editorial launching of BioBusiness1 you rightly note the business potential of new discoveries in molecular and genetic biology. It sounds useful and I look forward to reading it. One thing I found missing in your article is a critical eye toward the role of business in science. With a current government administration twisting and suppressing scientific discoveries while simultaneously giving huge perks to pharmaceutical companies, it behooves all of us to pay close attention to who is

Notebook

Publishing and publicity
Publishing and publicity
If you are a journal publisher or editor, it's pretty much impossible to avoid controversy. There's the good kind: a well-argued disagreement on an important subject, or astounding new evidence that overturns an established theory, for example. But then there's the bad kind: an author who doesn't stick to your rules, a paper that doesn't hold up, or worse.The real test of a journal's mettle is not whether it manages to avoid the second type of controversy but rather, how well it copes with the f
One small step for sugar
One small step for sugar
Unlike its genomic, proteomic, and transcriptomic predecessors, a comprehensive glycome project (see "Sugars get an 'ome of their own," 18[15]:45–7, Aug. 2, 2004) may have to include telescopes and spacesuits. Last month, astronomers announced that they've detected sugar molecules in the coldest gas and dust clouds of the central Milky Way. The intensity of the signal was surprisingly strong, hinting that these clouds, the birthplace of stars and planets, may also be churning out the build

Research

Chasing the Cilium
Chasing the Cilium
CILIA FOR ASYMMETRY:Courtesy of Joseph R. Marszalek and Lawrence S.B. GoldsteinCilia from a mouse embryo found on the embryonic node. Researchers have shown that embryos without the genes encoding motor subunits for such cilia develop defects in left-right body asymmetry determination.Most biologists are familiar with motile cilia, the finger-like appendages that allow unicellular organisms to swim, and the specialized cells that move fluids and clear away debris in our kidneys and lungs. Few ar
Divining the Centrosome's Role in Cancer
Divining the Centrosome's Role in Cancer
MUTAGENS AND MITOSIS:Courtesy of Thea GoepfertSection cut through the mammary gland of a rat that had been treated with the carcinogen MNU. Centrosomes (green) are arranged at the base of each nucleus (red), and 45% of cells show amplified chromosomes.Comments from journal article reviewers often surprise or frusrate. But the reviewer response that cell biologist William Brinkley received six years ago left him stunned.Brinkley and his collaborator, Subrata Sen at the University of Texas M.D. An

Hot Paper

The Tiniest of Life's Rafts
The Tiniest of Life's Rafts
LIPID RAFTS INSIDE AND OUT:© 2002 AAASIn the outer leaflet (A), sphingolipids and cholesterol form less fluid microdomains (B) called lipid rafts, which are enriched for GPI-proteins. Microdomains may contain more rigid subdomains (C) enriched for the sphingolipid ganglioside GM1. The membrane inner leaflet contains microdomains (D) with unknown lipid composition enriched for prenylated proteins. In contrast, caveolin and proteins carrying the two saturated fatty acyl chains become concentr

Briefs

Discovering the 21st Amino Acid ... Again?
Discovering the 21st Amino Acid ... Again?
Pyrrolysine, the 22nd amino acid, discovered in 2002, might lay claim to being the 21st following the discovery by Ohio State University researchers that, like the twenty canonical amino acids, it is translated by the genetic code using a natural tRNA synthetase-tRNA pair.1 Pyrrolysine is the first new amino acid discovered since selenocysteine in 1986, but the latter results from modification of serine after attachment to its tRNA.Microbiologist Joseph Krzycki and chemist Michael Chan discovere
Sussing out Celiac Disease
Sussing out Celiac Disease
Two recent reports offer a taste to the little-known underlying immunological mechanisms of celiac disease, a digestive autoimmune disorder triggered by gluten protein, which affects as many as 1 in 100 people in the United States.Working ex vivo, a University of Chicago group found that interleukin-15 overexpression helps convert antigen-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) into rogue lymphokine-activated killers (LAKs) via the CTL receptor NKG2D.1 The LAK cells provoke a more general immune
Insulin Special Delivery
Insulin Special Delivery
Courtesy of Georgia Institute of TechnologyMost patients with insulin-dependent diabetes still control their blood glucose levels with a poke in the finger and a shot in the arm. While that crude but effective procedure is years away from being replaced on a large scale, many are looking to deliver insulin and other drugs in a more foolproof, less invasive manner.Associate professor Andrew Lyon's lab at the Georgia Institute of Technology has developed a thin, self-assembling, layered hydrogel f

