Posted: 01 Oct 2008 05:14 PM CDT
The argument that we should teach both creationism and evolution in public schools has been the fundamentalist argument since 1968, when the Supreme Court ruled that states can't ban the teaching of evolution. If you can't ban evolution, maybe you can neutralize it with a dose of Biblical literalism in biology class.
Posted: 01 Oct 2008 04:46 PM CDT
Your underwhelming correspondent is slowly spreading his tentacles around the interweb.
Check out my guest post on America’s game over at esmon dot net. And I’m delighted to have one of my science posts picked up by Tangled Bank, a biweekly blog carnival featuring the best science and medicine posts in the blogosphere. See which one they chose here at Evolved and Rational.
“Behold, I can make fire from a little box.”
Posted: 01 Oct 2008 02:14 PM CDT
Just as economists have a Big Mac index to rate the cost of living in different countries, scientists in genomics are using the full human genome sequencing cost as an index of how much DNA sequencing costs. Judging by this index October seems to be a good month for sequencing customers. Last month, several sources - [...]
Posted: 01 Oct 2008 01:11 PM CDT
Scienceroll Search is a personalized medical search engine powered by Polymeta.com. You can choose which databases to search in and which one to exclude from your list. It works with well-known medical search engines and databases and we're totally open to add new ones or remove those you don't really like.
The newest addition to the database is MD Consult, one of the most comprehensive clinical information service online provided by The National Institutes of Health Library.
And another improvement is about MeSH terms. If you do a search for heart attack, it will let you know you should also consider myocardial infarction (a MeSH synonym).
We hope you will like it and if you know a good medical database, just let us know.
Posted: 01 Oct 2008 01:03 PM CDT
From the province that brought you the dirtiest fuel ever, oil from the tar sands, comes a University of Calgary made solution. They have made a carbon capture device that sounds pretty good from what I've read (and hardly understand). Apparently 1 square meter of scrubber removes the equivalent of carbon dioxide produced by one person.
If you want to check the specs of this beast be sure to check out the discovery website as they have an interactive website containing some details on various aspects of the "Tower".
I am really glad to see Alberta investing in some of these technologies, hopefully with the idea that they can develop some in house solutions to some big problems that they are a major part of.
Posted: 01 Oct 2008 12:55 PM CDT
Congressional appropriations are largely stalled, with the exception of defense sepnding:
It's all going to defense R&D:
Posted: 01 Oct 2008 12:32 PM CDT
via Dienekes, an interesting paper on the temporal origin of disease-related genes.
An ancient evolutionary origin of genes associated with human genetic diseases
Tomislav Domazet-Loo and Diethard Tautz
Molecular Biology and Evolution
Abstract: Several thousand genes in the human genome have been linked to a heritable genetic disease. The majority of these appear to be non-essential genes (i.e. are not embryonically lethal when inactivated) and one could therefore speculate that they are late additions in the evolutionary lineage towards humans. Contrary to this expectation, we find that they are in fact significantly over-represented among the genes that have emerged during the early evolution of the metazoa. Using a phylostratigraphic approach, we have studied the evolutionary emergence of such genes at 19 phylogenetic levels. The majority of disease genes was already present in the eukaryotic ancestor and the second largest number has arisen around the time of evolution of multicellularity. Conversely, genes specific to the mammalian lineage are highly underrepresented. Hence, genes involved in genetic diseases are not simply a random subset of all genes in the genome, but are biased towards ancient genes.
Posted: 01 Oct 2008 12:26 PM CDT
We know that colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. We also know that when it's caught early, it's curable up to 95% of the time. So why aren't we catching it early? It turns out that at least 60% of Americans age 50 and older have never been screened for colorectal cancer, even though the American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends lifelong screening, including a colonoscopy every 10 years.
At DNA Direct, we think people need better choices. We've found that some people are embarrassed or unwilling to undergo invasive screening—and some would rather go without. Updated ACS guidelines in March of 2008 added both virtual colonoscopy and stool DNA testing to the recommended arsenal of screenings for colon cancer. We thought about how we could help people who know the importance of screening and early detection, but who can't or won't undergo colonoscopy.
Posted: 01 Oct 2008 12:17 PM CDT
An african-specific functional polymorphism in KCNMB1 shows sex-specific association with asthma severity.
Seibold MA, Wang B, Eng C, Kumar G, Beckman KB, Sen S, Choudhry S, Meade K, Lenoir M, Watson HG, Thyne S, Williams LK, Kumar R, Weiss KB, Grammer LC, Avila PC, Schleimer RP, Burchard EG, Brenner R.
Hum Mol Genetics 2008 Sep 1;17(17):2681-90.
Abstract: A highly heritable and reproducible measure of asthma severity is baseline pulmonary function. Pulmonary function is largely determined by airway smooth muscle (ASM) tone and contractility. The large conductance, voltage and calcium-activated potassium (BK) channel negatively regulates smooth muscle tone and contraction in ASM. The modulatory subunit of BK channels, the beta1-subunit, is critical for proper activation of BK channels in smooth muscle and has shown sex hormone specific regulation. We hypothesized that KCNMB1 genetic variants in African Americans may underlie differences in bronchial smooth muscle tone and thus pulmonary function, possibly in a sex-specific manner. Through resequencing of the KCNMB1 gene we identified several common variants including a novel African-specific coding polymorphism (C818T, R140W). The C818T SNP and four other KCNMB1 variants were genotyped in two independent groups of African American asthmatics (n = 509) and tested for association with the pulmonary function measure--forced expiratory volume (FEV(1)) % of predicted value. The 818T allele is associated with a clinically significant decline (-13%) in FEV(1) in both cohorts of asthmatics among males but not females (P(combined) = 0.0003). Patch clamp electrophysiology studies of the BK channel expressed with the 140Trp variant of the beta1-subunit demonstrated significantly reduced channel openings, predicted by the loss of pulmonary function observed. African American male asthmatics carrying the 818T allele (10% of population) are potentially at risk for greater airway obstruction and increased asthma morbidity. Female asthmatics may be insulated from the deleterious effects of the 818T allele by estrogen-mediated upregulation in BK channel activity.
Posted: 01 Oct 2008 12:14 PM CDT
Objectives. We examined the relationship between ethnic self-identification and the partitioning of health risk within a Mexican American population. Methods. We combined data from the 2000 to 2002 National Health Interview Surveys to obtain a large (N=10044) sample of US residents of Mexican ancestry. We evaluated health risk, defined as self-reported current smoking, overweight, and obesity, and compared the predictive strength of health risk correlates across self-identified Mexican and Mexican American participants. Results. Self-identified Mexican participants were less likely to smoke (odds ratio [OR]=0.70; 95% confidence interval[CI] = 0.60, 0.83; P<.001) and to be obese (OR=0.66; 95% CI=0.56, 0.77; P<.001) than were self-identified Mexican American participants. Within-group analyses found that sociodemographic predictors had inconsistent and even contradictory patterns of association with health risk across the 2 subgroups. Health risk was consistently lower among immigrants relative to US-born participants. Ethnic self-identification effects were independent of socioeconomic status. Conclusions. US residents of Mexican ancestry showed substantial within-group differences in health risk and risk correlates. Ethnic self-identification is a promising strategy to clarify differential risk and may help resolve apparent discrepancies in health risk correlates in this literature.
Posted: 01 Oct 2008 11:50 AM CDT
This is the third year that I update this list of potential winners. A warning, the list is highly biased towards basic biomedical research. In addition, some of the prizes may be more appropriate for the Chemistry prize.
We'll start with my favorite, Membrane Traffic. This finding is one of the most basic discoveries in cell biology. The two obvious winners would be James Rothman and Randy Schekman.
Last year there was a rumor that intracellular signalling may win. Tony Hunter could get it for phospho-tyrosine, Tony Pawson for protein signalling domains, and Allan Hall for small G-protein switches. Maybe Lew Cantley for modifiable lipid signals.
Structure of the first virus. Steven Harrison and Michael Rossman.
Structure and function of the ribosome. Here the list is long. Some have joked that this prize will only be awarded when some of the candidates have died. Peter Moore, Tom Steitz, Venki Ramakrishnan, Harry Noeller and Ada Yonath. What they could do is give the medicine prize to some and the chemistry prize to others.
Sadly they can no longer give an award for Angiogenesis as
Telomeres. Elizabeth Blackburn, Carol Greider and Jack Szostak. Very important stuff that touches on both cancer and aging. They won last year's Lasker Award.
Major Histocompatibility Complex, structure, maturation etc. Very hard. Don Wiley would be nominated here but he died. There are many others. In addition you could nominate Peter Cresswell.
The discovery of stemcells. Ernest McCulloch and James Till (they took the Lasker in 2006). How come this hasn't been recognized yet???
Transport Motors. Ron Vale for kinesin (they could also throw in Sheetz here too), Ian Gibons for flagellar dynein, and maybe Rich Vallee for cytoplasmic dynein and dynamin ... (there is little chance that this will happen - apparently the major complaint is that motors, i.e. myosin, already got recognized.) On a related note they could give an award for the discovery of AAA ATPases, I'm not sure who would get that but probably Bob Sawer would be on the list. A more appropriate award would be for the proteasome, but that was already the topic for the 2004 Chemistry award. (Who knows, maybe they can use this as an excuse to give it to Fred Goldberg and Alexander Varshavsky )
Chaperones Maybe Hartl, Ellis and Neupert? Maybe Lindquist? I don't know this fild too well, so if you have any more informed opinion, let me know. It would be funny if Neupert got a nobel and Jeff Schatz didn't.
