You are currently browsing the archives for the news category.

Archive for the ‘news’ Category

Majority of Americans believe another government shutdown likely in coming months

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 12-03-2013

Nearly two-thirds (65%) of Americans say it’s likely there will be another government shutdown in the months ahead as Congress continues to debate deficit and budget issues, according to a new national public opinion poll commissioned by Research!America and the American Society of Hematology. This sentiment is shared across party affiliations: Democrats (66%), Republicans (65%) and Independents (65%). There is also consensus across party lines that government dysfunction has consequences. A majority of Americans (57%) say the shutdown in October caused significant harm to many government-funded programs including medical research, defense and education. Democrats (68%) and about half of Republicans (49%) and Independents (51%) agree.

On the topic of sequestration, a plurality (44%) says Congress must tackle tax and entitlement reform to reduce the deficit instead of continuing the 10 years of across-the-board cuts; another 16% say sequestration is not the right way to reduce the deficit. Less than a quarter (23%) believe the across-the-board cuts are a way of ensuring that many government programs share the pain, and 17% say they’re not sure. In general, 62% of Americans say they’re concerned about the long-term effects of sequestration on advances in health care such as the development of new drugs and other treatments.

“Our poll demonstrates uneasiness among many Americans about the ramifications of deep spending cuts to programs that are critical to our health and well-being,” said Mary Woolley, president and CEO of Research!America. “Americans want Congress to reach a budget deal that protects medical and health research, at least in part because of concern that our nation is at risk of losing our global leadership position in science and innovation.”

The poll shows nearly three-quarters (73%) of Americans doubt the U.S. will be the number one world leader in science and technology in 2020, a significant increase from the percentage that doubted U.S. leadership last year (59%). In addition, one-third of respondents believe China will surpass the U.S. in six years. Another 30% are not sure which country will lead in science in 2020. Many believe the federal government must increase investments in medical and health research now to ensure that the U.S. can compete globally (61%), and a vast majority (84%) think it’s important for the U.S. to lead in medical, health and scientific research.

The current level of federal spending for research to combat disease leaves many Americans on edge. Upon hearing the U.S. spends about 5 cents of each health dollar on research and development to prevent, cure and treat disease and disability, nearly half (49%) say it’s not enough. Where the additional funds would come from is another question. A plurality (43%) of Americans states its willingness to pay $1 per week more in taxes if the respondents were certain that all of the money would be spent on additional medical research, with 34% not willing and another 23% uncertain about additional taxes for research.

“By cutting federal funding for research supported by the National Institutes of Health and other agencies, we are literally putting lifesaving research on hold,” said Janis Abkowitz, MD, president of the American Society of Hematology, the world’s largest association of blood specialists. “As someone who has seen firsthand how scientific breakthroughs have led to better treatments for patients with blood diseases, it is encouraging to see that voters view medical research funding as a key issue when deciding who will get their vote.”

Looking ahead to the midterm elections, about two-thirds of respondents (66%) say it’s important for candidates running for office to assign a high priority to funding medical research. More than half (53%) do not believe elected officials in Washington are paying enough attention to combating the many deadly diseases that afflict Americans.

Among other findings:

  • 70% say basic scientific research that advances the frontiers of knowledge is necessary and should be supported by the federal government, even if it brings no immediate benefits.
  • Upon hearing the federal government spends approximately $100 per American per year on medical research on all diseases and disabilities, about half (46%) say that’s not enough.
  • 79% say it’s important that our nation supports research that focuses on improving how our health care system is functioning.
  • 75% of Americans say it’s important to invest in research for job creation and economic recovery.
  • 54% say the cost of health care is the single most important health issue facing the nation.
  • 51% say research to improve health is part of the solution to rising health care costs.
  • 75% say it’s important to conduct medical or health research to understand and eliminate health disparities.

The nationwide survey was conducted by Zogby Analytics for Research!America and the American Society of Hematology. The margin of error is +/-3.2 percentage points. To view the poll, visit: http://www.researchamerica.org/uploads/Nov13nationalpollwithASH.pdf

Thank you to Research!America for this story.

Genes Protect Themselves Against Being Silenced

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 10-10-2013

Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI) researchers have settled a century-old debate over whether occurrence of DNA methylation acts to silence gene expression, or if genes are turned off by other means before they are methylated.

As explicated today in the journal Nature, methylation in fact enforces gene silencing, and it is levels of a newly identified form of RNA produced by individual genes that determines whether they are turned off by the addition of a methyl (CH3) group by the enzyme DNA methylase 1 (DNMT1).

The study, led by HSCI Principal Faculty member Daniel Tenen, MD, found that during transcription of DNA to RNA, a gene produces a small amount of what the investigators named “extracoding RNA,” which stays in the nucleus and binds to DNMT1, blocking its ability to methylate, or silence the gene. The discovery of RNA’s new function has therapeutic potential as an on-off switch for gene expression.

Read more…

Fast new, 1-step genetic engineering technology

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 05-22-2013

A new, streamlined approach to genetic engineering drastically reduces the time and effort needed to insert new genes into bacteria, the workhorses of biotechnology, scientists are reporting. Published in the journal ACS Synthetic Biology, the method paves the way for more rapid development of designer microbes for drug development, environmental cleanup and other activities.

Keith Shearwin and colleagues explain that placing, or integrating, a piece of the genetic material DNA into a bacterium’s genome is critical for making designer bacteria. That DNA can give microbes the ability to churn out ingredients for medication, for instance, or substances that break down oil after a big spill. But current genetic engineering methods are time-consuming and involve many steps. The approaches have other limitations as well. To address those drawbacks, the researchers sought to develop a new, one-step genetic engineering technology, which they named “clonetegration,” a reference to clones or copies of genes or DNA fragments.

They describe development and successful laboratory tests of clonetegration in E. coli and Salmonella typhimurium bacteria, which are used in biotechnology. The method is quick, efficient and easy to do and can integrate multiple genes at the same time. They predict that clonetegration “will become a valuable technique facilitating genetic engineering with difficult-to-clone sequences and rapid construction of synthetic biological systems.”

Thanks to the American Chemical Society for contributing this story.

Candy Consumption Vindicated

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 05-20-2013

Check out the following story:

At a time when the spotlight is focused on obesity more than ever, new research suggests that frequency of candy consumption is not associated with weight or certain adverse health risks. According to a recent data analysis published in the April 30th issue of Nutrition Journal, adults who consume candy at least every other day are no more likely to be overweight nor have greater risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD) than moderate consumers (about once a week) or even less frequent candy eaters (less than 3 times per month).

read more

Feel like eating candy?

What if I told you that it was publicized by the National Confectioners Association? Would that change your opinion of the veracity of the findings?

The Ugly Side of the Journal Impact Factor

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 05-16-2013

Are you obsessed with publishing in high ranking journals such as Cell or Science? Do you gloss over your works that have been published in low ranked journals when talking with colleagues or attending a job interview? If the answer is yes, you are not alone.

Since its invention approximately 60 years ago, the Journal Impact Factor (JIF) has been used to assess the quality of academic literature and the influence of scientific papers on the scientific community. The JIF was proposed by Eugene Garfield in the early 1950s and originally published by his Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) as a subscription buying tool for academic and medical librarians. The JIF assigns a score to scientific journals based on the average number of citations received in a year per paper published in the journal during the two preceding years. It has since become the authority on which journals are considered top tier publications are therefore premiere space for scientists wishing to best publicize their work and gain notoriety.

Unfortunately, the JIF has also become a tool used to ascertain a scientist’s worth and can often be a determining factor in the levels of funding they are to receive. This is an unfortunate turn of events since the JIF contains many deficiencies such as glossing over differences between fields, and lumping primary research articles in with much more easily cited review articles. As such, researchers that publish quality work in lower ranked journals are often at a disadvantage compared to those publishing secondary research in higher ranking journals.

In order to “protest” and counter this phenomenon, a group of publishers from both high impact and low impact journals have formed the Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA) which aims to lower the influence of the JIF on assessing scientific merit.

Dora has released 18 principles which are geared towards accomplishing these goals. Some of the recommendations that stand out the most include:

  • JIF should not be used to measure quality of individual articles or to asses an individual scientist’s contributions, or in hiring, promotion or funding decisions
  • Funding agencies should place more weight on the scientific content of a paper than its JIF
  • Scientific content of a paper should be considered a more important hiring decision than the JIF
  • A call for organizations to be open and transparent by providing data and methods used to calculate all metrics
  • Researchers should challenge research assessment practices that rely inappropriately on JIF

To download the full list of recommendations visit http://am.ascb.org/dora/files/SFDeclarationFINAL.pdf.