More Bad News for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and the Mouse Virus Thesis

first_imgA large, thorough hunt for a mouse retrovirus known as XMRV in people who have chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)—including in patients who tested positive for the virus in other labs—has come up empty-handed, further deflating the hope that a cause for this baffling disease has been found. “I’d urge people to move on rather than to keep their hopes hanging on the link between XMRV and CFS,” says Ila Singh, a virologist at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City who led the new study. The link between XMRV, which stands for the cumbersomely named xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus, and CFS has sparked debate since it was first reported in a study published online 8 October 2009 issue of Science. Singh’s study is the latest of several that have failed to find XMRV in CFS patients. It is also the first to analyze samples from patients who were part of the original study. As Singh and her colleagues report online in the 4 May Journal of Virology, they analyzed blood samples from 100 CFS patients—including 14 who tested positive in the Science report—and 200 healthy controls. The team looked for evidence of XMRV in several ways, including fishing for viral sequences with the ultrasensitive PCR assay, trying to grow infectious virus in cell cultures, and scouring the blood for antibodies to viral proteins. (XMRV earlier had been tied to prostate cancer; the current Singh study does not address that link.) “Singh bent over backward to try to use the same assays as published, allowing her to knock down what I consider to be a real straw man but that nonetheless was out there,” says retrovirologist John Coffin of Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts. Coffin initially supported theScience report but subsequently concluded, with many others, that XMRV is a contaminant. In a recent study he provided evidence that the virus accidentally originated during mouse lab experiments. Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*) Singh says she and her co-workers also had problems with contamination. When they ran one PCR assay that had been used in the original Science report, they found 5% of both CFS and control samples tested positive for XMRV. “It was very confusing until we figured out it was contamination,” says Singh. Specifically, they fingered a PCR reagent, the Taq polymerase enzyme, as the source of the mouse sequences they detected. They further found that one of the machines they used to test samples also had been contaminated with XMRV in studies they had done months before the current analysis. “Everyone who works with mice has mouse retrovirus contamination in their lab,” says Coffin. “I probably have it in my home swimming pool.” The lead author of the contested Science paper, retrovirologist Judy Mikovits of the Whittemore Peterson Institute for Neuro-Immune Disease in Reno, Nevada, isn’t persuaded by the Singh group’s inability to detect XMRV in anyone. “I was astounded when I leaned that Ila [Singh] didn’t find it,” says Mikovits. “These are good scientists.” Mikovits says she remains confident that the 14 CFS patients she selected for Singh’s group have XMRV in their bodies. “These people are infected,” says Mikovits. “This study says nothing. We have complete confidence in every bit of the results in the Science paper. We don’t think any of it is wrong. There is no evidence of contamination in our lab, and we have controlled for that all along.” Mikovits notes that Singh’s group did not use the identical protocols for every analysis, and stresses that discrepancies between their labs may also reflect her own finding that XMRV levels vary in patients day to day. Singh counters that although some protocol differences exist, they worked closely with Mikovits’ team to replicate the original work. Singh says the fact that they didn’t find XMRV in any of these patients is significant. “She [Mikovits] pointed us toward patients that she had repeatedly tested positive,” says Singh. “We should have found at least one that was positive. Not all of them would have gone negative on the day when a phlebotomist met with them.” Mikovits cautions that her Science report did not assert that XMRV causes CFS but only claimed to have detected XMRV in CFS patients. But the large community of CFS patients, who often find themselves confronting a medical establishment that questions the very existence of their disease, pounced on this finding, and some even started taking antiretroviral medicine to treat their supposed XMRV infections. Singh’s lab earlier reported that antiretroviral drugs do work against XMRV in test tube studies. But she now cautions CFS patients that taking them is unwarranted and even dangerous. The XMRV saga is far from over. Unlike Coffin and many other skeptics, Singh contends that a virus similar to XMRV does infect humans, and her own work supports the prostate cancer connection. “There is still considerable data supporting the link to prostate cancer that cannot be easily explained by contamination,” she says. “More work needs to be done before that question can be settled.” The debate about whether XMRV infects humans and is linked to disease promises to come to a head later this year, when two different studies sponsored by the U.S. National Institutes of Health are completed. The studies both involve Mikovits and several other independent labs testing the same samples. Mikovits says if all the samples in these studies test negative, including in her own lab, the day could come when she changes her mind. “But I don’t expect to get to that day,” she says.last_img read more

