Science News

Insights into cellular traffic jams:  Biophysicists at UMass Amherst have shed further light on dynamic conditions in a cell using quantum dots (Qdots) and a custom fluorescent microscope. The team set out to better understand active motor transport of large organelles over long distances in a crowded cellular environment. In their model, they used Qdots attached to kinesin motors and show that cellular cargos associate new motors to overcome traffic jams along microtubules.  The paper by Ross J, et. al. is in the current edition of PNAS® and can be found in online here

Flu vaccine enters the modern era: The USFDA approved the first cell culture based seasonal flu vaccine. Vaccines have been made historically in chicken-egg based systems largely due to its widely accepted safety and efficacy. Growing demands and greater incidences of ‘flu emergencies’ like the H1N1 pandemic of 2009 have led to adopting alternative methods of vaccine production. The vaccine Flucelvax, made by Novartis, is already approved in the European Union and is made in canine kidney epithelial cells. The US is the single largest market for seasonal flu vaccines. The US department of Health hopes to tackle any future flu pandemics by this new process of faster vaccine production.

2 strikes and you’re out: the NIH has decided to stick to its rule that allows only one resubmission of a grant if the first proposal was rejected. This peer reviewed policy, instituted in 2009, is unpopular within the scientific community which argued that in an era of low funding, this rule made many worthy projects ineligible for consideration and curbed the learning curve for grant writing among junior scientists. This led to a 2011 petition signed by more than 2300 scientists asking the NIH to revert back to allowing a second resubmission of a grant that has been previously rejected.

Martian Carbon: The NASA Mars Curiosity Rover has fully analyzed its first Martian soil sample and found carbon, water, sulfur and chlorine-containing substances. The team of scientists working on the analysis are not sure about the origin of Martian organic compounds yet suspecting it could also be of meteorite origin.

Year End Lists: Nature Medicine® released a list of high profile drug approvals and failures for 2012. The list can be found here: