Nanogirl's weekend tidbits~

Gina Miller (
Sun, 12 Sep 1999 13:08:59 -0700

Nanogirl's weekend tidbits~in conjunction with my anticipation for better news this week!!

*ONR-supported researchers Deborah Jin of the National Institute of
Standards and Technology and Brian DeMarco of the University of Colorado at Boulder and JILA -- a joint research institute of NIST and CU -- report in today's issue of Science the achievement of the first Fermi degenerate gas of atoms. In such a gas the atoms behave like waves.

*Packages labeled as the beef of cloned cows have gone on sale in Japan.
However, the Japanese government has been selling such beef, unlabeled, for a couple of years.

*"Sun-glasses" in the Eye. Glutamate Receptor in the Terminals of the
Photoreceptor Cells Discovered / Area for Light Signal Transmission.

*Flying spaceballs are on their way. — Imagine R2-D2 as a free-flying
electronic softball, looking over Luke Skywalker’s shoulder. That’s the emerging picture of the robotic helpers for 21st-century space missions.

*(BBC) If the current spate of molecular motors being constructed by
scientists is anything to go by then we can expect interesting things from the emerging science of nanotechnology.

*Genetics interactive/MSNBC

*Toxic pollen from widely planted, genetically modified corn can kill
monarch butterflies, Cornell study shows. Cornell News Service release on the Losey study: The Hansen/Obrycki study:

*Scientists find genetic links for deadly type of breast cancer.

*When John Fagan, a respected molecular biologist, returned a $614,000
government grant for genetic research, he stunned the scientific world. Faced with work he could no longer justify, Fagan decided to speak out about the hazards he saw in bio-engineered food. The concerns of Fagan and a growing number of consumers have fueled a debate about a technological revolution with billions of dollars, the future of corporations and international trade relations at stake.

*A Trojan Horse masquerading as a .jpeg file has been circulating around the
net for some time. It has effected at least 200 of AOL's 40 million customers. Details of the attack are scarce but the file somehow steals ICQ passwords.

*The International Association for Counterterrorism & Security Professionals
(IACSP) site has been cracked. (I believe it to be the second time this week)
Original site:
Page cracked: (Brought to you by HNN)

*New computer gadgets promise to deliver the future now. Click here to see a
slide show of the latest in techno-wizardry. (S.F. Examiner)

*Sandia, General Atomics unveil new fine resolution synthetic-aperture radar

*Version 2.1 of the Marvin Java applets for drawing and displaying
chemical structures in HTML pages is released and can now be tried and downloaded at A new paper showing features is at

*Experiments illuminate workings of biological clocks
HHMI researchers have discovered a critical mechanism by which light resets the biological clock in flies. This finding could lead to new treatments for jet lag and improved therapies for mood and sleep disorders.

*(Seattle times interactive-hey, that's where I live!)The Year 2000 Look
ahead to the next millennium and look back at this one.

*A team of statisticians is debunking the controversial "Bible code," which
claims the Old Testament has hidden references to 20th century events that can be revealed by a computer.

*New Biological Database Seeks Out Products of Alternative Gene Splicing. In
its first half year of operation, a new database that identifies clusters of proteins arising from alternative gene splicing has received more than 35,000 requests from researchers in genetics and cell and developmental biology around the world.

*A simple blood test performed soon after a mild head injury may spot brain
damage, even when imaging scans are normal, German researchers report.,IHW|~st,333|~r,WS IHW000|~b,*| (This url may have to be pasted as opposed to clicked-sorry)

*Differences In Human Brain Chemistry May Account For Different Responses To
Scientists have discovered a mechanism that appears to account for the different levels of euphoria people experience when taking a stimulant drug, according to a new study funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the U.S. Department of Energy.

*Culture system expands human hematopoietic stem cells
WESTPORT, Sep 10 (Reuters Health) - Using a stromal-based in vitro culture expansion system that they developed, US scientists report the successful long-term ex vivo maintenance and expansion of human hematopoietic stem cells suitable for transplantation. Dr. Chu-Chih Shih from the City of Hope National Medical Center in Duarte, California, and colleagues there and at Amgen Inc., in Thousand Oaks, describe their achievement in the September 1st issue of the journal Blood. The researchers cultured CD34+ thy-1+ cells on an established monolayer of murine stromal cells, AC6.21, with leukemia inhibitory factor (LIF), interleukin-3 (IL-3), IL-6, granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor and other cytokines. This produced a "...150-fold expansion of cells retaining the CD34+ thy-1+ phenotype" after 5 weeks of culturing. These cells were capable of differentiating into "...myeloid, T and B cells, when transplanted into [severe combined immunodeficient-human] SCID-hu mice," according to Dr. Shih's group. Dr. Shih and colleagues say the fact that another hematopoietic stem cell candidate, CD34+ CD38- cells, proliferate in a similar manner suggests that "...ex vivo expansion of transplantable human stem cells under this in vitro culture system is a general phenomenon and not just specific for CD34+ thy-1+ cells." Dr. Shih's group hopes the culture system will provide a valuable tool for identifying the factors involved in "...regulating the process of self-renewal, proliferation, and differentiation in early hematopoietic development and will have important implications for ex vivo stem cell expansion, gene therapy and therapeutic transplantation." Blood 1999;94:1623-1636.

*Nissin Food Products {2503} noted September 10 that it intends to stop
using genetically engineered US-grown soybeans. In so doing, it is joining the likes of Kirin Brewery {2503} in shunning genetic technology out of respect for consumer fears, but it is the first instant noodle manufacturer to do so.

*Human Genome Sciences Announces Change in Board of Directors.
ROCKVILLE, Md., Sept. 10 /PRNewswire/ -- [ Human Genome Sciences, Inc. ] (Nasdaq: HGSI) announced today that Robert A. Armitage has resigned his seat on its Board of Directors. A member since 1995, Mr. Armitage will join [ Eli Lilly and Company ] (NYSE: LLY) as vice president and general patent counsel for Lilly Research Laboratories effective October 1. William A. Haseltine, Ph.D., Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Human Genome Sciences, Inc., said, "We thank Bob for his years of wise counsel and advice. He has been a true friend to our company. His advice and expertise helped HGS to develop the strong patent position it enjoys today. We will miss him and wish him well in his new position." Human Genome Sciences is a company with the mission to develop products to predict, prevent, detect, treat and cure disease based on its leadership in the discovery and understanding of human and microbial genes. HGS and Human Genome Sciences are registered trademarks of Human Genome Sciences, Inc. For additional information on Human Genome Sciences, Inc., visit the company's Web site at Copies of HGS press releases are also available by fax 24 hours a day at no charge by calling 800-758-5804, ext. 121115. Any statements released by Human Genome Sciences, Inc. that are forward looking are made pursuant to the safe harbor provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Editors and investors are cautioned that forward looking statements involve risks and uncertainties which may affect the company's business prospects and performance. These include economic, competitive, governmental, technological and other factors discussed in the company's filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission on forms 10-K, 10-Q and 8-K. SOURCE Human Genome Sciences, Inc.

*New DNA tests yield amazing finds (Bangor Daily News Bangor, ME) In a February 1999 issue of Science News is a report that scientists have been able to decipher the DNA of the deadly influenza virus that killed millions around the time of World War I. The virus was obtained from the lungs of patients who died during the 1918 epidemic. In March, the journal Science had an article on the analysis of Y chromosome DNA in a number of American Indians. The results suggest that up to 85 percent of American Indian males can trace their lineage to a "Native American Adam" who lived roughly 22,500 years ago. And now George Poinar Jr. reports in the latest issue of American Scientist magazine that the famous "Iceman," discovered frozen in the Italian Alps in 1991 and thought to be about 5,000 years old, was of northern European extraction. Such studies, unthinkable 20 years ago, are now commonplace thanks to the rapidly developing field of DNA analysis. Comparing the similarity in the DNA of two individuals or species allows biologists to determine the degree to which they are related. Also, by knowing the rate of mutation in a particular DNA strand, comparisons of ancient and modern DNA gives a measure of how far back in time they were related or began to diverge from one another. But most scientists were convinced that DNA degrades so rapidly that it would be useless to do the extraction and sequencing process needed to make comparisons. Thus, Poinar writes, a 1980 report on DNA analysis from a 2,000-year-old body in China was all but completely ignored. More notice was taken of a 1983 analysis of the pelt from the quagga, a zebra-like animal that became extinct in 1878. DNA analysis was able to establish that the quagga was more closely related to the modern zebra than to horses, thereby settling a long- standing dispute. However, the DNA sample was only 140 years old so the question still remained as to whether it would work on ancient samples. The breakthrough came in 1985 when Kary Mullis of Cetus Corporation developed a process called polymerase chain reaction. PCR can zero in on a single molecule of DNA and amplify a millionfold or more. Now minute, previously useless, fragments of material could be made to yield their genetic secrets. The race to win the ancient DNA sweepstakes was on. In 1985 Svante Paabo, a Swedish scientist, was able to analyze the DNA from a 2,400-year-old Egyptian mummy. This achievement was dwarfed by records set in the 1990s, writes Poinar. In 1991, a team from the [ University of California ] at Riverside extracted and analyzed DNA from a 15 million-year-old magnolia leaf. In 1992, Raul Cano led a group from the California Polytechnic State University that extracted DNA from a bee trapped in amber and was estimated to be between 20 million and 40 million years old. The same group set the current record for ancient DNA when they extracted DNA from a 120- year-old weevil also trapped in amber.
Besides the tool of PCR, scientists have found techniques that enhance their work. They have learned that DNA bonded to hydroxyapatite, a compound in bones and teeth, remains stable over long periods of time. The same is true for DNA attached to sugars and a class of protein called histones. Scientists can also get a feel for whether the DNA in an ancient sample has degraded or not. There are two forms of the compound aspartic acid in nature. In living tissue, the L-form is predominant, but, after death, it gradually converts to the D-form. By looking at the ratio of the two forms, they can gain an estimate of just how badly degraded the sample has become before proceeding. Modern DNA analysis is grabbing its own share of the headlines and is far easier to do. It assisted in the identification of soldiers who died during Desert Storm. Last year the body in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from the Vietnam War was identified and sent home. The Pentagon is considering taking DNA samples from all persons who enter the military, thereby ensuring there will never be another "unknown soldier." Law enforcement officials would like to see a national DNA data bank for criminals comparable to the fingerprints currently available. In recent years, DNA analysis has made possible the identification of Nazi war criminals Josef Mengele and Martin Borman and the remains of Czar Nicholas II and his family. Since 1996, a controversy has surrounded a 9,300-year-old skeleton found in the state of Washington known as Kennewick man. Reconstruction shows him to be strikingly Caucasian although American Indians have laid claim to the remains. DNA analysis could be one way of settling the origins of this mysterious traveler.