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NSF Leases Russian Icebreaker for Antarctic Resupply

first_imgRussian icebreaker that will create a channel through the sea ice of Antarctica’s McMurdo Sound to allow the annual refueling and resupply of two stations in Antarctica. The National Science Foundation (NSF) has resolved a problem that threatened research in the Antarctic this winter by hiring a Russian icebreaker to clear a path through McMurdo Sound. NSF announced today that it has signed a 1-year contract with an option for additional years with the Murmansk Shipping Company for the Canadian-built icebreaker Vladimir Ignatyuk to escort resupply and refueling ships into McMurdo Station, the hub of U.S. activities and the biggest station on the continent. NSF-funded researchers rely heavily upon the 5 million gallons of diesel fuel delivered to the station each winter, and the lack of fuel promised to severely curtail research activities. The problem was created this spring when the Swedish government cancelled an ongoing agreement allowing the United States to rent its Oden research icebreaker to break through the ice. The U.S. Coast Guard does not have icebreakers available to do the job. Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*) We’ll update this post as more details on the lease agreement become available. Murmansk Shipping Company last_img read more

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Cancer Institute Director Varmus Meets the Press

first_img National Cancer Institute (NCI) Director Harold Varmus says his agency’s budget problems don’t just slow progress in fighting cancer; they may also be affecting the “accuracy” of papers by raising the pressure to publish quickly. With his usual candor, he also told reporters yesterday about his concerns about a bill that would set aside funding for specific cancers. In a talk at the National Press Club entitled “What Impedes Cancer Research,” the Nobel laureate and former National Institutes of Health (NIH) director (1993-1999) discussed a range of obstacles to the field, including the complex biology of cancer and science budgets that haven’t kept pace with inflation since 2001. Despite a wealth of new knowledge and tools, “The pace of research is slower than it could be and should be,” Varmus said. Moreover, record-low grant success rates of 17% at NIH and 14% at NCI are having “secondary effects” including “a severe feeling of competition and stress” that discourages young scientists and foreign investigators who are considering a move to the United States. Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*) In addition, Varmus said, financial pressures may be influencing “accuracy,” referring to reports that industry has been unable to replicate academic researchers’ studies. “The need to get things published and get your work out there has probably decreased the accuracy of the work that gets published,” Varmus said. He also blames pressure to publish in top journals such as Cell, Nature, and Science when important findings also appear in other journals. One solution he’s pushing at NIH is to have an investigator’s biosketch, a statement about the investigator’s background and research accomplishments, discuss how his or her work has contributed to the field and rely less on whether they’ve published in high impact journals. Varmus also discussed a bill that was recently passed by the House of Representatives and a companion bill in the Senate that both require that NCI give special attention to “recalcitrant cancers.” The House bill originally would have set aside funds specifically for pancreatic cancer and put funding decisions in the hands of advocates. Varmus agreed with a questioner that such bills are “a slippery slope” that can lead to a proliferation of narrowly targeted funding requests. If a targeted bill passes, “Very quickly every other advocacy group will say, ‘I want that too.’ ” But he noted that progress in basic science is hard to predict; studies in one area often contribute to big advances in another. Among Varmus’s other remarks: On the “sequestration,” or looming, across-the-board federal budget cuts if Congress and the Obama Administration can’t agree on how to cut the deficit: “I don’t like it and I assume it won’t happen.” Varmus said that although NCI’s $5 billion budget would be cut by 8%, because so much funding is set aside for ongoing grants, the cut could slash by 40% the funds available for new and competing grants. On the lack of discussion of biomedical research in the presidential campaign: “I don’t think it’s the fault of the candidates that there’s not been a whole lot said about medical research.” He would like to see questions in the upcoming debates on issues such as stem cell research and the balance of basic and applied research. On a front-page story Sunday in The New York Times that critics claim hyped the significance of an NCI-sponsored project that catalogued genetic changes in breast cancer: The finding that breast cancer breaks down into four subtypes is “no real breakthrough in that sense” because researchers had already identified the four types. Instead, the importance of the study is that it has yielded “a much denser genetic landscape of what the genetic abnormalaties are” that could eventually translate into better diagnostics and treatments. On a “moon shot” plan announced last week by MD Anderson Cancer Center Director Ronald DePinho to dramatically improve survival for eight cancers: “We encourage our cancer center directors to be ambitious,” Varmus said. He added, however, that “I’m not going to comment on his particular take on this.” Harold Varmus Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center last_img read more

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Senate Votes to Delay Financial Disclosure Law for Federal Employees

first_imgFederal researchers who are worried about a new law that would require that their financial information be posted publicly online can breathe easier for the moment. The U.S. Senate on Saturday voted to approve a bill that delays until 8 December this provision of the so-called STOCK Act. The House of Representatives is likely to approve the bill during its recess, which will last until after the 6 November election, The Washington Post reports. The Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act, passed in April to prevent insider trading by members of Congress and their staff, includes a provision that requires public posting of financial disclosures. The rule applies not only to Congress but to about 28,000 senior federal employees who file certain disclosure forms. Right now those forms are available only upon request. Federal employees have said that the law violates their privacy, could put them at risk for identity theft, and threatens the safety of employees in high-security positions. And researchers at the National Institutes of Health and NASA have warned in a lawsuit that the requirement will hinder recruitment and could persuade some federal scientists to leave government. Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*) The disclosure requirement was set to kick in at the end of August but has been delayed twice already. Congress postponed it for a month, and 2 weeks ago a federal judge granted a preliminary injunction blocking it until the end of October. The bill just passed by the Senate delays the provision further for all but top-level officials and also calls for the National Academy of Public Administration to review its possible effects within 6 months, the Post reports.last_img read more

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Why Your Brain Loves That New Song

first_imgWhen jazz legend John Coltrane first heard Charlie Parker play the saxophone, the music hit him “right between the eyes,” he once said. According to neuroscientists, Coltrane was exactly right. When we hear music that we like, even for the first time, a part of the brain’s reward system is activated, a new study has shown. The region, called the nucleus accumbens, determines how much we value the song—even predicting how much a person is willing to pay for the new track. “It’s a lovely, lovely piece of research,” says music psychologist David Huron of Ohio State University, Columbus, who was not involved in the study. The results will help scientists understand why humans attach so much value to abstract sequences of sound waves. “Music is one of those oddball things,” he says. “It’s not at all clear that it has any sort of survival value.” A favorite song, whether a power rock anthem or a soulful acoustic ballad, evokes a deep emotional response. Neuroscientist Valorie Salimpoor recalls once listening to Johannes Brahms’s “Hungarian Dance No. 5” while driving. The music moved her so profoundly that she had to pull over. Intrigued by the experience, Salimpoor joined Robert Zatorre at McGill University’s Montreal Neurological Institute in Canada to study how music affects the brain. In 2011, she and Zatorre confirmed that dopamine, a reward neurotransmitter, is the source of such intense experiences—the “chills”—associated with a favorite piece of music. They showed that listeners’ dopamine levels in pleasure centers surged during key passages of favorite music, but also just a moment before—as if the brain was anticipating the crescendo to come. Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*) Salimpoor, now at the Rotman Research Institute in Toronto, Canada, wondered if the response was due to the music itself or to participants’ emotional attachment to it. She recruited 19 volunteers, 10 men and nine women aged 18 to 37, who shared self-reported musical tastes. “Indie” and “electronic” proved most popular. Salimpoor played 30-second samples of 60 songs they’d never heard before. Within an iTunes-like user interface, the volunteers then bid on how much they’d be willing to pay for each track, up to $2. To make the experiment more realistic, participants used their own money and received a CD of their purchased tracks at the end of the study. Salimpoor monitored how the volunteers’ brains reacted to the music using MRI. Multiple brain regions activated when they discovered a new favorite song, but only activity in the nucleus accumbens was well-correlated to how much the participants were willing to pay, she and colleagues report online today in Science. The nucleus accumbens is believed to be responsible for pleasant surprises, or “positive prediction error,” as neuroscientists call it. Our brains are well-suited to using patterns, such as the structure of music, to predict the future. “We’re constantly making predictions, even if we don’t know the music,” Salimpoor says. “We’re still predicting how it should unfold.” These predictions are based on past musical experience, so classical fans will have different expectations than punk devotees. But when the music turns out better than the brain expected, the nucleus accumbens fires off with delight. Salimpoor concluded that the nucleus accumbens works in concert with pattern recognition and higher-order thinking centers to assign value to music. Vinod Menon, a cognitive neuroscientist at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, wonders if the presence of lyrics in some tracks introduced confounding variables. “We don’t know if it’s the musical sounds or the linguistic components that drove some of these effects,” he says. Salimpoor responds that previous research showed similar brain effects using only instrumental music. Lyrics, she says, did not appear to skew listener’s purchasing decisions. Next, Salimpoor will investigate another area of the brain, the superior temporal gyrus. She aims to discover how this region, which stores a record of the sounds we’ve heard, shapes our future musical preferences. Eat your heart out, Pandora.last_img read more

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Strike disrupts research at Puerto Rico’s top university

first_img Last week molecular biologist Juan Ramirez-Lugo put all his coral samples in the freezer, locked the door of his lab, and told his six undergraduate assistants to stay home the next day. The assistant professor of biology at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) in San Juan wasn’t happy about yet another disruption to his research on seasonal variations in how corals respond to thermal stress and his efforts to give undergraduates “authentic research experiences.” But he felt he had no choice.Ramirez-Lugo’s campus has been shut down since late March, when students began a peaceful protest against proposed massive cuts to the territory’s flagship university as part of a slew of austerity measures to address the territory’s fiscal crisis. On 10 May the strikers voted to ignore a judge’s order to end their protest, raising concerns about possible violence if the authorities tried to enforce the court ruling.That didn’t happen, and the next day Ramirez-Lugo was able to return to work. However, he and the rest of the UPR faculty remain pawns in a larger battle over the U.S. territory. The fate of its 3.6 million residents rests in the hands of a federal judge who this week began hearing testimony from the government and those owed some $74 billion in bonds. (Puerto Rico also has $49 billion in unfunded pension obligations.)Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*) AP Photo/Danica Coto A student strike at the University of Puerto Rico is part of an island-wide protest like this one in San Juan on 1 May urging authorities to rescind proposed austerity measures. This isn’t the first student strike at UPR. But this time faculty members have been issued special research IDs for access to their labs, a concession by strike organizers to avoid the havoc wreaked when a 2010 student strike shut down the campus for 3 months.Still, Ramirez-Lugo and other faculty members say the current protest has been very disruptive. Classes have been canceled, and Ramirez-Lugo says work on his federal training grant from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration has also been compromised. “Some students are coming into the lab, but the ones most active in the strike are not,” he says.For UPR neuroscientist Carmen Maldonado-Vlaar, the strike has temporarily cut off her supply of lab rats. “The purchasing office isn’t open, so you need to arrange alternative deliveries,” she explains. “But no UPS or FedEx trucks can enter the campus, and the protocol doesn’t allow me to pick them up and transport them myself.”The strike has also complicated the annual progress report that Maldonado-Vlaar must file next month on her training grant from the National Institutes of Health. “You want to comply, but the truth is that we’ve had to delay some of these projects,” she says. A few fortunate students work at the medical school in San Juan, which is not affected by the strike. But for the rest, she says, their education has been hit-and-miss for the past 6 weeks.It’s an unprecedented situation for federal agencies, says neuroscientist Gladys Escalona, the acting vice president for research at UPR. “When I talk to program officers at the National Science Foundation and other agencies, no one has ever heard of such a pervasive and long-standing disruption to research,” Escalona says. “But they have been very understanding. They realize the situation is completely beyond our control.”A transformative forceUPR may not be in the top tier of U.S. universities in terms of the amount of research it conducts—it stood 232nd in the National Science Foundation’s most recent ranking. But over its 110-year history it has been a major player in training the island’s workforce, fueling economic development, and providing social and cultural leadership across Latin America. It also has an outsized influence in fostering diversity within the U.S. scientific workforce: Its two research campuses, Río Piedras and Mayagüez, rank first and second in launching the next generation of Hispanic Ph.D. scientists and engineers.That includes Escalona, who entered UPR in 1959 at the tender age of 15 and essentially never left. In addition to earning her undergraduate and graduate degrees from UPR, she has been a faculty member, department chair, dean, and ultimately chancellor of UPR before returning to the faculty and taking her current position. Her vast experience gives her a perspective she thinks is lacking among members of a presidentially appointed outside board created last year under a 2016 law designed to resolve the financial crisis.“I don’t think the [Financial Oversight and Management Board] really understands the role that the university has played over the years in both transforming Puerto Rican society and in being a source of new knowledge,” she says, referring to the presidentially appointed body. “And there’s been little dialogue on the possibility of exchanging views and reaching some type of compromise that recognizes the value of the university.”From bad to worseRight now the university’s value seems to be at a low point. On 1 July the government’s contribution to the university will plunge by almost 20%, a cut of $149 million from current levels. And government support has been frozen at that level for 4 years as part of previous austerity budgets.That cut precedes the latest massive retrenchment in all public-sector spending aimed at lifting Puerto Rico out of a decade-long recession. For UPR, the looming reduction is in the range of a half-billion dollars, although its actual size and over what period of time is yet to be determined. “So it’s going from bad to worse,” Escalona says.Faculty hiring has ground to a halt, she adds. No new positions have been advertised for 3 years, and she says a handful of promising young researchers with federal grants have left UPR in the past year because of the dismal financial outlook.The specter of major cuts is what triggered the current student strike. Protesters have also questioned the rationale for those cuts and proposed sources of revenue to obviate the need for cuts.A more immediate problem for Escalona is the uncertainty over the school calendar—specifically, when school officials will declare an end to the academic year and the start of the shorter summer session. That’s a critical decision for UPR faculty whose summer salaries are paid from research grants. Some 400 of the 700 faculty members conduct research over the summer, she estimates, but they can’t tap those funds until the registrar certifies that summer has begun.Resolving how the current academic year will be recorded could also affect hundreds of undergraduates planning to do summer research internships at institutions around the country. “It may be hard for them to get those internships” if their transcripts show they haven’t finished the semester,” Ramirez-Lugo says. Those internships are a stepping stone into graduate school, he notes, and disrupting that flow could jeopardize UPR’s status as the top feeder school for Hispanic Ph.D. students.Maldonado-Vlaar doesn’t expect the crisis to be resolved anytime soon. And despite all the current bad news, she hopes that the strike will strengthen the university in the long run. “It’s a social movement about issues that affect the entire country,” she says about the student protests. “And sooner or later those issues must be addressed.”center_img By Jeffrey MervisMay. 18, 2017 , 3:45 PM Strike disrupts research at Puerto Rico’s top universitylast_img read more

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This giant Australian insect is still alive, despite being declared extinct nearly a century ago

first_imgJOEL SARTORE, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC PHOTO ARK/National Geographic Creative Sometimes they come back. Once declared extinct, Lord Howe Island stick insects (Dryococelus australis) are actually alive and well, according to a new study. The 15-centimeter-long, plant-eating insects, also known as tree lobsters, once thrived on the lush vegetation of Lord Howe Island, between Australia and New Zealand. But after a ship accidentally introduced black rats to the island about a century ago, the stick insect population plummeted. In 1920, they were declared extinct, only to be found more than 40 years later on Ball’s Pyramid, a volcanic sea stack about 20 kilometers away. But these critters didn’t look identical to old stick insect museum specimens, leaving scientists wondering whether they were the same species. After comparing their DNA, researchers now have found a difference of less than 1%, well within the range expected for two individuals of the same species, the team reports today in Current Biology. The finding suggests that the giant bugs could be successfully reintroduced to Lord Howe Island, the scientists say.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*) This giant Australian insect is still alive, despite being declared extinct nearly a century agocenter_img By Giorgia GuglielmiOct. 5, 2017 , 12:00 PMlast_img read more

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Lab-grown ‘minibrains’ are revealing what makes humans special

first_img By Ann GibbonsNov. 9, 2017 , 8:00 AM (LEFT TO RIGHT) F. MORA-BERMÚDEZ ET AL., ELIFE, 10.7554/ELIFE.18683, 2016; ELIZABETH DI LULLO/KRIEGSTEIN LAB Ever since Alex Pollen was a boy talking with his neuroscientist father, he wanted to know how evolution made the human brain so special. Our brains are bigger, relative to body size, than other animals’, but it’s not just size that matters. “Elephants and whales have bigger brains,” notes Pollen, now a neuroscientist himself at the University of California, San Francisco. Comparing anatomy or even genomes of humans and other animals reveals little about the genetic and developmental changes that sent our brains down such a different path.Geneticists have identified a few key differences in the genes of humans and apes, such as a version of the gene FOXP2 that allows humans to form words. But specifically how human variants of such genes shape our brain in development—and how they drove its evolution—have remained largely mysterious. “We’ve been a bit frustrated working so many years with the traditional tools,” says neurogeneticist Simon Fisher, director of the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, who studies FOXP2.Now, researchers are deploying new tools to understand the molecular mechanisms behind the unique features of our brain. At a symposium at The American Society of Human Genetics here last month, they reported zooming in on the genes expressed in a single brain cell, as well as panning out to understand how genes foster connections among far-flung brain regions. Pollen and others also are experimenting with brain “organoids,” tiny structured blobs of lab-grown tissue, to detail the molecular mechanisms that govern the folding and growth of the embryonic human brain. “We used to be just limited to looking at sequence data and cataloging differences from other primates,” says Fisher, who helped organize the session. “Now, we have these exciting new tools that are helping us to understand which genes are important.”Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*) An organoid develops like a minibrain in the lab (left); a slice through another organoid (right) offers a window into the early development of the cerebral cortex, showing progenitor cells (purple) and neurons (green).center_img Lab-grown ‘minibrains’ are revealing what makes humans special Most of the talks focused on the development of the cerebral cortex, the wrinkled outer layer of the brain that orchestrates higher cognitive functions such as memory, attention, awareness, language, and thought. The human cortex is special, with three times as many cells as that of chimps, and deeper folds that help pack in those extra cells. These differences begin to unfold in the earliest phase of fetal development, but researchers know little about the genes that direct this transformation and the molecules they encode.In his talk, Wieland Huttner, a molecular cell biologist and developmental neurobiologist at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics (MPI-CBG) in Dresden, Germany, explained how his team searched databases for proteins and other gene products expressed in the human brain in these earliest phases of development. They zeroed in on three proteins found in the extracellular matrix that surrounds developing cells in fetal brain tissue. When they added these proteins to cultures of brain tissue from aborted human fetuses, the tissue formed folds, as it does in human fetuses at about 20 weeks of gestation.What’s more, MPI-CBG postdoc Katie Long noticed that the three proteins formed folds only after they clustered with another complex glycan molecule called hyaluronic acid. This complex molecule has many functions, such as carrying signals between cells and promoting cell growth, which is why it’s used in face creams. Although researchers knew that hyaluronic acid shows up in neural tissue, they did not know it played such a critical role in human brain development. “They have identified key molecules that facilitate