September 1999

News

International Dialogue Grows Among Women
International Dialogue Grows Among Women
A six-week "debate" on women in science that began Sept. 9 on the Nature Web site is the latest illustration of how media technology is helping to turn the long struggle for female parity with male colleagues into an internationally shared experience. Helen C. Davies "I can't help contrasting this with what has gone before," comments Helen C. Davies, president of the Association for Women in Science and a microbiology professor at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center. Recalling effor
Cancer, Diet, and Funding: Food or Pharmaceuticals?
Cancer, Diet, and Funding: Food or Pharmaceuticals?
The chemoprevention field could be characterized as being in a double-blind double bind. One side of the field emphasizes taking a "whole food" approach to using food to prevent cancer. That approach entails having scientists closely monitor everything a necessarily small group of subjects eats over a necessarily short period of time. Such studies pick apart the complexities of diet and its possible roles in keeping cancer at bay. But the small numbers and short time frame put any conclusions o
Oceans: Medicine Chests of the Future?
Oceans: Medicine Chests of the Future?
As disease resistance to antibiotics and other drugs continues to build, even new methods of discovery such as combinatorial chemistry may not be able to meet the ever-increasing need for more efficient and more effective compounds. According to a core group of researchers, however, an untapped reservoir of powerful new medicines is in the oceans. In fact, so rich is life in the oceans that some seafaring scientists go so far as to say the greatest bounty in the medicine chest of the new millen
Of Sheep and Grapes: DNA Fingerprinting Tracks Ancestry
Of Sheep and Grapes: DNA Fingerprinting Tracks Ancestry
Since the mid-1980s, variations on the DNA fingerprinting theme have left their marks on diverse fields. By comparing distinctive DNA sequences, aberrations, or numbers of repeats among individuals, investigators have matched suspects to crime scenes and parents to offspring; assembled body parts in the aftermath of disasters; identified kidnap victims, Thomas Jefferson's son, and the remains of Tsar Nicholas' family, who were executed in 1918; and exonerated 64 prisoners, including nine on dea
Drosophila Sequenced--Now the Tricky Part
Drosophila Sequenced--Now the Tricky Part
Celera Genomics announced Sept. 9 that the Rockville, Md., company had sequenced the 1.8 billion base pairs that make up the Drosophila melanogaster genome. Now comes the tricky part--putting them together to form an accurate, contiguous fruit fly genome. "The sequence data is good," Paul Gilman, a Celera vice president, claims. "The question is, 'How good is our assembly?'" That's a question that critics of the company's "whole genome shotgun" sequencing approach--blasting the entire genome in
Stirring the Gene Pool: Will Data on Trees Lead to Forest of Understanding?
Stirring the Gene Pool: Will Data on Trees Lead to Forest of Understanding?
Understanding the genetic structure of ecosystems is important in saving biodiversity. That's especially vital as humans fragment vast natural areas into isolated patches, cutting off avenues for outcrossing. Unfortunately, scientists' understanding of breeding systems and gene flow may be even more fragmented than the ecosystems. Botanists are hard at work remedying the situation. Using genetic markers, they analyze plant paternity and infer how far pollen travels on gentle breezes or the bac
E-Biomed Becomes Pubmed Central
E-Biomed Becomes Pubmed Central
On Aug. 30 Harold Varmus, National Institutes of Health director, invited all members of the scientific publishing world to attend his version of a peer-review free-for-all. Several weeks later, it remains to be seen who will show up. The gala in question is PubMed Central, an Internet research repository first proposed by Varmus May 5 under the name E-biomed. The renamed repository will contain two kinds of research after its January 2000 addition to the popular PubMed Web site: non-peer-revi

Commentary

Gender Differences in Research Productivity
Gender Differences in Research Productivity
Numerous studies have found that female scientists publish at slower rates than male scientists. In a classic statement of the problem, Jonathan Cole and Harriet Zuckerman characterize this gender gap in publication rates as "the productivity puzzle."

Letter

Evolution
Evolution
I personally find it weird to hear so much controversy1 over something as simple as evolution. The word is part of everyday use as a euphuism for progress: the evolution of the motor car, a child to adulthood (major changes), social and political (arguable), stars in the main sequence, the elements (yep, they evolved), and the main one: science. No one questions the existence of the above evolutionary processes, and the ongoing changes. The point I am making is that few fail to grasp the conce
Research and Chimpanzees
Research and Chimpanzees
Regarding the recent article on AIDS vaccine research and chimpanzees:1 Animal rights activists are not the only people that regret that these types of studies have to be performed on these highly intelligent and emotional creatures. Not one of the researchers interviewed in this article mentioned any regret. The story fails to mention the ultimate fate of the chimpanzees in the discontinued studies, who made a sacrifice for the Homo sapiens, albeit unwillingly. [Ed.: See previous story2] I th

Opinion

The National Educational Research System
The National Educational Research System
Last year nearly 100 of the top corporate CEOs met and concluded that to ensure a healthy economy, the nation's top priorities are more effective science and mathematics education and increased investment by the federal government in fundamental research. Illustration: A. Canamucio It is time to eliminate the defensiveness that greets every critique of education and take strategic action. To succeed, our education systems must become "learning organizations" that learn every week how to be mo

Research

New Approaches to Drug Addiction Therapy
New Approaches to Drug Addiction Therapy
Drug and alcohol addiction costs the United States more than $100 billion a year. Neither law enforcement nor therapy has been able to adequately combat this problem, so it continues to grow. Some researchers are taking a new approach: Instead of looking at addiction as lack of self-control or escape, why not see it as a chronic, reoccurring disease? Research substantiates that there are fundamental biological processes at work in the brain of a drug user. Long-term changes occur there, predisp

