Genome Picked as 2000 'Breakthrough'

December 22, 2000; Washington, D.C. (AP) -- A continuing revolution in deciphering the genetic code of plants, humans, insects and other creatures has been named the "breakthrough of the year" by the editors of Science. Compiling maps and sequences for the genetic pattern of a variety of organisms "might well be the breakthrough of the Decade, perhaps even the Century, for all its potential to alter our view of the world we live in," the journal said.

Science each year picks the scientific advances that its editors believe to the most significant of the past 12 months. The selections for 2000 appear in the journal on Friday. The journal noted that industrial-sized efforts to sequence the genetic pattern of fruit flies, plants, mice, worms, bacteria, and humans represent biology's first foray into big science, and "by almost any measure, it's been a great success." In May 1999, the journal said, "researchers had completed human genome sequences that covered just a fraction of the whole genetic pattern. By August of this year, more than 4 GBP (billion base pairs) of DNA had been sequenced and archived." See "New Genetic-Code Research Was Named the "Breakthrough of the Year" by the journal Science, p. A1, The Wall Street Journal (December 22, 2000). Click for more details.

Possible Alzheimer's Vaccine Found

December 21, 2000 (AP) -- Taking what could be an important step toward preventing Alzheimer's, scientists found that an experimental vaccine can largely ward off memory loss in mice stricken with a similar disease. The vaccine is already being tested in people. "This potentially could be a major breakthrough for us," said Zaven Khachaturian, senior science adviser to the Alzheimer's Association. But he stressed that treatments that work in mice do not necessarily help people and that the mouse research did not deal with some key mental abilities lost in Alzheimer's, such as language and judgment. The vaccine made headlines last year when scientists reported that it largely blocks the formation of protein deposits called amyloid plaques in the brains of mice. Such plaques are a hallmark of Alzheimer's. But the next step was to find whether the vaccine makes any difference in the animals' mental functioning. Two studies published in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature found that the vaccine does indeed make a difference. See Anthony Begalado, "Alzheimer's Vaccine Shows Promise in Test," p. A1, B11, The Wall Street Journal (December 21, 2000) and "Two Studies Give Hope for Vaccine Against Alzheimer's," p. B2 The Los Angeles Times (December 21, 2000). Click for more details.

British Vote to Expand Embryo Work

December 20, 2000; London, UK (AP) -- British lawmakers have passed a measure that would relax the rules limiting medical research on human embryos, rejecting opponents' claims that the move is a step toward permitting the cloning of human beings. The measure passed Tuesday has not yet completed the legislative process. But if it becomes law, it effectively would enable scientists to clone embryos and keep them alive for up to 14 days to extract so-called stem cells -- the unprogrammed master cells found in early stage embryos that can convert into nearly every type of cell in the body. Cell-based treatments are expected to open a new chapter of medicine, raising the hope of prevention or cure for ailments from Parkinson's Disease to diabetes. The amendment to the 1990 Human Fertilization and Embryology Act passed 366 to 174 in the House of Commons. Before the vote, government officials downplayed the connection between the change and concerns about human cloning. Click for more details.

Cloned Bull May Boost Beef Safety

December 19, 2000; College Station, TX (AP) -- Scientists at Texas A&M University unveiled a disease-resistant black Angus bull Monday, a feat they said could lead to safer beef and more efficient ranching worldwide. The month-old calf, called Bull 86 Squared, was cloned from genetic material frozen 15 years ago from Bull 86. That animal, which died of old age in 1997, was naturally resistant to brucellosis, tuberculosis, and salmonellosis -- all of which can be passed on to humans through uncooked beef, unpasteurized milk, or contamination. The new animal carries the same traits. More of its genes will be tested for resistance to other diseases over the next few years. See "Disease-Resistant Bull is Cloned in Texas," The Los Angeles Times (December 19, 2000) and CNN Science Report (December 18, 2000). Click for more details.

IBM to Ship Supercomputer for Proteomics

December 19, 2000. IBM will ship the most powerful supercomputer even built for a commercial client to NuTec Sciences of Atlanta, GA. The $70 million machine, rated at 7.5 TeraFlops (trillion floating point operations per second), will be used to determine how genes interact to cause disease. See Barnaby J. Feder, "IBM to Make New Supercomputer," Business Section, The New York Times (December 19, 2000).

Gene Mutation Doubles Fly Lifespan

December 15, 2000; Washington, D.C. (AP) -- Mutation of a gene whimsically named "I'm Not Dead Yet" or INDY for short can double the lifespan of fruit flies, a laboratory discovery that researchers said may lead to drugs to help people live longer and, perhaps, even lose weight. As reported in today's issue of the journal Science, researchers at the University of Connecticut Health Center have found that the life span of fruit flies was extended from an average of [37 - 70] days when a gene was modified on a single chromosome. Some flies in the study lived 110 days! "The same long-life gene exists in humans," said Dr. Stephen L. Helfand, senior author of the study, and "offers a target for future drug therapies aimed at extending life." In human terms, a doubled life span would be about 150 years. Helfand said "the gene mutation appears to work by restricting calorie absorption on a cellular level - in effect, putting the cells on a diet." "This raises the possibility," he said, "of one day developing a pill that would both extend life and control weight." See "Altered Gene Is Creating Fruit-Fly Methuselahs: Laboratory Mutation Nearly Doubled Lifespan by Restricting Calorie Absorption," p. S5, The Los Angeles Times (December 18, 2000). Click for more details.

Editor's Note: In response to my E-mail, Prof. Michael R. Rose from the University of California at Irvine, who has one of the largest repositories of Drosophila Gerontic Genes in existence, reports that "We don't have our results in yet. But given that there was partial complementation with the Luckinbill stocks (which are mimics of my own, with less replication), I suspect that we do in fact have this gene in our data base."

Genetic Map of a Plant Completed

December 14, 2000; (AP) -- Scientists on three continents have deciphered the entire genetic makeup of a plant -- a breakthrough in basic science that not only unlocks the secrets of nature, but may soon help to feed a hungry world, reduce pollution, and identify medicines of tomorrow. The new poster plant for the genetics revolution isn't a towering sequoia or a fragrant rose. Instead, it's a spindly weed that grows along roadsides worldwide. Arabidopsis thaliana -- gardeners know it as thale cress -- joins the fruitfly, the nematode worm, 600 viruses, and two dozen bacteria as organisms whose entire DNA blueprints have been deciphered so far.

A rough draft of the human genome was unveiled this Summer, and a completed version is expected to be published soon in the journals Nature and in Science. The plant's genetic code (25,498 genes over 5 chromosomes) was published in this week's issue of Nature based on work done in the USA, UK, France, Germany, and Japan. See Rosie Mesel, "Scientists Decode a Plant's Genome for First Time," pp. A1,3,26 The Los Angeles Times (December 14, 2000) and Antonio Regalado, "DNA - Decoded List Now Includes a Plant," p. A1, B13 The Wall Street Journal (December 14, 2000).

Editor's Note: Dr. Rita Calwell, Director of the National Science Foundation, which helped to fund the research, has announced that the NSF "will spend as much as $25 million over the next decade to fund a new effort -- to be called The 2010 Project -- to discover the function of all 25,000 Arabidopsis genes."

Arthur Cody correctly points out that although we've made a lot of progress in gene sequencing, we are still a long way from translating the "Book of Life" into an instruction manual. Cody states, "... how do genes make a leg or an eye? .... The answer is no one knows. Not only does no one know, no one has even the slightest idea of how to look for an answer." [Ref. Authur B. Cody, "Messages from the Genome," pp. 15-22, Harpers Magazine (December 2000).] Perhaps, if all goes well with the 2010 Project, we will have an answer for Mr. Cody in ten years. Click for more details .

Public Genome Project to Publish in Nature

December 13, 2000; Any researcher seeking to download more than 1 MBP (Mega Base) of Celera Genomics' code must first sign an Information Use Agreement that includes not just prohibitions against repackaging the data and reselling it but also not keeping the code on one's own personal computer, not even for personal use. This restriction was especially egregious for the public group, and therefore they will not publish a companion paper in Science [see story below] as they had originally planned but will publish in Nature instead. See Peter G. Gosselin, "Human Genome Project Objects to Rival's Science Journal Deal: Public Group Will Submit Its Findings to Another Publication to Protest Celera's Restricted Disclosure Agreement," The Los Angeles Times, pp. C1,3 (December 13, 2000).

NeuralStem Biopharmaceuticals, Ltd. Identifies, Isolates, and Grows Region-Specific Neural Stem Cells in Culture

December 8, 2000; Westport, CT (Reuters Health) -- For the first time, human neural stem cells have been identified, isolated, and grown in cell culture, according to a press release from NeuralStem Biopharmaceuticals, Ltd., the company that developed and patented the process. Using this technique, the researchers have shown conclusively that region-specific stem cells rather than a single multipotential cell exist in the nervous system. These findings are published in the most recent issue of NeuroScience News. Click for more details.

Celera to Publish Human Genome in Science

December 7, 2000; Prof. Donald Kennedy, Editor-in-Chief of Science Magazine, said that he hopes "to publish the public genome paper as well, but they have not submitted their own paper yet." See Scott Hensley, "Celera Gives Draft of Human Genome to Journal Science," The Wall Street Journal, pp. A1, B19 (December 7, 2000); Peter G. Gosselin, "Deal on Publishing Genome Paper Criticized: Agreement between Celera Genomics and Science Magazine Would Place Limits on Access to Supporting Data," The Los Angeles Times, p. C5 (December 7, 2000); and Editorial, "Roadblock to Research," p. B6, The Los Angeles Times (December 11, 2000).

Researchers Make Stem Cell Advance

December 7, 2000; London, UK (AP) -- Researchers have made unspecialized embryo cells transform into bone for the first time, an advance that may offer hope for repairing diseased bones and correcting genetic bone disorders. "Nearly 90 percent of the mouse embryonic stem cells evolved into bone nodules when allowed to grow in a lab dish for 21 days," Dr. Lee Buttery, a British scientist, told a symposium on stem cell research in London on Wednesday.

Embryonic stem cells, the predecessors of all tissue in the body, have become a hot area of medical research because scientists believe they may eventually be able to treat scores of diseases by renewing sick body parts with injections of replacement cells. Click for more details.

First Annual Conference on Regenerative Medicine

December 4, 2000; "These extrapolations of observable developments [in stem cell technology and functional genomics] imply that, if all goes reasonably well, our current projections of lifespan probably err on the side of caution." -- Dr. William A. Haseltine, Ph.D., Chairman and CEO of Human Genome Sciences of Rockville, Maryland at the First Annual Conference on Regenerative Medicine (Washington, D.C., December 3-5, 2000) Keynote Address: "A New Medical Paradigm." [Quoted with permission.]

New Bone Marrow Cells May Aid Brain

December 1, 2000; Washington, D.C. (AP) -- Researchers have discovered that transplanted bone marrow cells can migrate to the brain and turn into neurons, a dramatic laboratory finding that may offer hope of new therapies for Parkinson's Disease and other brain disorders. As reported in Science, two separate teams of scientists, using different methods and different strains of mice, have demonstrated that transplanted bone marrow cells can transform themselves naturally into neurons -- brain cells that carry nerve impulses -- and install themselves seamlessly into the brain. However, "it could take several years before the researchers could prove that such transplants can be effective and safe for treating human brain disorders," they said. The researchers said the finding suggests that converting bone marrow cells into brain neurons may be part of a previously unknown natural healing action that the body uses to replace failed brain cells. See p A1, The Wall Street Journal (December 1, 2000). Click for more details.

Stem Cells Proposed to Treat Huntington's Disease

November 30, 2000; French researchers at INSERM (The French equivalent of the NIH) have found in a four year study that they have succeeded in reversing the course of this Huntington's Disease in three of five patients by implanting Embryonic Stem Cells in their brains. The results will be published in Lancet next month. A recent flurry of research has shown -- at least in mice (See story above) -- that stem cells from many sites throughout the body can be induced to turn into viable neurons. If these stem cells could be shown to be as effective as fetal cells, it would greatly increase the supply of tissue available for transplant and would obviate the need for immunosuppressive drugs. See Thomas H. Maugh, II, "Treatment for Huntington's Disease Shows Promise," p. A21, The Los Angeles Times (November 30, 2000).

Doctors Using Cells to Repair Hearts

November 13, 2000; New Orleans (AP) -- Doctors may soon be able to rejuvenate weakly pumping hearts by creating brand-new muscle and blood vessels fashioned from cells scavenged elsewhere in patients' bodies, new research suggests. The idea is to repair the hearts of victims of congestive heart failure, a condition that afflicts nearly 5 million people in the United States, by recreating heart tissue damaged by heart attacks and the wear and tear of aging. Heart failure occurs when damage to the heart muscle weakens the organ's power to pump blood forcefully enough. Although medicines can help, many victims suffer crippling shortness of breath, lack of stamina and swelling of the legs. In the French case, first made public last month, doctors treated a 72-year-old man with severe heart failure resulting from a heart attack, which left his main pumping chamber scarred and disabled. Under local anesthesia, they removed a bit of muscle from his thigh, then grew it in the lab to create millions of contracting cells called skeletal myoblasts. On June 15, they transplanted 800 million of these cells with a needle into and around the heart scar.

Andro May Not Help Older Athletes

November 13, 2000; Washington, D.C. (AP) -- Men who are past their prime muscle- building years can't count on Androstenedione to help them build muscle, researchers say. And the scientists say the supplement raises the risk of health problems. Androstenedione supplements are made of a naturally occurring steroid hormone the body uses to make testosterone. And the supplement that had been used by "home-run king" Mark McGwire did raise levels of testosterone, one study found. But " Andro didn't raise testosterone levels enough to trigger the male hormone's muscle-building capacity in men ages [30 - 56] years," it said.

Meanwhile, "levels of the beneficial form of cholesterol known as HDL fell," the study said. Researchers looked at blood samples taken once a week over 28 days from 27 men who took 100-milligram capsules of andro three times a day. Results from the men on andro were compared with those of 28 men who were given inactive substitutes. The men on andro developed increases of [40 - 50] percent in free testosterone levels in their blood, the study found. In a similar study, men [35 - 65] years of age showed no benefit from andro, even when they did high-intensity strength training.

Keeping Old Brains Sharp

November 10, 2000; Dr. Laura L. Carstensen, Professor of Psychology at Stanford University and the Barbara D. Finberg Director of its Institute for Research and Women and Gender, recently chaired the National Research Council Committee that wrote the report The Aging Mind: Opportunities in Cognitive Research . Click for more details .

Nature Magazine Reviews Aging

November 9, 2000; The British journal Nature has published a special section on "Aging" in today's issue. Click for more details .

Mouse Stem Cells Ameliorate Trauma

November 9, 2000; University of Pennsylvania researchers rediscover the power of stem cells to heal traumatic brain injuries in mice. Click for more details .

HGS Announces Discovery of 11,000 Different Cytokines

November 7, 2000. Dr. William Haseltine, CEO of Human Genome Sciences of Rockville, MD, said in a recent interview, "When we know, in effect, what our cells know, healthcare will be revolutionized, giving rise to what will then be called Regenerative Medicine." Until recently, only a handful of the cellular signals that shape the architecture of our tissues had been identified, like a small number of the interleukins produced by white blood cells or like erythropoietin, a molecule that stimulates the synthesis of new red blood cells (Amgen has developed this compound as a drug). Dr. Haseltine has asserted for several years that "the entire communications system of the human body consists of a set of some 11,000 cytokines and their associated receptors. Furthermore, HGS has now identified all of the elements of this group of signaling molecules." But this broad claim has been generally ignored by academic biologists, since it has not been published in any scientific, peer-reviewed journal. However, it is now gaining more credibility since HGS has, in fact, applied for 9,200 patents on the genes involved in synthesizing these factors; it has built a manufacturing plant to produce these cytokines in quantity; and it has advanced four of them into clinical trials with the FDA.

Dr. Hazeltine has also found evidence for 140,000 human genes, far more than the number of 50,000 claimed by Dr. Craig Venter, CEO of Celera Genomics based on their newly-acquired sequencing data (see related stories below). See Nicholas Wade, "Teaching the Body to Heal Itself," The New York Times, pp. D1, 8 (November 7, 2000). This interesting review article provides a detailed roadmap for Regenerative Medicine using cytokines and stem cells of various types to regenerate our aging bodies with fresh, younger cells with the aim of ultimately prolonging human life -- a truly revolutionary goal for conventional medicine.

Neurodegenerative Diseases Linked to Oxidative Damage

November 3, 2000. Reactive oxygen and nitrogen radicals that damage the protein, lipid, and nucleic acid components of cells have long been implicated in the destruction of neurons associated with neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's Disease (PD). However, obtaining evidence of oxidative injury to the cellular components of brain neurons has been difficult. According to today's issue of Science, researchers decided to analyze a-synuclein, a protein known to be mutated in rare familial forms of PD, which is the principal component of inclusions called Lewy Bodies, a hallmark lesion associated with PD and many other types of neurodegenerative diseases. They raised antibodies to nitrated tyrosine residues in a-synuclein and used immunohistochemistry to show that Lewy bodies in postmortem brain tissue from patients with PD, Alzheimer's Disease, and Lewy Body dementia all contained nitrated a-synuclein. The authors propose that nitrative damage to a-synuclein (caused by interactions between reactive oxygen and nitrogen species) promotes aggregation of the protein and its deposition in Lewy Bodies, thus contributing to the destruction of neurons and disease progression. Click for more details.

Gene Therapy Ameliorates Parkinson's in Monkeys

October 26, 2000; 600 PM EDT; Washington, D.C. (AP) -- In tomorrow's issue of Science, researchers report that a gene transferred to the brains of monkeys was able to control symptoms of Parkinson's Disease in an experiment that experts say offers "promise" for human patients. The gene therapy technique used a virus that had been linked to a gene that prompts production in the brain of dopamine, a chemical neurotransmitter. The loss of dopamine is thought to be the cause of Parkinson's Disease.

Three monkeys with chemically induced Parkinson's Disease were restored to near normal by the gene, said Jeffrey H. Kordower, first author of the study. Parkinson's Disease is a progressive brain disorder that affects cells that make dopamine. The loss of dopamine causes the classic Parkinson's symptoms: trembling, slow and stiff movement of limbs, a halting walk, speech difficulties and loss of balance. The etiology of the disease is unknown. The incidence of Parkinson's in this country is about 1.2 million Americans. Click for more details.

Chromosomal Abnormalities Lead to Early Termination of Pregnancy (Spontaneous Abortion) in Majority of Pregnancies

October 23, 2000; San Diego, CA (AP) -- As reported last Sunday at the annual meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine in San Diego, researchers at University College in London reported that most human embryos possess genetic defects just a few days into their development. This finding may explain why so many pregnancies miscarry shortly after conception (and the potential mother is never aware of the pregnancy, since she never misses her regular period because no implantation has occurred). Researchers who examined all 46 chromosomes in 3-day-old embryos said that they believe that their new test can improve success rates for infertile patients by allowing gynecologists to choose embryos with normal-looking sets of chromosomes for implantation into the womb. The technology could also decrease the number of multiple births for women undergoing In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) because fewer embryos would likely need to be inserted into the uterus to result in a successful pregnancy. The process is not yet ready for testing on infertile women, however, because the time it takes to complete the procedure exceeds six days -- the maximum time fertility specialists can maintain an IVF embryo outside the womb at the present time. [Editor's Note: This finding forces one to ask incidentally, "Why do the majority of embryos have chromosomal defects in the first place?" Is it secondary to a failure to form the spindle apparatus properly or failure to segregate properly? Do ordinary mitosis suffer from this same sort of failure rate? If not, why not? ]

Celera Genomics Completes Mouse Sequence Assembly

October 11, 2000; Dr. J. Craig Venter, President and CEO of PE Celera Genomics, surprised the audience at the Norman Davidson Lecture at CalTech in Pasadena this afternoon by announcing that his company has now completed the assembly of the DNA sequence of the laboratory mouse (9.3 GBP [billion base pairs] over 21 chromosomes [19 + X + Y]) at the 95 percent level. Three different strains of mice were utilized to give 3x coverage. The whole process took less than six months to complete from start to finish, given the enormous computational power of their Compaq supercomputer. However -- contrary to the public Mouse Consortium Project (including partners: Affymetrix, SmithKline Beecham, and Merck) which plans to post its mouse sequence on the Internet free-of-charge in February 2001 -- Celera plans to make its mouse-sequence data available only to biological institutions who pay substantial fees. See Scott Hensley, "Celera Deciphers Genetic Code of Lab Mouse," p. A1, B1, B4, The Wall Street Journal (October 12, 2000). Click on www.celera .com for more details.

At the same lecture, Dr. Venter dropped another bombshell that, to our knowledge, has not yet been published in the media [but he nevertheless agreed to be quoted on]. He stated that, "Surprisingly, the human genome contains less than 50,000 genes!" See the news story below on the bet at Cold Spring Harbor regarding how many human genes there really are [July 25th]. Venter added that the scientific publication(s) to document this fact will soon go out for peer review and will be published early next year in both Science and Nature.

Ellison Foundation Symposium on Aging

October 11, 2000; The Ellison Medial Foundation Held a One-Day Symposium on Differential Gene Expression in Development and Aging at CalTech. Click for more details.

ACT Clones Gaur (Asian Ox)

October 8, 2000; An Iowa cow is expected to deliver a cloned Asian guar sometime next month. See "Cow Impregnated with Cells Cloned from Gaur," The Los Angeles Times (October 8, 2000); "Cloning of Endangered Species is Near," The Wall Street Journal, p. A1 (October 9, 2000). Details will appear in the new journal Cloning. Click for more details.

Mouse Sequencing Consortium

October 6, 2000. Affymetrix, Inc., SmithKline Beecham PLC, Merck & Co., NIH, and the Wellcome Trust have agreed to sequence 95 percent of the mouse (black six C57BL/6J strain) genome by the end of February 2001. They will spend $58.25 million for the project. This may accelerate the work of the PE Celera Genomics Group that has promised to complete the sequencing of different stains of mice by the of this year [Editor's Note: which they have now done]. See Eliot Marshall, "Public-Private Project to Deliver Mouse Genome in Six Months," Science, pp. 242-243, Vol. 290, No.5490 (October 13, 2000). Also, see Scott Hensley, "Consortium Is Created to Speed Work on Genome of Mice Used in Research," The Wall Street Journal (October 6, 2000).

AAAS Report Requests Ban on Germline Engineering

September 19, 2000. See Aaron Zitner, "Scientific Panel Calls for Voluntary Ban on Gene- Altering Research," p. A16, The Los Angeles Times (September 19, 2000). Click for more details.

Scientists Alter Gene in Mouse

September 15, 2000; Washington, D.C. (AP) -- As reported in the latest issue of Science Magazine, researchers at Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland have found a way to produce mice with genes that can be switched on and off, a development that could speed up the laboratory study of genes and their effect on disease. John Adelman, senior author of the study, reported that they altered a target gene in mouse embryos so that a special protein was triggered when the mice were fed an antibiotic. When the mice were grown, the researchers showed that feeding the animals an antibiotic would cause the gene to shut down. The gene could be turned back on, the researchers said, when the antibiotic was removed from the diet of the animals. Being able to turn a gene on or off will give researchers "a clearer and more detailed insight into the specific functions of any particular gene and its corresponding protein. This, in turn, will speed the development of drugs for the treatment of disease," he said. Click for the Abstract in Science.

Are Humans Genetically Hardwired?

From pp. 68-73 of Are We Hardwired? The Role of Genes in Human Behavior by William R. Clark and Michael Grunstein [both former speakers to the LA- GRG](Oxford University Press, New York; Publication Date = October 2000; 384 pages; ISBN = 0195138260; price = $24.00; Savings = 20%)

William R. Clark, Ph.D. is Professor Emeritus of Immunology in the Department of Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology at UCLA; Michael Grunstein, Ph.D. is Professor of Biological Chemistry at the UCLA School of Medicine and Molecular Biology Institute.

BioMedicalNetwork Editor's Note: In this challenging and astute entry in the ongoing nature/nurture debate, Profs. William R. Clark and Michael Grunstein draw insights from both sides of the argument and present a provocative interpretation of this complex issue. Are We Hardwired delves into modern genetics and behavioral science, noting that complexes of genes, often across chromosomes, drive most of our heredity-based actions. The authors examine the genetic basis of behavioral traits such as aggression, sexuality, mental function, and alcoholism. They reject the idea that genes and environment are in opposition, arguing that heredity shapes how we interpret our surroundings, which in turn alters the very structure of our brain.

Human Genome Project Delivers Growth Factor for Skin Lesions

September 12, 2000. Human Genome Sciences (HGS) of Rockville, MD has announced the successful testing of a potent new growth factor that governs the healing process at the World Wound Healing Congress today in Melbourn, Australia. In treating diabetic ulcers, either Keratinocyte Growth Factor-2 (KGF-2) [ Repifermin (Regranax)] or a placebo cream was applied to skin lesions for 94 volunteer-patients twice a week for up to 12 weeks. The wounds treated with Repifermin cream healed more quickly. About half of the most stubborn wounds were healed within about two months.

This breakthrough came out of a process that included scanning the entire human genome for relevant genes, identifying the mRNA that codes for potential candidate drugs, synthesizing the proteins in quantity, testing them clinically, and finally getting FDA approval for larger clinical trials planned for the near future.

See Steve Sternberg, "Genome Project Delivers Salve for Skin," p. 6D, USA Today (September 13, 2000)[ Editor's Note: This newspaper misspelled the name of the drug as Reperferin (sic).]

Click for more details from CNN.

Corning Enters DNA Microarray Chip Market

September 12, 2000. Click for more details.

Emory University and Buck Institute for Aging Research Use Antioxidant Drugs to Increase the Lifespan of C. elegans Microscopic Roundworms

September 1, 2000. As reported in today's issue of Science , SOD/Catalase Mimetic Drugs (EUK-8 and an analog EUK-134 are small synthetic molecules) have extended the lifespan of wild type C. elegans by an average of 44 percent. In some cases worm lifespans were doubled or tripled! See Laura Johannes, "Worm Study May Aid Research on Aging -- Eukarion, Inc. Drug Found to Triple the Lifespan of Part of Test Group," p. B2, The Wall Street Journal (September 1, 2000) and "Scientists Slow Aging in Worms," Newsday (September 1, 2000). Click on the image
C. elegans
of the nematode for more details from CNBC, AP, CNN, Emory University, and AAAS. Eukarion has already tested mice and expects to publish their results in the next few months.

Pigs Cloned by Nuclear Transfer from Adult Somatic Cells

September 7, 2000. As reported in the latest issue of Nature Magazine, click for more details.

Jersey Cow Cloned at the University of Tennessee

August 29, 2000. Click on Millie
for more details.

Millie's Birth Statistics:

Born: 4:20 AM EDT, Wednesday, August 23, 2000;
Length: 32" (crown to rump);
Height: 28" (at hips);
Weight: 62 lbs.

Skin Cancer Linked to Telomeres in Mice

August 28, 2000. As reported in the September issue of Nature Genetics, Spanish researchers have learned that murine skin cancer can be reduced by 30 percent simply by down-regulating the telomerase gene. Click for more details.

New Federal Guidelines for Stem Cell Research

August 23 2000. See Aaron Zitner, "NIH Expected to Allow Embryo Research," p. A5, The Los Angeles Times (August 23, 2000); Aaron Zitner, "U.S. to Fund Controversial Stem Cell Research," p. A29, The Los Angeles Times (August 24, 2000); Editorial, "Boost for Life-Affirming Science," p. B12, The Los Angeles Times (August 24, 2000); Chris Adams, "Human Tests With Stem Cells Could Start Soon," pp. A1, B1, B16, The Wall Street Journal (August 24, 2000); Nicholas Wade, "New Rules on Use of Human Embryos in Cell Research," pp. A1, A23, The New York Times (August 24, 2000); and Tim Friend, "Government Approves Embryo Cell Research, p.1A, USA Today (August 24, 2000). Click for more details.

The Kronos Foundation

August 22, 2000. The Kronos Research Foundation of Phoenix, Arizona has been established to conduct and foster translational research in aging, taking promising findings from the basic research laboratory and carrying them forward into the clinical arena, with the aim of preventing the common diseases associated with aging, slowing the aging process, and prolonging a vital, healthy human lifespan. In addition, the Kronos Research Foundation will disseminate accurate scientific information regarding novel strategies for reducing the deleterious impact of the aging process and age-related illnesses to both the professional and lay communities via publication, scientific meetings and symposia, and the media. For more information, visit their website at

Telephone Interview with the World's Oldest Living Man

August 6, 2000. See the Section on Centenarians for this morning's interview with Mr. John McMorran.

Politics of Performance Drug Testing in the Sidney Olympic Games

August 3, 2000. See Letter to the Editor of The Los Angeles Times on hGH testing by Dr. Karlis Ullis for more details.

Gene Trust of Mountain View, Calif. Needs Volunteers

August 1, 2000. If you wish to submit a blood sample to have selected parts of your genome submitted anonymously to a large genetic-disease data base, click on for more details. See also, Andrew Pollack, "Company Seeking Donors of DNA for a 'Gene Trust'," pp. A1, C10, The New York Times (August 1, 2000); "A Gene-Research Company is Using the Internet to Collect Data and Later Blood from Volunteers in an Effort to Identify Variations that Cause Disease. DNA Science's Approach is Novel and Unusually Broad Based," p. A1 The Wall Street Journal (August 1, 2000); and May Wong, "Firm Launches Large-Scale Gene Project on Internet: Volunteers Solicited in a Drive to Collect DNA Samples of 100,000 Donors," p. C2, The Los Angeles Times (August 1, 2000).