cortical folding,” says neuroscientist Louis Reichardt, director of the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative in New York City, who heard the talk.Working with paleogeneticist Svante Pääbo and biophysical chemist Barbara Treutlein, both of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, Huttner’s team is growing brain organoids, tiny bits of tissue that develop in culture in a way that resembles an embryonic brain. The researchers coaxed white blood cells from humans and other apes into forming stem cells, from which they grew organoids. The organoids grow for several weeks—sometimes up to a year—allowing the researchers to compare growth and pinpoint where the differences among species arise. “Organoids are very powerful because you cannot get fetal chimp brain tissue,” because they are a threatened species, Huttner says.The organoids from great apes and people grew in remarkably similar ways. All formed the same types of stem cells, which give rise to “progenitor” cells that, in turn, divide into neurons and eventually organize themselves in six layers of brain tissue. But when the researchers used live microscopy to watch how the 4-millimeter-wide organoids developed, they noticed that human progenitor cells took 50% longer than those of the other great apes to arrange their chromosomes before splitting into daughter cells. The human cells seemed to invest much more time in the phase of cell division called metaphase. Somehow, this lengthening of metaphase early in development appears to cause more progenitor cells to be made later, Huttner says.Other researchers are trying to unravel the web of connectivity of the human brain. Neuroscientist Fenna Krienen of Harvard Medical School in Boston used functional MRI (fMRI) in 1000 people to show that human brains make synaptic connections across vast distances in the cerebral cortex. Rodent neurons, in contrast, limit their connections to nearby areas. Krienen and her then–Ph.D. adviser, Randy Buckner at Harvard, hypothesized that as the human cortex expanded in the course of evolution, it reorganized to allow more complex connections between regions.Since then, Krienen has been making an inventory of the cells found in particular layers of the neocortex. Last year she and her colleagues linked the fMRI results to genetics in the brain tissue of six adults. They reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that 19 genes were turned on in the same underlying areas as the cortical connections revealed by fMRI. In mice, those genes are expressed earlier in development, in other cortical layers. It seems that sometime over the course of primate and human evolution, these genes were directed to become active later in development.Now, Krienen is using a new single-cell analysis method developed in Steve McCarroll’s lab at Harvard (where she is now a postdoc) to refine these results from layers of tissue to single cells. She’s looking at all the genes—including the original 19 and many more—expressed by each cell in the connected regions. She hopes to pinpoint which genes are expressed in each cell type when brain cells make long distance connections, and to make similar maps in other primates to chart what changed as brains rewired over the course of evolution.Aside from their evolutionary importance, these studies have implications for research on mental disorders. As connections proliferated across the brain, more opportunities arose for missed connections. Autism and other specific mental disorders may be caused in part by “specific circuits or regions of the brain [that] had problems with connectivity,” Krienen says.”These new technologies are simply spectacular,” says Reichardt, speaking of the variety of approaches detailed in the session. “We’re learning a heck of a lot.”It’s still early days for this budding field, but it’s already clear that more than one or two genes sculpted the uniquely human brain, says symposium co-organizer Evan Eichler, a geneticist at the University of Washington in Seattle. “It’s a concert of dozens of human events that culminated in this amazing organ,” he says.last_img read more