And of course there is p53, one of the most important tumor supressors known. There are about 3 codiscoverers (Arnold Levine, David Lane, and Lloyd Old) so they could get it. There would be a problem with Levine as he had been involved in a small controversy. Bert Vogelstein wasn't one of the p53 discoverers, but he may get it too for demonstrating that it is a tumor suppressor. If it's tumor suppressors they could also give a prize to Robert Weinberg.
Mitosis I would love to see Shinya Inoue get it for the discovery of the mitotic spindle. They could also give it to Mitchison and Kirschner for the discovery of microtubule dynamics. Many others could be listed here.
OK time for some wild guesses ...Read the rest of this post... | Read the comments on this post...
Posted: 01 Oct 2008 10:56 AM CDT
Well, Palin has clearly revised her public position on teaching evolution. In part of her interview with Katie Couric it was addressed (I got the transcript here. )
Sounds promising right? I mean, previously, she seemed to be wishy washy on the separation of science and religion and now she seems to be trying to do the right thing. But just when you might have thought the anti-science part of her was winning out, look at her response to the next question:
Couric: Should creationism be allowed to be taught anywhere in public schools?
This basically follows the script of the Intelligent Design supporters who have been pushing for changes in the education curriculum by local school boards. And it is pretty dangerous in my mind. There should be separation of church and state. Period. At the federal level. At the state level. And at the local level. And this is clearly an attempt to circumvent that concept. So - Palin is towing the ID line here pretty closely and who knows who havoc she would wreak on science in this country if she were elected. McCain-Palin is starting to look more anti-science than Bush-Cheney, hard as that is for scientists to imagine.
Posted: 01 Oct 2008 10:42 AM CDT
ScienceBlogs and science bloggers, in general, have enthusiastically supported fund-raising efforts by DonorsChoose for the past two years, and we're doing it once again for 2008.
DonorsChoose works like this: teachers write descriptions of what they want and how they'll use it for teaching, and submit their proposals to DonorsChoose. We pick the projects we like and if you like them, too, you can help get these projects funded.
Donate to schools! Win a prize!Read the rest of this post... | Read the comments on this post...
Posted: 01 Oct 2008 10:02 AM CDT
As previously posted, bioluminescence imaging (BLI) can be helpful to longitudinally monitor stem cells localization, proliferation, and viability. To date, Alessandra Sacco and colleagues from Stanford, illustrate in Nature that reporter genes can be useful also to longitudinally monitor self-renewal and differentiation of luciferase-expressing muscle stem cells (MuSCs) after transplantation in mice. This results has been realized by mating Myf5-nLacZ mice (a reporter mouse for myogenic transcription) with a constitutive firefly luciferase mice (a reporter mouse for assessing cell number).
Of course, that is a technological advance, since it seems now possible to follow the dynamics of stem cell behavior in a manner not possible with retrospective histological analysis. We need now to develop new cognitive skills (and a little bit of statistic also) to understand this unprecedented "real time" picture, since it is quite common for generation 1.0 scientists to wonder only about "end-point" results, without considering the bulk of information revealed by longitudinally imaging in the same experimental subject.
Alessandra Sacco, Regis Doyonnas, Peggy Kraft, Stefan Vitorovic, Helen M. Blau (2008). Self-renewal and expansion of single transplanted muscle stem cells Nature DOI: 10.1038/nature07384
Posted: 01 Oct 2008 08:27 AM CDT
Just thought this NY Times graphic nicely captured the outlays of debt taken on during the recent weeks by the US Central Bank. Healthcare spending is usually the big item(s), but the new debt really dwarfs it. Immense new pressure on the financing of healthcare.
Posted: 01 Oct 2008 07:59 AM CDT
Medicine 2.0 is an interesting new field of medicine and focuses on how web 2.0 can change medical education and communication. Two interviews have recently been published about my views on this topic.
If you would like to read more, check the Medicine 2.0 collection out.
Posted: 01 Oct 2008 07:39 AM CDT
Live report about what you are doing in your virtual life.
You also get a profile for your avatar.
And of course, they have a Second Life residence as well:
I can’t wait to see how many users they will have in some months…
Posted: 01 Oct 2008 07:00 AM CDT
I’m not sure what to make of this, but Don Mueller, of William Paterson University, New Jersey, who goes by the nickname Dr Bones sent me some video clips of what is, essentially, a new sport he invented - two-racquet tennis. Now, my first thought was: “what the flip?” But, apparently his service velocity is higher than that of most tennis professionals, although I don’t think that has anything to do with using a racquet in each hand.
