September 2001

News

Battling the Bioinvaders
Battling the Bioinvaders
Mosquitoes infected with the West Nile virus fly through American air; green crabs and other foreign crustaceans feed on indigenous sea life in San Francisco Bay; the Formosan termite is feasting on historic New Orleans; and the next boat or plane arriving in the United States from anywhere could be hauling who-knows-what in its ballast waters or cargo hold. Collectively called invasive species, these uninvited animals, insects, flora, and pathogens continue to exacerbate eradication efforts of
Bioengineering and Imaging Merge at NIH
Bioengineering and Imaging Merge at NIH
The National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) will become fully functional by Oct. 31, burying a two-decade struggle between powerful foes. That fight reached crisis point on the last working day of 2000, when former President Bill Clinton was faced with deciding whether to sign a federal law sanctioning the 19th institute at the National Institutes of Health. To approve NIBIB, he would have to override the opposition of numerous scientific groups and of his Health and
Stem Cells: Steady Momentum Toward Funding
Stem Cells: Steady Momentum Toward Funding
Federal funding for research involving human embryonic stem cells (ESCs) is moving closer to reality as the Bush administration rushes to finalize a public registry of approved cell line providers. In late August, the National Institutes of Health announced 10 organizations that it said had developed 64 stem cell lines that meet all the criteria for federal funding (see table). Nevertheless, some licensing and patent issues need to be resolved and new and potentially complicating questions are e
Researchers Focus on Histone Code
Researchers Focus on Histone Code
Histones, the proteins around which DNA coils to form chromatin, are moving toward the forefront of epigenetic research (see also, "The Meaning of Epigenetics"). A recently floated hypothesis states that the highly modifiable amino termini, or tails, of these proteins could carry their own combinatorial codes or signatures to help control phenotype, and that parts of this code may be heritable. Histones are perhaps more intimately linked with DNA than any other protein. Transcriptional regulati
News Notes
News Notes
Bad news for oak forests of the Northwest; sudden oak death was detected in Oregon last month. Though it's unclear how it arrived, it's feared that this killer spread from the central California coast, where it has destroyed thousands of oak trees since 1994. A recent discovery of the infectious agent, the fungus Phytophthora ramorum, in rhododendrons has provided the first clue in what up until now has been the mysterious appearance of this deadly pathogen. Although Phytophthora's European rela

Research

Sensory Perceptions
Sensory Perceptions
Editor's Note: The second installment of this five-part series, on hearing, will appear in the Oct. 1 issue. Freshly cut lilac, fingernails on a chalkboard, just-baked apple pie, satin and silk, the vivid hues of a sunset. Such sensory stimuli shape people's lives. They arouse and change, elate or sadden, calm or agitate. They tap memories of yesterday or years ago. Information that travels through the eyes, nose, ears, mouth, and skin define the world: what the senses don't perceive, the brain
Gene Therapy, Stem Cells: Prime for Vision Restoration
Gene Therapy, Stem Cells: Prime for Vision Restoration
Editor's Note: The second installment of this five-part series, on hearing, will appear in the Oct. 1 issue. Using gene therapy, scientists earlier this year reversed blindness in three dogs afflicted with Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA). The news excited the scientific world and popular press. LCA is a rare, inherited disease characterized by a severe loss of vision at birth. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, Cornell University, and University of Florida showed that injecting a
Gene Therapy Targets Canavan Disease
Gene Therapy Targets Canavan Disease
The Canavan trial signals a new phase in a 10-year offensive that gene therapy researchers have waged against neurodegenerative disorders.
Research Notes
Research Notes
Telomerase reverse transcriptase (TERT) promotes the expression of the enzyme telomerase, which is responsible for copying the ends of chromosomes known as telomeres. Maintaining telomere length is necessary for the growth, survival, and injury prevention of cells. But, after birth, TERT production normally stops in most cell types. Consequently, telomeres are incapable of unlimited proliferation as they shorten during the aging process. Researchers at the Baylor College of Medicine, Waco, Texas

Commentary

Half a Loaf is Not Good Enough
Half a Loaf is Not Good Enough
President George W. Bush announced on Aug. 9 in a nationally televised address to the nation that he had decided to restrict public funding for embryonic stem cell research to only those cell lines already in existence as of that day. He said at the time that there were 60 cell lines in existence around the world and that these should prove adequate to allow embryonic stem cell research to proceed (See also, "Stem Cells: Steady Momentum for Funding"). He also made it very clear that he would opp
The Meaning of Epigenetics
The Meaning of Epigenetics
Epigenetics is the buzz word prominent in the current issue of The Scientist (see "Researchers Focus on Histone Code") and a recent theme issue of Science (August 10, 2001). The term was introduced by Conrad H. Waddington in 1942.1 To paraphrase an erudite epistolary exchange in Science, he is said to contrast genetics with epigenetics, the study of the processes by which genotype gives rise to phenotype. In 1942 we had barely any clue as to what those processes are, so "epigenetic" had no conno

Hot Paper

Hemophilia: Finding the Right Path
Hemophilia: Finding the Right Path
For this article, Jim Kling interviewed Mark Kay, a professor of pediatrics and genetics, and director of the Human Gene Therapy program at Stanford University, Stanford, Calif., and pediatrics professor Katherine High, University of Pennsylvania and the director of research, hematology division at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Data from the Web of Science (ISI, Philadelphia) show that Hot Papers are cited 50 to 100 times more often than the average paper of the same type and age. R.

