Progeria researchers, anyone?

I received a very nice email from a high school student looking for a mentor for a research project on progeria:

Currently, I’m in a science research program at school where we choose a topic of interest and study it for a period of three years, as well as design an experiment and carry it out based on this topic. Eventually, students are able to present their work for competition purposes or just to share their knowledge in symposia or other forums, such as the Intel Science Competition, or the Siemens Competition.

I am studying Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome for my project and have been researching it intensively for the past five months. During the next couple months or so, I need to gather as much information as I can regarding the disorder to give myself insight into potential experimental designs. At this point, I also need to locate a mentor in this field of study. Hopefully, with the guidance of my mentor, I can carry out an experiment and eventually present my results at a variety of symposia.

So, she’s looking for a mentor. If anyone out there works on progeria, or knows a colleague who does (and would be willing to help out a HS student), it would be appreciated if you’d drop me an email so I can pass along that information.

Breast implants gone awry…in a tattoo

I’ve written previously how people will do crazy things for aesthetics. I know some would consider any tattoo in this category; I can’t since I have a few myself. However, I’d never heard of a 3D tattoo before. I don’t mean just the art appears to make the tattoo stand out and look 3-dimensional; I mean implanting materials underneath the tattoo to make it physically stick out. It’s not always a happy ending though; more on a breast-implanted tattoo turned bad (and the “before” photo) after the jump.
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Sentence in for bacteria-mailing professor

Last fall I wrote about the bizarre case of University of Pittsburgh geneticist Robert Ferrell. Dr. Ferrell, you may recall, had been prosecuted for sharing generally-harmless strains of bacteria with a colleague, SUNY-Buffalo art professor Steven Kurtz. Dr. Kurtz then used the bacterial cultures in an art display, which drew the attention of authorities following the death of Dr. Kurtz’s wife. Then all hell broke loose (after the jump):
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Measles outbreak in San Diego charter school

Four cases of measles have now been confirmed at a San Diego charter school–the first reported outbreak of measles in school-age kids in that city in 17 years. Unsurprising twist:

None of the children, including the one most recently reported with the disease, has been vaccinated.

New Scienceblogger Drugmonkey already hits the high (or low, such as it may be) points in this case in a much less restrained manner than I’m able to.

Orgasmic reading

Well, it sure is Monday. 2 grant decisions back, no money. In the meantime, I’m up to my ears in bacteria samples, so I’ll send you over to the LA Times, where they have an entertaining pair of stories: The Science of the Orgasm, and Call him Doctor “Orgasmatron:”

He was in the operating room one day in 1998, implanting electrodes into a patient’s spine to treat her chronic leg pain. (The electrodes are connected to a device that fires impulses to the brain to block pain signals.) But when he turned on the power, “the patient suddenly let out something between a shriek and moan,” says Meloy, an anesthesiologist and pain specialist in North Carolina.

Asked what was wrong, she replied, “You’ll have to teach my husband how to do that.”

Yellow fever: the American plague

The fever hit suddenly in the form of a piercing headache and painful sensitivity to light, like looking into a white sun. At that point, the patient could still hope that it was not yellow fever, maybe just a headache from the heat. But the pain worsened, crippling movement and burning the skin. The fever rose to 104, maybe 105 degrees, and bones felt as though they had been cracked. The kidneys stopped functioning, poisoning the body. Abdominal cramps began in the final days of illness as the patient vomited black blood brought on by internal hemorrhaging. The victim became a palate of hideous color: red blood ran from the gums, eyes and nose. The tongue swelled, turning purple. Black vomit roiled. And the skin grew a deep gold, the whites of the eyes turning brilliant yellow.

These symptoms played themselves out over and over again in Memphis, Tennessee, during the summer of 1878. Memphis in the 1870s was a mess. It was a city of contrasts: high society and formal dinners co-existing with extreme poverty. The city itself was filthy, swampy and overrun with mosquitoes during the warm months. Disease was rampant, and yellow fever was one of the deadliest. Molly Caldwell Crosby chronicles the 1878 Memphis outbreak, and the effect this outbreak had in history in The American Plague. More after the jump…

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Guillermo Gonzalez tenure review goes to the Board of Regents today: updated

It’s not certain there will be a decision immediately, though:

From the Iowa State Daily:

The Iowa Board of Regents will meet Thursday to discuss the tenure denial appeal of Guillermo Gonzalez, assistant professor of physics and astronomy at Iowa State, at its regional meeting on the ISU campus.

The meeting is at 8:30 a.m., with a one-hour closed session dedicated to discussing the appeal beginning at 8:35 a.m. The regents will emerge with either a decision on the case or a decision to postpone it.

“The board does not have to decide within the hour time slot given for the meeting, and discussion may take place over the following days,” said Iowa Board of Regents President David Miles.

Stay tuned…

Update: the Board affirmed the decision to deny tenure.

Also this morning, the regents upheld the decision of Iowa State University officials to deny tenure to Professor Guillermo Gonzalez, who had appealed ISU’s decision, arguing he was discriminated against during his tenure application process because he supports intelligent design.

The regents met in closed session for more than one hour before voting 7-1 to reaffirm ISU’s final decision in the case. Regent Craig Lang of Brooklyn voted no.

Gonzalez said he was disappointed in the decision, and also with the regents’ refusal to let him present his case during the closed session.

More here form the Ames Tribune.

Loss of a giant: Joshua Lederberg

Joshua Lederberg passed away on Saturday.

Joshua Lederberg, Nobel Prize-winning molecular biologist who shaped the field of bacterial genetics, and served as chair of The Scientist’s advisory board since 1986, died on Saturday (February 2). He was 82.

Lederberg shared a Nobel Prize in physiology and medicine in 1958 for the discovery that certain strains of bacteria reproduce by mating, thereby exchanging their genetic material. This overturned the idea held at the time that bacteria did not warrant genetic study and set the field of bacterial genetics into motion.

Lederberg truly was a visionary, and along with his ex-wife, Esther (who died just over a year ago), really jump-started the field of microbial genetics (and indeed, made it much easier to study genetics, period), winning a Nobel prize for his genetic work when he was only 33. Years later, he teamed up with Carl Sagan to raise awareness about microbes in space, and was an advocate of science communication and sound policy (serving as an advisor for multiple presidents). In recent years, he’s spoken out about antibiotic resistance and bioterrorism, among other topics, and always emphasized the importance of basic research in microbiology. He could also give a helluva interesting talk, judging from the few times I’ve seen him speak. He was truly a living legend, and the void he leaves is palpable.

More info and access to papers at the here at the National Library of Medicine. Image from

Religion vs. public health redux

I mentioned previously a clash between religion and public health, where a Liberian immigrant was jailed for importing bushmeat. She argued that infringing upon her religious freedom in this manner was unconstitutional; authorities argued that she couldn’t put others at risk because of her religious beliefs. Another clash where religious beliefs are at odds with public health is simmering in the U.K.; more after the jump.
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