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Scientists win and lose in Texas primary contests

first_img “For almost a year, I have watched Mary Street Wilson run a tough tenacious campaign that defied all establishment expectation,” Crowe said. “She faced with grit both a deep fundraising disadvantage and a dismissive attitude from the establishment. Although I am disappointed to not make the runoff, it’s impossible not to be inspired by Mary’s campaign.”Wilson says a two-person race will also mean a chance to flesh out positions on issues like immigration and energy policy. “With a large field, you only have time for soundbites,” she says. “In the runoff, instead of just saying we need to revamp immigration policy, I’ll want to provide specifics on what that would mean.”Kopser soldiers aheadIn contrast, Kopser says his approach to campaigning won’t change now that he’s in a runoff. He applauds Wilson for running a “positive campaign based on an ethic of love.” But he says his track record of leadership in the military and in business gives voters a clear choice between “two people who love public service but who come to it through two very different backgrounds.”Asked whether his huge money advantage suggests that dollars alone don’t sway voters, he defends his fundraising prowess as necessary to get out his message. “I had never served in public office before, I had never been part of the traditional party clubs and hadn’t gone to all the meetings,” he notes. “No one knew me at all. I also didn’t have the support of the Bernie [Sanders] revolution folks. This race proves that money and message together have a more powerful effect than money alone.”Kopser, who has acknowledged growing up as a Republican before changing parties, says he’s pleased to have finished second, well ahead of two rivals who had openly attacked his credentials as a Democrat. And while he says he doesn’t know whether that issue will continue to come up, he seems happy to be judged on his ability to attract independent and Republican voters. “The runoff is a good opportunity for voters to decide who they think can beat a Republican in the general election,” he says. “And I maintain we have the stronger case.”Republicans, who enjoy a large advantage in registered voters in the mixed urban and rural district, will also hold a runoff. The winners will vie in November for the chance to succeed Representative Lamar Smith, the Republican chairman of the House science committee who is retiring after 32 years in Congress.Westin falls shortFor Westin, last night’s results constitute the end of his campaign to represent the seventh congressional district. A faculty member at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Westin was endorsed by 314 Action, an organization that encourages and helps train scientists and engineers who want to run for office, and had made science and evidence-based policy a cornerstone of his first try for elective office. (314 Action has also endorsed Kopser.) Mary Wilson with Beto O’Rourke, Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate, during a recent campaign stop in Austin. The science vote Follow our rolling coverage of 2018’s science candidates Yesterday’s Texas primary was the first test for scientists seeking seats this year in the U.S. House of Representatives, and the results were mixed.On the plus side, Mary Wilson, a former Austin Community College mathematics professor turned minister, has advanced to a Democratic runoff in the 21st congressional district after a surprising first-place finish over Joseph Kopser, a scientifically trained entrepreneur. They will run head-to-head in a May runoff. On the minus side, Jason Westin, a clinical oncologist seeking a chance to represent the seventh congressional district in Houston, Texas, was knocked out of the race, running third in a crowded Democratic field. Retired geologist Jon Powell lost badly in his attempt to win the Democratic nomination for the 36th congressional district in eastern Texas.The 2016 election has energized many scientists and engineers to participate for the first time in electoral politics. Almost all Democrats, the scientists say uniformly that they are running against the policies of President Donald Trump and his administration and are seeking to add a scientific element to policy debates. However, as political novices they have been forced to learn on the job about running for national office. By Jeffrey MervisMar. 7, 2018 , 1:45 PM Wilson moves onThe 58-year-old Wilson, making her first bid for office, was the unexpected winner of the Democratic primary in a district that stretches from Austin to San Antonio. Although Kopser, a 20-year Army veteran with an engineering degree, outspent her by a 20-to-1 margin, Wilson won 31% of the vote to Kopser’s 29% in a four-person field. 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Ever the mathematician, she adds, “People have been telling me for weeks that they thought I would do well, but it was all anecdotal. I didn’t have data.”Wilson, who leads the Church of the Savior in Cedar Park, Texas, plans to beef up what so far has been a shoestring campaign. “I’ll need to add staff, starting with a volunteer coordinator to handle all the offers of help pouring in,” she says. She’s also planning to pick the brains of environmental activist Derrick Crowe, a former Capitol Hill staffer who placed third in the race and immediately endorsed her. Mary Wilson for Congress center_img That message was resonating with voters, says environmental engineering professor Daniel Cohan at Rice University in Houston, who moderated a candidates’ forum on climate change in January. But Cohan thinks its impact was blunted by the publicity surrounding a rare attack on one of the candidates, Laura Moser, by the national Democrat party, which thinks she is too liberal to be elected in November.The attack didn’t prevent Moser from running second to attorney Lizzie Fletcher, forcing a runoff in May. But Cohan says the resulting controversy “sucked all the oxygen out of the room” and distracted voters. “Given his background,” Cohan adds, “Jason would have been a leading voice on health care and adherence to evidence in debates over climate and energy policy.”The winner of the May runoff will go up against Representative John Culberson (R–TX), the influential chairman of a panel that sets spending levels for NASA, the National Science Foundation, and several other science agencies. Culberson easily defeated one challenger last night, and is seeking his 10th 2-year term. However, the district voted narrowly for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election, raising Democratic hopes of flipping the seat. *Updated 7 March, 6:41 p.m.: This story has been updated with comments from Joseph Kosper. Scientists win and lose in Texas primary contests Bored-now/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) Meet the scientists running to transform Congress in 2018 The science candidates: races to watch in 2018last_img read more

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