Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is the most common and the most deadly adult primary brain tumor, with an average survival of just 14 months following diagnosis. Even with aggressive treatment by surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, most therapeutic approaches targeting the glioma cells in GBM fail. Faced with this bleak picture, Johanna Joyce and colleagues at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) in New York City looked for an alternative strategy and turned to non-tumor cells that are part of the glioma microenvironment, the cancer's cellular neighbors. In particular, they zeroed in on tumor-associated macrophages and microglia (TAMs). The results were startling.

Published in Live from ASCB 2013

As we have learned more about the biology of cancer, it has become obvious that, aside from changes to the cancer genome, there are many other factors that determine tumor outcomes. Epigenetics, influences from the microenvironment, exosomes, and interplay with the immune system are now all recognized major players in cancer progression. Fresh evidence from Alain Silk, Melissa Wong, and colleagues at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) in Portland implicates a century-old observation—fusion of cancer cells with macrophages—as a new potentiator of cancer progression.

Published in Live from ASCB 2013

E-cigarettes have put nicotine back in the news and into the hands of a growing number of American smokers who now "vape," that is, inhale a steam of nicotine, polyethylene glucose (PEG), and flavoring generated by cigarette-shaped, battery-powered vaporizers.

Published in Live from ASCB 2013

Cell division is the great domestic drama of a cell's life. In sickness and in health, cell division by mitosis is the complicated yet critical process by which a mother cell divides into two daughter cells. But first the mother cell has to pack up her cellular household contents, disassembling and dividing up everything for her soon-to-be-formed daughters. How cells manage division has been exhaustively studied for well over a century and yet basic mysteries remain.

Published in Live from ASCB 2013

Dramatic stories in cell biology often have sequels—"Duel of the Alzheimer's Proteins, Part XV"—and indeed this work is a nail-biting sequel to George Bloom's hypothesis that interaction between amyloid-beta peptides and the protein tau drives adult neurons into the forbidden pathway of "cell cycle re-entry" (CCR). The long-term result is Alzheimer's disease (AD). Bloom and colleagues at the University of Virginia (UVA) now say that they have found the critical balance point between tau and a master cellular regulator that amyloid-beta oligomers disrupt.

Published in Live from ASCB 2013

Fever, ache, and the other miseries of influenza viral infection afflict 5−20 percent of the U.S. population each year. The "flu" is usually not life-threatening to the majority of its victims, but as the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 showed, flu viruses can evolve into lethal agents and spread worldwide. The ability of flu viruses to change continually through mutation and genetic swaps is the reason that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reformulates the flu vaccine each year, hoping to block the types and subtypes of influenza viruses that they believe are most likely to be in circulation.

Published in Live from ASCB 2013

Insurrection, intellectual rebellion, or learned remonstrance, call it what you will, the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment, or DORA, began one year ago this week in a windowless meeting room in the depths of the Moscone Convention Center when a group of scientists, journal editors, and publishers decided they had a common problem that needed addressing—the journal impact factor, or JIF.

Published in Live from ASCB 2013

Elaine Fuchs grew up surrounded by scientists. Her father and aunt were scientists at Argonne National Laboratories, and later her older sister became a neuroscientist. So Fuchs has followed in the family footsteps. Today she is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, a professor at the Rockefeller University, and a widely recognized pioneer in adult stem cell research. She is also a former ASCB President. As an ASCB stalwart and a stem cell pathfinder, Fuchs was drafted to serve on the ASCB Stem Cell Task Force last spring and helped write the preliminary report, which was presented for public comment last month.

Published in Live from ASCB 2013

One is an insider who just came in from the outside, the other, an outsider serving as an advisor at the very highest level. But both are key players in the future of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Both will be on stage at the ASCB Annual Meeting in New Orleans on Monday, December 16, at 1:30 pm in Room 356.

Published in Live from ASCB 2013

An experiment: Some warm and starry night, take two senior cell biologists out on a boat. Put wine or beer or something that signals "closed for the day" into one hand and a copy of Craig Venter's latest book, Life At the Speed of Light into the other. (You might have to hold the flashlight.) Ask aloud, "So what do you think of Craig Venter?" Be prepared for a long but interesting night.

Published in Live from ASCB 2013
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