There are at least five different venture capital companies backing the effort. Dr. James Watson, Nobel Prize winner, and Mr. James Clark, founder of Silicon Graphics, Netscape Communications, and Healtheon/WebMD, are members of the Board of Directors of DNA.COM. Warning: It takes at least ten minutes to navigate through all their "Informed Consent" legal jargon, but it's worth it.

Male Fecundity Declines with Age

July 31, 2000. As reported in a British study of 8,500 married couples in the August 1st European Journal of Human Reproduction, once a man passes the age of 24, the older he is, the longer it takes for him to make his partner pregnant, regardless of her age. Click for more details.

Details on the Bet on the Number of Human Genes

July 25, 2000. Click on the distribution
Distribution of Bets
for more details.

FDA Ground Rules for Stem Cell Treatments

July 17, 2000. Click for more details.

Bone Marrow Stem Cells Produce Liver Cells

July 20, 2000. See "Liver cells were grown from the precursors to blood cells in British experiments reported in today's issue of Nature," p. A1, The Wall Street Journal (July 20, 2000). Researchers say the work is significant because it points to use of bone marrow cells to avert the need for a transplant. Click for more details.

Weightlessness in Space Disorganizes Cellular Microtubules

July 17, 2000. As reported in Tuesday's issue of PNAS, prolonged weightlessness has been shown to trigger cellular changes that are usually associated with aging. Click for more details.

Mice Needed to Understand Human Genome

July 16, 2000. Click for more details.

President Clinton Declares $50M for Alzheimer's Effort Over Next Five Years

July 16, 2000. See "Alzheimer's Research Gets Extra $50 million," p. A12, The Los Angeles Times (July 17, 2000). Click for more details.

President Clinton Declares $5M for Diabetes Effort

July 13, 2000. See "Trials for Diabetes Cure To Get $5 Million in Funds," p. B2, The Wall Street Journal (July 14, 2000). Click for more details.

ANK Gene Linked to Murine Arthritis

July 13, 2000. Click on the photo
David Kingsley
of Prof. David M. Kingsley of Stanford University Medical School for more details.

Caution Urged on Gene Patents

July 13, 2000. Click for more details.

New Stem Cell Research News Publication

July 12, 2000. Data Trends Publications of Leesburg, VA has begun publishing a new subscription newsletter in both hard copy and electronic form. Click for more details.

Vaccine for Alzheimer's Disease Begins Clinical Trials in England

July 11, 2000. As reported today at an international meeting of 2,800 Alzheimer's researchers, a beta-amyloid vaccine by Elan Pharmaceuticals of South San Francisco will begin Phase 1 clinical trials in 80 British patients. There is evidence that the vaccine works in mice. See Robert A. Rosenblatt, "Alzheimer's Vaccine Appears Safe in 1st Human Test," p. A4, The Los Angeles Times (July 12, 2000). Click for more details.

World First: Cloned Cow Gives Birth

July 10, 2000. Japanese researchers reported today in Tokyo that one of their artificially- inseminated cloned cows has successfully given birth to a normal calf. See details.

Harvard Researchers Stimulate Pancreatic Duct Cells to Synthesize Insulin

July 5, 2000. For reasons that are not fully understood, after stimulation with a specific growth factor and a laboratory gel used to help cells grow in culture, pancreatic duct cells -- which make up about one-third of the pancreas and are generally discarded because they don't normally manufacture insulin -- can be transformed into islet cells that do make insulin. The organ-donor supply of transplantable pancreases -- about 3,000 a year -- isn't nearly enough to satisfy the demand for transplants that is estimated to be on the order of 16 million Americans with diabetes. See "Diabetes Researchers Create Pancreas Cells that Produce Insulin," pp. A1, B12, The Wall Street Journal (July 5, 2000).

Susan Bonner-Weir, Monica Taneja, Gordon C. Weir, Krystyna Tatarkiewicz, Ki-Ho Song, Arun Sharma, and John J. O-Neil, "Cultivation of Human Islets from Expanded Ductal Tissue," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 97, No. 14, pp. 7999-8004 (July 4, 2000). E-mail:

Microrobots for Biology

June 29, 2000. As reported in Today's issue of Science, Swedish microrobots can work underwater or in blood. See details.

Progress on Genome Mapping

June 27, 2000. Click for more details.

Human Genome: Joint Announcement by President Clinton at the White House and Prime Minister Blair in London by Satellite Link

June 26, 2000. Following an early-morning White House Press Conference, Drs. Craig Venter and Francis Collins at a downtown Washington, D.C. hotel revealed during a 90-minute Scientific Press Conference that there are now known to be not 3 billion BPs but [3.12-3.15] billion BPs. However, they're still not telling us yet exactly how many "genes" there really are. A 12-hour marathon of genomics interviews with scientists on CNN characterized the "Announcement" from early morning to late evening. Yes, it's now OK to celebrate now by drinking a bottle of champagne. However, the time and place of the actual joint publication(s) have not yet been revealed. Obviously, Science and/or Nature are strong contenders. They promised the publications before the end of the year. The mouse genome is being worked on as we speak, and is expected to be completed by the end of December. Check "Cracking the Code!" in this week's Time Magazine (July 3, 2000) and a "Special Report on The Human Genome Business," in the latest Scientific American (July 2000), both on local news stands now. Also, see Scott Hensley, "New Race Heats Up to Turn Gene Information into Drug Discoveries," p. A1, B1, B4, The Wall Street Journal (June 26, 2000). Also, see Paul Jacobs and Aaron Zitner, "Scientists Reach Milestone in Mapping of Human Genome," pp. A1, A13 and Marlene Cimons, "Decoding Raises a Double- Edged Sword on Ethics," pp. A1, A12, The Los Angeles Times (June 27, 2000); Nicholas Wade, "Genetic Code of Human Life Is Cracked by Scientist: A Shared Success: Two Rivals' Announcement Marks New Medical Era, Risks and All," pp. A1, A21, Natalie Angier, "A Pearl and a Hodgepodge: Human DNA," and Nicholas Wade, "Now, the Hard Part: Putting the Genome to Work," pp. D1-8, The New York Times (June 27, 2000); Scott Hensley and Sarah Lueck, "Genome Groups Complete Rough Drafts: Data Will Help Scientists Locate Specific Genes, Speed Cures for Disease," pp. A1, A3, A5, The Wall Street Journal (June 27, 2000). Click on the DNA molecule for still more details.

Joint Announcement of Human Genome on June 26th in Washington, DC and London

June 23, 2000. See "Human Genome Announcement Expected Monday," p. A12, The Los Angeles Times (June 24, 2000); "Celera, Genome Project to Mark Stage in Genetics," p. B4, The Wall Street Journal (June 26, 2000); and Tim Friend, "Genome Projects Complete Sequence," pp. 1A-2A, USA Today (June 23-25, 2000) Click for more details.

HGS To Receive FDA Approval forBLyS

June 23, 2000. Human Genome Sciences of Rockville, Maryland is expected to receive FDA approval for a B-Lymphocyte Stimulator. See Ron Winslow, "Gene-Based Drug Targeting Immune Problems Reaches Human Testing," p. B1, The Wall Street Journal (June 23, 2000). Click for more details.

Neural Stem Cell Stimulator Works in Mouse Brain

June 23, 2000. As reported in Thursday's issue of Nature, Harvard Medical School Scientists have successfully stimulated the growth of new neurons in the brain of the mouse. Click for more details.

Clinton to Host Draft Human Genome Announcement at the White House Next Week

June 20, 2000. See Bob Davis and Ron Winslow, "Gene Breakthrough Gets Joint Ceremony," p. A1, B7, The Wall Street Journal (June 20, 2000). [Curiously, there has been nothing yet from AP, The New York Times, or The Los Angeles Times, or CNN about this important story.] Click for more details.

Telomerase Promotes Survival of Neurons in Rats

June 16, 2000. Click for more details.

New Evidence Links Telomerase with an Oncogene

June 15, 2000. As published in today's issue of the journal Nature, click for more details .

Geron Teams with Celera to Sequence Stem Cell Genes

June 12, 2000. See Bloomberg News, "Geron, Celera to Partner on Stem Cell Research," p.C20 The Los Angeles Times (June 13, 2000); Bloomberg News, "Geron Shares Surge on Alliance with PE," p. C26, The New York Times (June 13, 2000); Staff Reporter, "PE's Celera Genomics Sets Deal with Geron for Gene Research," p. C16, The Wall Street Journal (June 13, 2000). Click for more details from the The Wall Street Journal -- News Roundup.

Will Celera and HGP Now Collaborate?

June 15, 2000. See Scott Hensley, "Celera, U.S. Group Discuss Publishing Genome Findings," pp. A1, A12, The Wall Street Journal (June 15, 2000) and also Peter G. Gosselin and Paul Jacobs, "Rivals in Gene Mapping Seek to Tie Race: After Much Bickering, Public Project and Private Firm are Negotiating a Compromise in which Both Benefit From Historic Effort," pp. A1, A22, The Los Angeles Times (June 14, 2000). Joint scientific publication in the journal Science could take place as early as September. A joint announcement of their results prior to publication is currently being discussed." Prof. Donald Kennedy, the newly-appointed Editor-in-Chief of Science is brokering talks between the two parties, but has thus far declined to comment on the situation.

June 8, 2000. Click for more details .

Also, click on Nature's Genome Gateway for additional current information.

Swedish Researchers Reprogram Mouse Neural Stem Cells

June 2, 2000. See "Mice Research Suggests Brain Stem Cells Can Help Build Tissue of Other Organs," p. A1, A8, The Wall Street Journal (June 2, 2000); "Brain Cells May Turn Into Organ Tissue, Study Says," p. A26, The Los Angeles Times (June 2, 2000); Andrew Pollach, "Neural Cells, Grown in Labs, Raise Hopes on Brain Disease," pp. D1, D6, The New York Times (May 30, 2000); Andrew Pollach, "Rebuilding With Stem Cells," p. D6, The New York Times (May 30, 2000). Click for more details.

Sun Microsystems and DoubleTwist Join Forces to Speed Genomic Analysis

May 10, 2000. See Andrew Pollack, "105,000 Genes Annotated in Public Database," p. C2, The New York Times (May 8, 2000). Click for more details.

Celera Genomics Postpones Completion of Human Genome

May 7, 2000; Rumor had it that Celera was nearly ready to announce the completion of the first-draft sequence of the Human Genome this week. Ref. Paul Jacobs and Peter G. Gosselin, "An Unfolding Gene Map at 'Finish Line': With Much Work Remaining, Private and Public Efforts to Complete the Mapping of the Human Genetic Code Are on the Verge of Milestones," pp. A1, A41-43, The Los Angeles Times (May 7, 2000); Paul Jacobs, "Who'll Get Credit is Issue Even before Code is Broken: Tensions between Public, Private Projects Surface as [ Science and Nature] Journal Editors Grapple with Publishing Issue," p. 41, The Los Angeles Times (May 7, 2000).

But don't begin celebrating yet; a new target date was revealed this week at the Annual Genome Conference at Cold Spring Harbor in New York stating that the assembly task will not be completed until June.

Ref. Paul Jacobs, "Celera Delays Target Date for Genome Assembly," p. C3, The Los Angeles Times (May 12, 2000). Stay tuned to this website for further information regarding availability of the sequence in the coming weeks.

First Cloned Mouse Dies of Natural Causes

May 10, 2000. Click for more details.

Chromosome 21 Now Completed

May 8, 2000; Atlanta, GA (CNN) -- Genetic researchers in Japan and Germany have announced a breakthrough in sequencing the smallest human chromosome -- Chromosome 21 -- linked to Down Syndrome, Alzheimer's Disease, Lou Gehrig's Disease, and several cancers. It is the second human chromosome to be fully sequenced (See the Announcement of Chromosome 22's completion below on December 2, 1999). Curiously, Chromosome 21 contains a mere 225 genes compared with Chromosome 22's 545 genes. If these two chromosomes' averages are more accurate predictors than the traditional estimate given for the total number of genes in the human genome of 100,000, than in the final number genes could be closer to 40,000 -- less than half!

