Friday, November 21, 2003

Science Journals Roundup

Note: A subscription is probably required to view these articles. You can get a free 6 month subscription for the journal Nature here.

Science & Politics (I just can't get enough):

Medical journal under attack as dissenters seize AIDS platform
Nature vol. 426, pg. 215 (20 November 2003)-
Apparently, some AIDS researchers are upset that the British Journal of Medicine (BJM)has been regularly publishing the letters of a very small minority of scholars that deny HIV causes AIDS. They feel that the BJM may be assisting in the "dissemination of disinformation," but the editors of BJM assert that the letters are free speech.

I'm all for free speech, but sometimes it gets irritating trying to reason with the unreasonable. For example, I once corresponded with an"AIDS revisionist" that was not a trained scientist. I was able to tear his arguments to shreds with the overwhelming evidence found in thousands of research papers supporting the HIV/AIDS theory. However, this individual was very dogmatic and resistant to logic, even if the data was published in respected peer-reviewed journals. So it was a waste of my time to even address his arguments since he ignored the scientific evidence. So I can understand why AIDS researchers would get tired of having to refute the same half-truths and outright lies over and over again. Maybe the BJM should just restrict the number of letters from the AIDS revisionists (there's only a handful of actual scientists in the group) they print to one or two a year. That way the real AIDS experts don't have to waste valuable research time responding to these yahoos.

Cool Research:

Plant development: Leaves by number
Nature vol. 426, pg. 237 (20 November 2003)-
The regular arrangement of leaves around a plant's stem, known as phyllotaxis, occur in a pattern known as the Fibonacci series as shown below.
In this study, the authors discover that proteins involved in the transport of the plant hormone, auxin, are involved in phyllotaxis. Leaves bud where the auxin concentration is the highest and formed leaf buds acts as auxin sinks. Thus, new leaf buds form higher up on the stalk where they are spaced away from the existing leaf buds.

Nature vol. 426, pg. 237(20 November 2003)

Whale of a catch blows hole in family tree
Nature vol. 426, pg. 219 (20 November 2003)-
A new species of baleen whale was discovered by marine biologist Tadasu Yamada. Eden's whale (B. edeniis related to Bryde's whale, but when Shiro Wada, a molecular biologist at Japan's National Research Institute of Fisheries Science in Yokohama, analysed enzymes in the liver and muscle of those specimens, he found dramatic differences.

Developmental biology: Gender benders
Nature vol. 426, p. 241 (20 November 2003)-
Insulin receptors were shown to be required for development of male sexual organs in mice. When all three insulin receptors were knocked out, the male mice developed ovaries instead of testes. Triple-mutants are very difficult to make and analyze since knocking out single genes is often lethal. So, hats off to these researchers, but I sure wouldn't want this as a thesis project.

Design of a Novel Globular Protein Fold with Atomic-Level Accuracy Kuhlman et al. design a new protein fold with a unique sequence and topology. They then solved the structure of this novel protein using x-ray crystallography and NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance) and showed that it was nearly identical to their predictions. Why did they do this? Because they could.

Central Lynch Pin in Psychosis
Science vol. 302(5649), 21 Nov 2003, pp. 1412-1415.
Amphetamines, PCP, and LSD all cause pychosis similar to that seen in schizophrenia, but they act by different mechanisms. Svenningsson et al. show that these three signaling pathways converge on a single protein, DARPP, which is involved in regulation of downstream pathways. DARPP is phosphorylated at different sites. In mice, if DARPP is knocked out or its phosphrylation sites are mutated, then the psychotic effects of amphetamines, PCP, and LSD are reduced.

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