Technology

Mitochondria at the Crossroads of Life and Death
Mitochondria at the Crossroads of Life and Death
Professors P. Motta & T. Naguro/Photo ResearchersEach of our cells hangs in a delicate balance between life and death. Which path the cell takes depends on a dense web of signaling pathways that all converge on a single cellular switch, the mitochondrion. Most of the time, pro-life signals keep the mitochondrial membrane intact and encourage the organelle to churn out ATP. But when signals from the outside or accumulated toxins within the cell tip the scales, mitochondria push the cell down

Vision

Charting the Microarray Revolution
Charting the Microarray Revolution
In the early 1990s, my colleagues and I at Stanford University began tinkering with an interesting weed, the small flowering mustard plant, Arabidopsis thaliana. We set out to study genes involved in controlling the growth and appearance of this lauded model organism, and using molecular cloning and transgenics, we identified a novel family of plant homeobox genes.This experiment proved valuable in a number of respects. First, we showed we could hasten or slow the rate of plant development by al
Innovation is the Key to the Future of Medicine
Innovation is the Key to the Future of Medicine
Toby CosgroveCourtesy of The Cleveland ClinicBill Gates once said that if business in the 1980s was about quality and in the 1990s it was about reengineering, then in the 2000s it will be about velocity. The rate of change is brutal. Obsolescence doesn't creep anymore, it leaps. The situation is best expressed in the Latin phrase absolutum obsoletum: If it works, it's out of date. In terms of shelf life, any technology at the peak of its adoption curve has passed its expiration date. You need to

How It Works

The Ultracentrifuge
The Ultracentrifuge
Step into any molecular and cellular biology laboratory anywhere in the world, and chances are you'll see an ultracentrifuge sitting somewhere nearby. Figuring prominently in the purification protocols for everything from DNA and protein to Golgi and mitochondria, these machines rely on the same physical principle that makes children giddy on playground carousels: As the rotor (or carousel) spins, objects are pushed away from its axis of rotation via centrifugal force. In a carousel, that force

Tools and Technology

RNA Rainbow
RNA Rainbow
TRIPLE DELIGHT:Courtesy of Ethan BierVentral (top) and ventro-lateral (bottom) views of Drosophila embryos triple-labeled to visualize expression patterns. The top image (early blastoderm) shows snail (blue), single minded (red), and rhomboid (green); the bottom image (early gastrulation) shows short gastrulation (blue), ventral nervous system defective (green), and intermediate nervous system defective (red). (Reprinted from http://superfly.ucsd.edu/~davek/gallery.htm)Scientists at the Universi
mRNA Amplification, sans PCR
mRNA Amplification, sans PCR
By putting two enzymes on the same shift, San Carlos, Calif.-based NuGEN http://www.nugeninc.com can turn five nanograms of total RNA into enough cDNA for a microarray in just four hours. Key to the technology, termed Ribo-SPIA, are minimal starting material, speed, and linearity, says Anne Kopf-Sill, vice president of product development.Researchers normally must amplify 2–5 micrograms of RNA to perform an array experiment. "With Ribo-SPIA technology, you don't need to acquire a large sam
A New Tool for Protein Hunters
A New Tool for Protein Hunters
Courtesy of CiphergenResearchers hunting protein abnormalities or combinations that signal disease need assay chips sensitive to the broadest possible array of proteins, over the widest concentration range. But those researchers also want technology that can read large batches of samples quickly without sacrificing accuracy. To meet those needs, Fremont, Calif.-based Ciphergen Biosystems http://www.ciphergen.com has created its new ProteinChip System Series 4000 mass spectrometer.Like the compan
Putting some MUSCLE in Sequence Alignment
Putting some MUSCLE in Sequence Alignment
Bioinformatics researchers who perform alignments of long protein sequences face a difficult choice: They can get accurate results in hours (sometimes days), or quick results if they're willing to sacrifice accuracy. Now, Robert C. Edgar, an independent researcher in Mill Valley, Calif., has an alternative: a sequencing algorithm that delivers both high accuracy and speed. Edgar calls his new algorithm MUSCLE (multiple sequence comparison by log expectation).MUSCLE uses a log expectation score t
Molecular OS Gets Upgrade
Molecular OS Gets Upgrade
The field of molecular computing came to prominence in 1994 when Len Adleman described a DNA computer based on PCR (Science, 266:1021–4). Such computers could be useful for solving particular problems but are fairly inflexible. "The main problem is that PCR can amplify the wrong DNA sequences, so errors can build up and large useful computations are difficult to perform," says Thomas Schneider of the National Cancer Institute's Laboratory of Experimental and Computational Biology.Schneider
Testing the Detectors
Testing the Detectors
Courtesy of Sceptor IndustriesIt looks like an inhaler for treating asthma, but it could help biodefense experts sleep easier at night. BioSim, from Kansas City, Mo.-based Sceptor Industries http://www.sceptorindustries.com, replaces the need for live bacteria to test the efficiency of pathogen-detection systems.Designed to test PCR-based systems, the device sprays puffs of tiny polystyrene beads coupled to bacterial DNA. The carrier beads simulate bacterial spores in the air and on surfaces, so

BioBusiness

Biotechs Put Initial Public Offerings on Hold
Biotechs Put Initial Public Offerings on Hold
Companies typically use their first-time listing on a stock exchange, known as the initial public offering (IPO), as a crucial one-time opportunity to generate cash. However, a run of disappointing biotech market debuts over the summer has caused many biotechnology companies to put their IPOs on hold or cancel them altogether."Only if companies are down-and-dirty desperate to get money and have very few other options are they opting for IPOs," says Steven Burrill, CEO of the life sciences mercha
Ventures with Venoms
Ventures with Venoms
Courtesy of Mark SewardCombinatorial chemistry and high-throughput screening have been the rage in drug discovery since the late 1990s, but plant and animal sources still hold promise. In particular, venoms have proven to be rich areas for exploitation. Drugs derived from snakes, vampire bats, and Gila monsters are all nearing regulatory review and potentially, approval. But in September, a Food and Drug Administration advisory panel voted against approval of AstraZeneca's Exanta, a cobra venom-
Drug Discovery In the Library
Drug Discovery In the Library
© 1995–2004 Missouri Botanical GardenThe drugs of tomorrow may be lurking in the fragile pages of ancient herbal texts. At least that's the hope of an adventurous research project to tap into traditional knowledge lost in the dusty vaults of libraries around the world.Eric Buenz, lead investigator for the Bioprospecting Historic Texts Project at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester, Minn., believes that ancient herbal texts are an untapped source of ethnobotanical knowledg

Reverse Transcript

Life: The Next Generation
Life: The Next Generation
Drew EndyCourtesy of Sriram KowitzFor Drew Endy, heading up the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Synthetic Biology Working Group is like being "the lifeguard at the gene pool." Working with prefabricated snippets of DNA pulled off a freezer shelf, Endy and his MIT colleagues are attempting to design and construct new living systems.Their agenda, explains Endy, is twofold: "First, let's see if we can learn more about existing systems by rebuilding them." Next, he'd like to "take natural livi