Hot Paper

Heart Disease
Heart Disease
Edited by: Eugene Russo P.M. Ridker, M. Cushman, M.J. Stampfer, R.P. Tracy, C.H. Hennekens, "Inflammation, aspirin, and the risk of cardiovascular disease in apparently healthy men," New England Journal of Medicine, 336:973-9, April 3, 1997. (Cited in more than 250 papers since publication) Comments by Paul M. Ridker, associate professor of medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston Physicians typically check patients for signs of cardiovascular disease, or atherosclerosis, by measuring
Genetics
Genetics
Edited by: Eugene Russo F. Kunst, N. Ogasawara, I. Moszer, A.M. Albertini, G. Alloni, V. Azevedo, M.G. Bertero, P. Bessières, A. Bolotin, S. Borchert, R. Borriss, L. Boursier, A. Brans, M. Braun, S.D. Brignell, S. Bron, S. Brouillet, C.V. Bruschi, B. Caldwell, V. Capuano, N.M. Carter, S.K. Choi, J.J. Codani, I.F. Connerton, N.J. Cummings, R.A. Daniel, F. Denizot, K.M. Devine, A. Düsterhöft, S.D. Ehrlich, P.T. Emmerson, K.D. Entian, J. Errington, C. Fabret, E. Ferrari, D. Foulge

Technology

Rack 'Em Up With the Tipster II: Bellco Glass' Automated Pipette Tip Loader
Rack 'Em Up With the Tipster II: Bellco Glass' Automated Pipette Tip Loader
Who hasn't felt a pang of guilt when an empty tip box bounces off the bottom of a trashcan? All of those discarded pipette tip boxes represent wasted resources. Manually loading tips, on the other hand, wastes other resources such as time and energy, fueling frustrations as yet another handful of tips scatters across the floor. Bellco recently introduced the Tipster II. Billed as the premier automatic pipette tip-loading device, the Tipster loads 576 pipette tips--enough for six boxes--in abou
Mutation Station: Transgenomic's WAVE System Eliminates Base-by-Base Search
Mutation Station: Transgenomic's WAVE System Eliminates Base-by-Base Search
A minor alteration in a single gene of the human body can be a major contributor to the development of a wide spectrum of diseases ranging from cystic fibrosis to cancer. With the Human Genome Project in full swing, the number of genes available to analyze for these changes is growing daily. The increased demand for genetic testing also requires rapid screening capabilities. Transgenomic Inc. recognized this need and has designed an automated high-throughput system for mutation detection. Trans
The X-Treme Sport Of Drug Screening: Xpress-Screen Assay Achieves Quantitative Detection of mRNA For Drug Discovery
The X-Treme Sport Of Drug Screening: Xpress-Screen Assay Achieves Quantitative Detection of mRNA For Drug Discovery
Image provided by PE Biosystems Advanced Discovery Sciences Xpress-Screen detection system In high-throughput screening (HTS)-based drug discovery, the task is to create and read enormous libraries, seeking the rare lead that eventually becomes a multibillion-dollar drug. No stone is left unturned in this search, and a multitude of single-molecule detection assays is lined up for every program direction imaginable. Xpress-Screen combines Tropix Inc.'s chemiluminescence technology with the we

Technology Profile

Out on a LIM: Database Systems for Biotechnology
Out on a LIM: Database Systems for Biotechnology
The personal computer continues to evolve, further relieving scientists from tedious and mundane tasks. The extra time made available by computer assistance allows increased productivity and may pay off with faster and more profound discoveries. Linking individual computers through a network or the World Wide Web allows access to remote databases and instantaneous reporting of results, increasing efficiency. Computers have come a long way from the first handheld calculators that could perform
All's Well that Ends Well: A Profile of Specialty Microwell Plates
All's Well that Ends Well: A Profile of Specialty Microwell Plates
Date: September 27, 1999Table of Specialty Microplates The story of the microplate is one of those tales of history that either has been forgotten or was never clearly understood. According to Barry Lazar of Dynex Technologies, formerly Dynatech Laboratories, the origin of what is now commonly referred to by Dynex's registered trademark of Microtiter plates began with Gyola Takatsy, a Hungarian-born scientist who was trying to scale down serology tests. His first prototype became available in 1
The Paperless Lab: Database Systems for the Life Sciences
The Paperless Lab: Database Systems for the Life Sciences
Date: September 27, 1999Laboratory Database Systems The collective mantra of the scientific community seems to be "Data! Data! Data!" New high-throughput devices generate mountains of data in a matter of minutes. Without some way to manage this information, a researcher can be quickly mired in "information overload." Laboratory database software systems provide a convenient way to centralize, archive, and secure data generated by many sources. These systems can reduce clutter, speed communicati

Profession

Working in Industry: Researchers Balance Work and Life
Working in Industry: Researchers Balance Work and Life
Indianapolis is the center for research and development for Eli Lilly and Co. Scientists at large pharmaceutical companies have access to colleagues in diverse areas. As a result, an individual may stumble across an opportunity that leads to a diversion from a logical career progression. Hedberg adds, "It is important to know that you have the responsibility for your own career management. If you are interested in pursuing these opportunities they are there for you to sample, but you have

Notebook

Notebook
Notebook
The banded Gila monster's saliva may help provide a new treatment for type II diabetes mellitus. NEW TREATMENT FOR DIABETES II? A chemical in the saliva of the Gila monster Heloderma suspectum that helps digest gigantic meals may provide a new treatment for type II diabetes mellitus. The Gila monster is one of only two venomous lizards and hails from the Phoenix, Ariz., area, coincidentally the home of the Pima Indians, who have the world's highest incidence of type II diabetes." John Eng, a