Anyway, he has posted a selection of videos on Youtube to demonstrate his prowess at this new sport:
Mueller tells me that he combined his understanding of basic physics to devise the “Whip-Grip”, which gives him the higher velocity. He says there are other advantages of playing tennis with a racquet in each hand: “It’s really great at the net and no more tennis elbow pain from hitting backhands, the cause of most tennis injuries,” he explains, “Where most people say, Why?, I say, Why not?”
Mueller is a teaching adjunct at WPU and this semester he tells me he’s teaching mathematics. “I’ve taught chemistry, physics and math at WPU and that’s the way I like it,” he says, “With a PhD in chemical physics, I enjoy teaching all of these subjects. Not being tied down allows me to do other things, which in my case means performing science and health shows for the public along with my promotion of two-racquet tennis.”
The notion of reinventing a well-known and popular sport by the novel application of physics is not entirely new. Just think of the football (soccer) players on the fields of Rugby School in England, when William Webb Ellis during the early nineteenth century famously made the ball defy gravity and invented the eponymous team sport from which American football was ultimately to evolve. Perhaps in 100 years’ time two-racquet tennis will have its own name, ambibat, perhaps and be just as common. One has to wonder how a McEnroe of the future might cope though, with two racquets to fling at the umpire!
Posted: 01 Oct 2008 01:43 AM CDT
1 Oct 1958, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) began operation.
This is shortly after Sputnik 1 and Sputnik 2 (carrying the dog Laika) in 1957. It is in the middle of the cold war. Still, the US makes a civilian agency for space exploration.
Now, 50 years later, we can look back on a truly exciting history of exploration. The first man on the Moon,the Pioneer mission to the outer planets, the Hubble telescope, the Mars rovers…
Of course, NASA didn’t do all the exciting stuff. USSR put the first satelite in space, the first man in space, were the first to land (an unmanned craft) on the Moon, first space station… Still, an impressive list of achivements goes to NASA.
If you are a space buff, it has been an exciting week, even ignoring the anniversary.
Posted: 30 Sep 2008 11:01 PM CDT
I learned via e-mail yesterday that the biotechnology program, that I taught with for ten years during the 90's, is ending due to low enrollments.
I also learned yesterday, via the Seattle Times, that a resurrected version of ICOS called CMC Icos Biologics is planning a $35M expansion of their biotech manufacturing plant in Bothell and talking about hiring lots of students with two-year degrees.
The irony isn't lost on me.Read the rest of this post... | Read the comments on this post...
Posted: 30 Sep 2008 10:05 PM CDT
Howard Berg is a physicist turned systems biologist, and he's been a systems biologist long before it was trendy to be one. He's one of the smartest systems biologists around, and a nice guy too (one who was nice enough to sit down for lunch next to an alone, confused, awkward grad student who I'm sure came off as a tremendously boring person...)
Berg has devoted his career to understanding information processing in E. coli, and this week in PNAS he describes a physical model of how E. coli senses food in its environment.
Posted: 30 Sep 2008 11:37 AM CDT
My mother has always said there is a special place in hell for the media. After years of watching so-called reputable media outlets like the New York Times intentionally confusing the public on the issues surrounding stem cell research, I tend to agree. There is a special place in hell for politicians and advocates who do the same.
By not distinguishing between adult stem cells and embryonic stem cells, the politicians and the media have created a confusion that is hurting the very people that stem cell research is supposed to help. How is that? Lumping human cloning, embryonic stem cell and adult stem cell research together and just simply calling it all "stem cell research" has brought controversy to non-controversial stem cell science like bone marrow transplants and cord blood banking. This unwarranted controversy slows progress because too much time is spent re-educating a confused public.
The political machine and the media think that if they just call everything "stem cell research", leaving out the part about creating and destroying embryos, that we will just take it at face value and swallow it all whole. They think that this approach somehow will advance the science. They would be wrong. So very wrong.
The intentional obfuscation hurts the stem cell research that we all can embrace. Research that is already helping patients. Consider the following quotes and you will see what I mean.
From the Star-Tribune:
Stem cells can be harvested from adults and embryos, and the latter case has attracted enormous controversy....
Steve Klein regularly coordinates blood drives through Good Shepherd United Methodist Church in Bartlett, but his latest effort to find donors has been more challenging than usual.
So to all politicians, advocates and those in the mainstream media (you know who you are), be truly honest and make the distinction between stem cells that come from embryos and those that do not. The next time you want to tell half-truths about "stem cell research" because you think it will advance your agenda or influence the public debate, DON'T! It only creates confusion and "People are dying because of it."
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