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:: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 08-19-2010
Economists have been telling us for years that American consumers are in debt and that the average household debt continues to rise at a rapid pace. According to the Federal Reserve, (as cited on creditcards.com), the average credit card debt per household with credit card debt is $15,788 and the total U.S. consumer debt as of March 2010 is $2.45 trillion. To top that off, the U.S. credit card 60-day delinquency rate is 4.27 percent and the U.S. credit card default rate hovers around 13.01 percent.
So what does all this have to do with the average American Biotechnologist? According to a recent study published in the Social Science Research Network (SSRN) scientists have recently discovered that one’s propensity for credit card debt may partially be a function of genetics. According to the authors, individuals with a polymorphism of the Monoamine oxidase A (MAOA) gene that has lower transcriptional efficiency are significantly more likely to report having credit card debt. Furthermore, having one or both MAOA alleles of the low efficiency type raises the average likelihood of having credit card debt by 7.8% and 15.9% respectively.
Monoamine oxidase A, also known as MAOA, is an enzyme which in humans is encoded by the MAOA gene. Monoamine oxidase A is an isozyme of monoamine oxidase. It preferentially deaminates norepinephrine (noradrenaline), epinephrine (adrenaline), serotonin, and dopamine (dopamine is equally deaminated by MAO-A and MAO-B). It is inhibited by clorgiline and befloxatone. (source: Wikipedia)
The story has also been highlighted in a recent issue of Scientific American and can be be seen here.
Reference: De Neve, Jan-Emmanuel and Fowler, James H., The MAOA Gene Predicts Credit Card Debt (January 27, 2010). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1457224
:: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 05-09-2010
C. elegans is probably the most versatile nematode’s known to molecular and developmental biotechnologists. It has been in use in laboratories since 1974 and was the first multicellular organism to have its entire genome sequenced. As one of the simplest organisms with a nervous system, it is a favorite research specimen of neurobiologists world-wide.
On May 6th, Science Express published an article by American and Israeli scientists that once again highlighted the versatility of C. elegans in neurobiology research. According to the press release in EurekAlert! “a breakthrough about the formation and maintenance of tree-like nerve cell structures could have future applications in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases and the repair of injuries in which neurons are damaged.” The researchers showed that two neurons (called PVDs) were required for reception of strong mechanical stimuli in the nematode which also elaborate neuronal trees comprising structural units called ‘menorahs,’ because they look like multi-branched candelabra. They then identified the gene EFF-1 as being responsible for pruning excess or abnormal branches thereby serving as part of a quality control process that is important for sculpting and maintenance of complicated menorahs.
If the results can be “humanized” it may allow for future repair of brains and spinal cord injury as well as other applications in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.
Oren-Suissa M, Hall DH, Treinin M, Shemer G, & Podbilewicz B (2010). The Fusogen EFF-1 Controls Sculpting of Mechanosensory Dendrites. Science (New York, N.Y.) PMID: 20448153
See the video below which I like to call: An Ode to the Nematode
:: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 05-06-2010
The data is in and it’s looking good for American Biotechnologists. According to the comprehensive Battelle/BIO State Bioscience Initiatives 2010 Report the bioscience industry experienced rapid growth between the years 2001 to 2008 (the years for which data is available so far) and is not showing any sign of slowing down into the 2009 recession (when compared to the rest of the economy). According to the report:
1.42 Million people were employed in the US Biosciences sector as of 2008
The number of employees grew 1.4% from 2007 to 2008 (double the private sector growth)
39% of all Bioscience jobs were in Research, Testing and Medical Labs (RMTL)
The average annual wage of RMTLs was 1.7x more than the national average at $80,785
Key states for RMTL employment were California, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Pennsylvania
On the downside, the study found that for biotech companies size really does matter. Companies earning revenues of $1 Billion or more represented all the net income in the biotech sector. Furthermore, venture capital activity was down 37% in 2009 compared to 2008.
In spite of what we reported in a previous post that Washington’s stimulus package provided a renewed sense of enthusiasm among biotechnologists (see Funding Genomics: A Time to Celebrate), when the stimulus package funding is removed, NIH funding in 2009 was down 7.5% from 2008.
All told, the report paints a pretty nice picture of the biosciences industry, especially when compared to the general US economy. With all of the excitement generated by these recent reports I’m feeling very confident about my future as a biotechnologist. What about you?