Friday, December 12, 2003

Science Journal Round-up

Science News

Berkeley accused of biotech bias as ecologist is denied tenure
Nature 10 Dec 2003 - Apparently Dr. Ignacio Chapela, an anti-GM ecologist, is upset that he was denied tenure. He claims that it's because Berkeley is biased (towards research that generates money as opposed to research that generates zilcho dinero). Gee, could it be that he didn't get tenure because he published diddley squat?! Sorry, buddy, in science being a nice guy just doesn't cut it.

Hot Research

Molecular Memories That Survive Silicon Device Processing and Real-World Operation
Science 28 Nov 2003 - Chemists from UC Riverside and N. Carolina State have developed an organic molecular method for storing information. They show that porphyrin-based molecules fused to Si(100) can withstand the extremes of temperature (up to 400 degrees C) and ~10^12 read-write cycles. Also, multi-bit information storage is possible with these molecules since they can undergo multiple redox states.

A Protein Interaction Map of Drosophila melanogaster
Science 5 Nov 2003 - For fly biologists out there, this group has attempted to map all the protein to protein interactions in the fly proteome. The main problems I have with this paper is that the resolution of the figures in the paper is poor and that they used two-hybrid experiments to test for interaction between proteins. Two-hybrid experiments often elicit many false positives. But they did assess the reliability of the interactions based on experiments done on yeast orthologs. The results may be useful for finding novel protein-protein interactions and then lead to more extensive testing.

MICROBIOLOGY: Chemical Warfare and Mycobacterial Defense
Science 12 Dec 2003 - Researchers from Cornell University have discovered a key component of how M. tuberculosis, one of the deadliest pathogens, eludes destruction by the body's immune system. M. tuberculosis is typically inhaled into the lungs where it is taken up by macrophages, immune cells that typically engulf and kill foreign cells. M. tuberculosis avoids destruction by blocking fusion with lysosomes (organelles fill with acid and digestive enzymes) and resisting the toxic effects of nitric oxide (NO) which is produced as part of the immune response.

The proteosome of M. tuberculosis was shown to be the primary component of NO resistance. Proteosomes are macromolecular protein structures found in prokaryotes and eukaryotes. They function in the turnover of cellular proteins by degradation of misfolded or damaged proteins. In M. tuberculosis, the proteosome detects damaged proteins and is also able to repair them, conserving resources. If some proteins comprising the proteosome are mutated, M. tuberculosis is less virulent and easier for the macrophages to fight off. The M. tuberculosis proteosome may serve as an important target for development of additional tuberculosis drugs to treat drug-resistant strains.

Viewpoints: Tragedy of the Commons (a.k.a the sky is falling)This week's issue of Science has a special issue on managing world resources to commemorate the 35th anniversary of the publication of Garrett Hardin's essay, "The Tragedy of the Commons." Dr. Hardin was a zero-populationist. I'm sure what he said back in 1968 seemed radical, but now his views are eerily commonplace. I'll save a fisking of his essay for a later time, when I'm feeling particularly grumpy. Anyway, this collection of viewpoints on Hardin's theme may interest those of you that may wonder where the U.N. gets their policies on reproduction, global warming, management of global resources etc. It appears that scientists from Hardin's school of thought are making international policy and it should scare those of us that value freedom and personal responsibility.

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