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David Bricker
IU Media Relations

Last modified: Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Indiana Science Monthly flag

Vol. 4, no. 12
September 12, 2007

Indiana Science Monthly is a selection of recent news stories about Indiana University scientists and their research. Comments or questions about this newsletter may be directed to David Bricker, Office of Media Relations (812-856-9035 or

August science news:
* When did bipedalism evolve?
* Some floppy enzymes still catalyze just fine, thank you
* Stomach drugs Zantac and Zagamet may cause brain damage

* Bloomington Science Cafe: "The Science of Marijuana"
* Should ISM continue?

August science news

"Postgenomic Musings" (BIOLOGY)
Vol. 317, no. 5842
August 31, 2007

EXCERPT: ... Enthusiasts of the various "-omics" (genomics, proteomics, transcriptomics, metabolomics, and even phenomics) believe, as Michael Lynch puts it in the final chapter of The Origins of Genome Architecture, that "we can be confident of two things: the basic theoretical machinery for understanding the evolutionary process is well established, and we will soon be effectively unlimited by the availability of information at the DNA level."

* In his review of IU Bloomington evolutionary biologist Michael Lynch's new book, The Origins of Genome Architecture, Stony Brook University's Massimo Pigliucci writes that the book's first 12 chapters are "a must read for anyone interested in the evolution of genomes." The end of the book is not so much review as discourse, as Lynch argues for the importance of non-selective processes in the shaping of organismal genomes. Although he disagrees with some of Lynch's arguments, Pigliucci nevertheless writes, "There Lynch honestly states at the onset that he is going to shift gear and engage in an advocacy piece, something that I found refreshing: scientists have opinions, and they are most interesting when they are controversial."
(Access may require a subscription)


"Inside Instrumentation: Bruker launches crystallography system" (CHEMISTRY)
Chemical & Engineering News
Vol. 85, no. 35
August 27, 2007

EXCERPT: Bruker has introduced the APEX DUO, a single-crystal X-ray diffractometer that features instantaneous and automated wavelength change. The instrument combines two X-ray sources-a copper microfocus tube and a standard molybdenum sealed tube-that can be run with one source in operation and the other in standby, allowing for unattended wavelength switching controlled by the system's software. The copper source is up to twice as intense as standard copper tubes, resulting in faster experiments and better data quality. The first APEX DUO has been installed at the Indiana University Molecular Structure Center.


"Proteins From Birth To Death" (BIOCHEMISTRY)
Chemical & Engineering News
Vol. 85, no. 35
August 27, 2007

EXCERPT: Proteins are born on the ribosome, where they are biosynthesized. They may die in the proteasome, a big protein grinder in cells. And between those two events, "there is a life for proteins" in which they do many things, said biochemist Fabrizio Chiti of the University of Florence at a recent symposium. "They can carry out catalysis, they are involved in signal transduction, they help transport many other biomolecules, and they can act as genetic elements," among many other roles.

* It was once thought denatured proteins or intrinsically unstructured proteins could not perform their main functions, or at least not perform them very well. IU School of Medicine biochemist Vladimir Uversky tells C&E News reporter Stu Borman, "This was because of the predominating viewpoint that a protein is a highly organized and rigid molecule with a unique structure specially designed for a unique function."


"2.7 billion-year-old fossils are found" (GEOLOGY)
United Press International
August 21, 2007

EXCERPT: Scientists have found 2.7 billion-year-old archaea fossils in a Canadian mine that indicate the organism coexisted with bacteria and eukaryotes.

* The discovery was made by University of Illinois-Chicago Associate Professor Fabien Kenig; his former doctoral student, Gregory Ventura; Christopher Reddy of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution; Glenn Frysinger of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy; and Geological Sciences Professor Juergen Schieber of Indiana University Bloomington.


"In Milestone, FDA Pushes Genetic Tests Tied to Drug" (MEDICINE)
Wall Street Journal
August 16, 2007

EXCERPT: In May, Karen Schmale was rushed to Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, gasping for air. Diagnosed with blood clots in her lungs, she was given a powerful blood thinner called warfarin. The medicine probably helped save her life. Then it almost killed her. About a week later, Ms. Schmale, 49 years old, noticed blood in her urine and soon became so weak she could barely climb the stairs to her second-floor apartment. The warfarin was causing the bleeding, and she had to go back to the hospital for an emergency blood transfusion.

* In November 2005, an outside FDA advisory committee favored putting information about genetic tests on warfarin's label by an 8-to-2 vote IU School of Medicine Professor David Flockhart, who chaired the panel, tells Wall Street Journal reporter Anna Wilde Mathews, "I think doctors need to know."
(Access to full article requires a fee)


"Stomach drug might have brain impact" (MEDICINE)
Boston Globe
August 13, 2007

EXCERPT: Dementia is on the rise in America: by 2050, nearly 20 million people in America are expected to show cognitive decline. While the increase is attributed to a variety of factors, a new study reveals that a relatively common drug used to treat stomach distress might be playing a role. According to research led by Dr. Malaz Boustani from Indiana University, a class of drugs called histamine-2 (H2) receptor blockers, which includes the popular drugs Zantac and Tagamet, may be associated with a decline of mental function, such as language, memory, and reasoning.

* Though the Web page's layout might suggest it, this news brief has nothing to do with black-footed ferrets. Boustani's study raises concerns about the long-term effects of certain anti-ulcer drugs on a person's nervous system.


"High-Tech Spy Tools Aren't Just for James Bond" (INFORMATICS)
National Public Radio
August 8, 2007

EXCERPT: We see high-tech spy tools all the time in the movies, but how much of it is real? Turns out, more than you might think. Identification tools -- known as biometrics -- have gone far beyond fingerprints to include everything from facial recognition to DNA scans.

* IUPUI computer engineer Eliza Yingzi Du tells NPR's Neal Conan irises (the ones in our eyes, not in our gardens) are unique enough to identify individuals. "... Actually, the iris recognition system can achieve 99.9 percent accuracy or even higher. And while fingerprint utilize about 99 percent, it depends on a database," she says.


"Red-Ape Stroll" (ANTHROPOLOGY)
Science News
Vol. 172, no. 5
August 4, 2007

EXCERPT: ... Witness the red-ape stroll, as practiced by an orangutan living on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. New field observations of these animals, conducted by anthropologist Susannah K.S. Thorpe of the University of Birmingham in England and her colleagues, show that orangutans, unlike knuckle-walking chimpanzees and gorillas, at times walk upright much as people do. This suggests to the researchers that two-legged walking, or bipedalism, evolved in a common ancestor of all living apes at least 20 million years ago.

* IU Bloomington anthropologist Kevin Hunt is asked to comment on the new research, telling Science News reporter Bruce Bower he's not yet convinced bipedalism evolved that early the great apes. Hunt is well known in his field for his own hypothesis, that the evolution of bipedalism was spurred by human ancestors' search for (relatively) low-hanging fruit.
(Access may require a subscription)


"Neutrinos: The key to a theory of everything" (PHYSICS)
New Scientist
Iss. 2615
August 1, 2007

EXCERPT: ... The experiment, called Miniboone, was being run by a team of nearly 80 physicists at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) at Batavia, Illinois - and the results presented a puzzle... But what really got physicists excited was the possibility that the findings could reveal a gap in the standard model of particle physics and point the way to a "theory of everything" that unites Einstein's general theory of relativity and quantum theory. "The mere idea of this makes you feel kind of funny," says Miniboone team member Janet Conrad of Columbia University in New York.

* Last year, Alan Kostalecky of Indiana University, Bloomington, and his colleagues came up with a theory that suggests it might. Kostalecky posited that the universe is filled with a force field that imposes a "preferred direction" on space. According to their theory, neutrinos traveling across space can interact with the field to change into other types of neutrino. The farther a neutrino travels, the greater its chance of interacting, so the probability of one type of neutrino changing into another increases with distance, exactly as in the oscillation model. "We get an oscillation-type effect caused by the field and not by neutrino masses," says Rex Tayloe, who developed the idea with Kostalecky.
(Access to the full article requires a fee)



Bloomington Science Cafe: "The Science of Marijuana"
Thursday, Sept. 13, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at Borders bookstore on East 3rd St. -- Alex Straiker of the IU Bloomington Dept. of Psychological and Brain Sciences will discuss the biochemistry, physiology, and psychology of marijuana, particularly its primary active ingredient, tetrahydrocannabinol.

Should ISM continue?
It's been four years since I began compiling this monthly summary of major hits for IU research and researchers. I can't tell whether interest has waned, but I suspect that is so. Perhaps ISM's glorious run is up. If you would rather I continue the work, please let me know. If there's anything I can do to improve the newsletter, tell me how.


* * * * Do you have an important and/or interesting paper in press? A major event or presentation coming up? Please contact IU Office of Media Relations science writer David Bricker at 812-856-9035 or

Indiana Science Monthly is produced for internal use only. If you have received this eMail in error, or do not wish not to receive this monthly eMail, or if you have a news item for the next edition of ISM, please contact David Bricker at 812-856-9035,