Bench Buys

Bench Buys
Bench Buys
The green revolution has reached the centrifuge world. Kendro Laboratory Products of Newtown, Conn., is offering a 30 percent discount on ColorTone™ fixed-angle rotors for customers who retire any Sorvall® Superspeed rotor and replace it with a ColorTone rotor. The discount is applicable to an unlimited number of retired rotors. ColorTone rotors are available in six colors and allow laboratories to easily color-code rotors according to laboratory, protocol, or contaminant. The promotio

Technology

High Throughput Gel Shifts
High Throughput Gel Shifts
To determine whether a given transcription factor activity is present in a sample, you need look no farther than the standard electrophoretic mobility shift assay (EMSA). In an EMSA, researchers mix a radioactively labeled DNA probe with a protein extract and run the entire reaction on a nondenaturing polyacrylamide gel. Because the protein-bound probe will migrate more slowly than a free probe, the experiment is described as a "gel shift." Unfortunately, the gel shift is a cumbersome way to pro
Transcription Factor Decoys
Transcription Factor Decoys
Transcription factor oligodeoxynucleotide (ODN) decoys are new research tools designed to enhance the study of gene regulation. The approach involves flooding the cells with enough double-stranded decoy to compete for binding of transcription factors with their consensus sequences in target genes. If present in high-enough concentrations, these "decoys" can negate the ability of the transcription factor to regulate gene expression. The technology has proven effective in vitro and more recently,

Technology Profile

Yeast: An Attractive, Yet Simple Model
Yeast: An Attractive, Yet Simple Model
Yeast possesses many characteristics that make it especially useful as a model system in the laboratory, including an entirely sequenced genome. Recently, a number of researchers published studies detailing the transition from genome sequencing to functional genomics. Notably, these scientists have developed new high-throughput approaches to the characterization of large numbers of yeast genes. In aggregate, these studies make yeast one of the most well-characterized eukaryotic organisms known.
Tailored Arrays
Tailored Arrays
DNA array-based technologies are widely used in biological research, most commonly to measure differential gene expression--that is, comparing the relative levels of RNA transcripts in different cell or tissue samples.1,2 In a common scenario, researchers label cDNA targets prepared from control and experimental samples with two different fluorescent dyes. They then hybridize these two samples simultaneously to a single microarray bearing tens of thousands of oligonucleotide probes. Finally, the

Profession

The Long Road to Riches in the Life Sciences
The Long Road to Riches in the Life Sciences
The highest paying jobs in life sciences involve clinical research, bioinformatics, or bioengineering, according to an earnings survey by The Scientist and Abbott, Langer & Associates Inc. The median salaries plus cash compensation for jobs in these disciplines, from $75,000 to $77,000, are 36-40 percent higher than the $55,000 median pay for the 7,902 life scientists who provided usable responses. Salaries for doctorate bioinformaticians who also hold medical degrees prove to be even higher
New Federal Privacy Rules Stump Researchers
New Federal Privacy Rules Stump Researchers
A new federal rule designed to protect patients' privacy rights could handicap researchers and prompt legal challenges, according to health policy experts. The privacy rule in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA)--for which the Department of Health and Human Services released guidelines in July--requires that researchers who use the nation's tissue banks obtain authorizations when they use patient-specific information, such as medical histories. According to HI
Profession Notes
Profession Notes
The old PhD career path: Get the degree. Teach. The new PhD career path: Get the degree. Teach, but only if nothing better comes along. A majority of science and engineering doctorate holders have forsaken careers in academia, even though they started out on a teaching track, according to "Academic Employment of Recent Science and Engineering Doctorate Holders." Fewer of those who opt for academia want to share their knowledge with students. "Although a sizeable majority [64 percent] of recent [
Funding Opportunities in the Life Sciences
Funding Opportunities in the Life Sciences
Click to view our current database of Funding Opportunites in the Life Sciences.

Opinion

Beware of Direct Lines
Beware of Direct Lines
The most optimistic proponents of genomics suggest that with some human genomes (almost) completely sequenced, the next step of identifying disease-associated genes will be greatly enhanced. Now, so the argument goes, it should be possible to determine the functions of these genes and their corresponding gene products. Scientists hope this step will pave the way for the identification of drugs that target these disease-related gene products and treat or even cure the associated diseases. A scena