*'Smart' Mice Are Just Memorizing (The Salt Lake Tribune)
When a Princeton scientist last week claimed to have created "smart mice" through the magic of genetic engineering, some other scientists recoiled at what they saw as a misleading and even dangerous oversimplification -- one that could add fuel to a debate that reaches beyond the confines of science. Press materials from the university stated that the finding could "boost human intelligence," and the researcher, neuroscientist Joe Tsien, suggested that soon parents might use such a technology to beget brainier children. But neuroscientists and geneticists say there is no gene or even group of genes that determines intelligence. These mice simply showed superior performance on some tests of a specific kind of memory acquisition. Tsien's research itself was hailed as impressive and solid work. The complaints focused on the interpretation. "The mice are not smarter," said Larry Squire, a neuroscientist at the [ University of California ] at San Diego. "This is a memory mechanism." He has worked with patients who have developed amnesia from a brain injury or stroke, and their IQs can be unaffected. "To go from this learning process to intelligence . . . it's a huge extrapolation, it's irresponsible and it's dangerous," said geneticist Tim Tully of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory on Long Island, N.Y. "Equating memory to intelligence is like equating one planet to the whole galaxy." Tully said that, in light of the damage that has resulted from faulty interpretations of science, researchers have a responsibility to the public to be as clear and as specific as possible in publicizing any results that touch on the hot-button issues of genetics and intelligence. What Tsien and his colleagues achieved, as explained in a paper published last week in the journal Nature, was to add extra copies of a memory- and learning-associated gene to mouse embryos. When the mice grew up, their brain cells made more of a certain molecule, the NMDA receptor, which plays a role in recording new memories in the brain. He then put the mice through several standard learning and memory tasks. In one, he tested their ability to find and remember the location of a small platform hidden just under the surface of a wading-pool-size tank of cloudy water. In another test, he measured how well they learned to associate a tone, and a certain chamber, with an electric shock. Neuroscientist Charles Stevens and others were excited, not, he explained, because they thought Tsien and his colleagues had found the intelligence gene, but because the finding backed up a leading theory of the way the neurons and synapses rearrange themselves to form a new memory. According to that theory, the brain stores new information by changing the relative strengths of the synapses that channel signals between neurons. "Memories are formed by patterns of synapses becoming stronger or weaker," said Stevens, who works at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, Calif. Some of those patterns persist for a few seconds, others for a lifetime. The gene that Tsien gave the mice endowed them with an extra dose of the brain molecule known to play a key role in this reordering of the synaptic strengths. Stevens, Squire and others also speculated that this new understanding of the physical and chemical basis of memory could lead to new drugs for Alzheimer's disease and other forms of memory loss.

Gina "Nanogirl" Miller
Nanotechnology Industries
Alternate E-mail
"Nanotechnology: solutions for the future." Get your copy of the Nanotechnology Industries newsletter at: Index to all of my websites: