Items filtered by date: July 2013

Why Congress Should Be Worried About the Endoplasmic Reticulum

Morphogenesis in biology always fascinated me. As a developmental neurobiologist at the bench, I studied how homeobox genes patterned the neural epithelium, the retina in particular, to understand the events that turn a flat sheet of epithelium into a three-dimensional hemisphere, the optic cup. Since I came of age scientifically during the “genetic revolution” era, I was mesmerized by the ability of that technology to alter the mouse genome and allow me to watch powerful genes operating in vivo. However, I also had at the back of my mind an idea for a different if complementary approach to genetics. I envisioned a new kind of theoretical modeling that could take into account the physical forces acting on single cells while shaping a developing tissue. In particular, when imagining the retina’s formation, I always thought of the role of mechanical forces on cells, bending the epithelium sheet into an optic cup, and how this must be achieved with the lowest possible energy consumption.


The Perils of Reviewing Peer Review

As a recovering federal employee, I recognize that one of the biggest challenges the government faces in funding science is that of being truly Darwinian in a rapidly evolving scientific environment. Engineering natural selection doesn’t come easily to government funding agencies, which are often playing with one hand behind the back.


Within the Genome: All One and All Different

On  a recent hot Sunday afternoon, my eight-year-old son, Davide, and I left “the girls” (mom and four-year-old daughter) at home to embark on a field trip to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History on the National Mall in Washington, DC. We were going to visit a science exhibit celebrating the 10th anniversary of the human genome sequencing.1,2 It turned out to be one of my best Sundays in quite a while!


The Story of WI-38, the Other Famous Cell Line

Recently, a news feature published in the journal Nature caught my attention. I was pleased to read such an insightful piece on a key issue for cell biologists—the ethical and effective use of human tissues and cells. Credit goes to science reporter Meredith Wadman who took a closer look at the intriguing “back story” behind a rather famous cell line, WI-38, that was established in 1962 by Leonard Hayflick at the virology powerhouse of the day, the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia1. The twists and turns of the WI-38 story are complex, and I strongly encourage followers of this blog to read Wadman’s feature article, which sets out the facts clearly and yet doesn't duck the implications.

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