John Fleischman

John Fleischman

John is ASCB Senior Science Writer and the author among other things of two nonfiction books for older children, "Phineas Gage: A Gruesome But True Story About Brain Science" and "Black & White Airmen," both from Houghton-Mifflin-Harcourt, Boston.

A standing-room-only crowd at a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee May 15 heard the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) top brass bemoan the stagnation in the last decade of federal funding for biomedical research and plead to be spared further cuts in the fiscal year 2014 (FY14) budget.

The "journal impact factor" rebellion is spreading. In the two weeks since it first went online, DORA—the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment  hat calls on scientists and scientific organizations around the world to minimize use of the journal impact factor (JIF) in evaluating research and  researchers—has seen the number of individual signers jump from 155 to 6,083 while the number of scientific organizations signing on has gone from 78 to 231.

The last time Elias Zerhouni appeared before an official ASCB gathering in 2007, he was still National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director. Zerhouni had already made a big splash at the ASCB Annual Meeting in San Diego the year before when he volunteered as a judge for CellSlam, the ASCB's wildly popular stand-up science slam. By all accounts, "Dr. Z" rocked the house. Zerhouni repeated as an unflappable and untoppable CellSlam judge at the ASCB's 2007 Annual Meeting in Washington. He ended his six-year tenure as NIH Director in 2008.

Thursday, 15 September 2011 20:00

Repeating Yourself—the DNA Danger

Every cell in the body starts off with essentially the same genome, but sometimes the DNA sequence in a cell gets changed. Some of these changes are due to normal physiology (e.g. DNA is rearranged in immune cells to generate diversity in the adaptive immune system), but others are actual errors that occur when the DNA is copied during cell base. Some mistakes involve the introduction of long sequences in which short DNA "words" are repeated many times. Like a skipping CD (or an old school vinyl record), small areas of the genome are repeated over and over again and once it's copied in the DNA, all subsequent cellular offspring, have the repeated mistake.

Proteins have to be transported through the complex internal environment of a cell to reach their site of function. Nowhere is this more evident than in brain cells, or neurons, which communicate with each other over long distances at specialized sites of contact, called synapses. Through a poorly understood process, the neuron must sort through thousands of protein to identify a small set of proteins that must travel to the synapse.

Protein aggregates—abnormal clumps of misfolded proteins—are common feature in diseases such as Parkinson's, Huntington's, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob (CJD, the infamous "mad cow" disease). However, it's still a mystery as to whether these aggregates cause the disease or are simply an effect. If aggregates are the cause, how do they work?

A foundation created by a Slovakian-born microbiologist who helped shape a monoclonal antibody into a clinically effective tumor necrosis factor (TNF) blocker will once again award three $35,000 no-strings cash prizes to young immigrant scientists who demonstrate "exceptional" records of early career achievement in the life sciences.

Wednesday, 05 June 2013 20:00

The Seacoast of Illinois?

MBL Vote Moves Woods Hole Landmark Toward Deal with University of Chicago

Shakespeare famously set the shipwreck scene of The Winter's Tale in "Bohemia, a desert country near the sea," a geographical stretch unrivaled until the vote last Saturday by the Marine Biology Laboratory (MBL) Corporation, the scientific membership body that holds residual legal rights but no direct control over the MBL in Woods Hole, MA, to affiliate with the University of Chicago (UChicago). The seacoast of Illinois is now one step closer as the members' overwhelming vote of 158-2 gave MBL's Board of Trustees authority to negotiate terms with UChicago in a deal that would hopefully leave the 125-year-old MBL as a distinct institution but provide relief from its ongoing financial woes.

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