Refs. Nicholas Wade, "Scientists Decode Down Syndrome Chromosome," p. D4, The New York Times (May 9, 2000); Paul Jacobs, "Team Decodes Down Syndrome Chromosome," pp. A1, A23, The Los Angeles Times (May 9, 2000); "Scientists Map Chromosome Linked to Several Diseases," pp. A1, B2, The Wall Street Journal (May 9, 2000). Click for more details from Associated Press. Click for more details from Reuters. Click for more details from CNN.

Cloning Cattle Reverses Aging

April 27, 2000. Refs. Nicholas Wade, "Cow's Cells, In Experiment, Offer Hope for Cloning," p. A15, The New York Times (April 28, 2000); "Six Cloned Cows Show No Signs of Early Aging," p. A28, The Los Angeles Times (April 28, 2000); Laura Johannes, "Cloning's Latest Star Is a New, Improved Dolly: Persephone's Cells Are Young for Her Age, Raising Hopes for Treating Diseases," pp. A1, B1,4, The Wall Street Journal, James Friend, "Clones May Hold Secrets to Youth," p. A1 USA Today (April 28, 2000); Click for a story from The Times [of London]; Click for a streaming audio interview with Dr. Michael West, CEO and President, Advanced Cell Technologies of Worcester, MA on "Science Friday" with Ira Flatow, NPR-Radio (Noon PDT; April 28, 2000).

Click the picture of these calves
Cloned Cows
for the full Abstract from Science Magazine. [NB. Although it's difficult to see in the low-resolution picture above, the white markings on the faces and legs of the heifers are not identical; but this doesn't mean that they are not true clones (with identical DNA). To the contrary, these distinguishing surface markings are actually the result of a variable migration of pigment cells during embryogenesis along trajectories that depend on the fetus' location in the womb and other variables (like nutrition and oxygen delivery through the placenta) that are unique to each individual's development.]

For more background information, including references to the work of Dr. Xiangzhong Yang of the University of Connecticut at Storrs and Teruhiko Wakayama of the Rockefeller University in New York City with mice that will provide definitive data regarding longevity more quickly (since the mouse maximum life span is only two years compared with sheep [12 years] and cows [20 years]), see the News and Commentary Section -- Gretchen Vogel, "In Contrast to Dolly, Cloning Resets Telomere Clock in Cattle," Vol. 288, No. 5466, pp. 586-587, Science (April 28, 2000). Also, see J. Travis, "Cloning Extends Life of Cells -- and Cows?" Vol. 157, p. 279, Science News (April 29, 2000). Click for still more details on the BBC News website section for Science and Technology.

French Scientists Use Gene Therapy to Cure SCID Babies

April 28, 2000. Thomas H. Maugh, II, "Gene Therapy May Have Cured Three Infants," pp. A1, A28, The Los Angeles Times (April 28, 2000); Gina Kolata, "Scientists Report The First Success of Gene Therapy: Three Babies Said to Be Saved: After Years of Dashed Hopes French Result Promising -- Doctors Still Cautious," pp. A1, A16, The New York Times (April 28, 2000); "Gene Therapy Appears to Have Restored Immune Systems in Two French Babies Born with 'Bubble-Boy Disease', p. A1, The Wall Street Journal (April 28, 2000); Tim Friend, "Genetic Disease Responds to Gene Therapy," p. A1, USA Today (April 28, 2000); "N. Seppa, "'Bubble' Babies Thrive on Gene Therapy," p. 277, Vol. 157, Science News (April 29, 2000). Click for the Abstract from Science.

Senate Debates Value of Embryonic Stem Cells

April 26, 2000. Click for more details .

Aging Diseases Linked to Gene p21

April 15, 2000. The April 11th issue of PNAS reports that the expression of gene p21 (located on Chromosome 6) increases with age and that this gene appears to regulate a number of other genes whose protein products are implicated in a wide variety of chronic diseases of aging. Click for more details .

Caspase Inhibitor Extends ALS Mouse Lifespan 22 Percent

April 13, 2000. Click for more details .

DOE Nearly Completes Sequence of Three Human Chromosomes

April 13, 2000. US Government geneticists with the Department of Energy in Walnut Creek, CA have mapped three chromosomes in rough-draft form (Chromosomes 4, 16, and 19). See p. A1, The Wall Street Journal (April 14, 2000) and Paul Jacobs, "Energy Dept. Close to Unlocking 3 Chromosomes' Genetic Codes: Agency, Part of Publicly-Funded Human Genome Effort, Announces 'Working Drafts' of the Chemical Sequences," The Los Angeles Times (April 14, 2000). Click for more details .

Anti-Body-like Silicon Fingers Developed by IBM Zurich

April 14, 2000. See Kevin J. Delaney, "Silicon Structures Developed with IBM May Help Pursuit of Medical 'Microbots,'" p. A1, B4, The Wall Street Journal (April 14, 2000).

USC Symposium on "Organisms with Slow Aging" (SOSA)

April 13, 2000. The SOSA will be held at the USC Andrus Gerontology Center on September 22-23, 2000 (Fri-Sat); Profs. Caleb E. Finch and Robert E. Ricklefs are Symposium Co-Chairmen. SOSA will critically examine emerging evidence that some multi-cellular organisms have evolved very slow rates of aging using anti-aging mechanisms that are pertinent to mammalian aging processes. Examples from long-lived vertebrates, invertebrates, and vascular plants show a range of lifespans, which overlap with, or exceed, those of humans. The complex biology of long lifespans will be discussed in terms of evolutionary theory. Speakers will identify sources of data and availability of biological specimens to stimulate research and attract new researchers and trainees. The program will include a volunteer Poster Session. Information on the Preliminary Program, Registration, and local hotels is given at .

National Academy of Sciences Announces New RDAs for Antioxidant Vitamins

April 10, 2000. The Institute of Medicine has set new upper limits on Vitamins C, E, and Selenium. See Denise Grady, "Report Disputes the Benefits of Taking Large Doses of Vitamins," p. A18, The New York Times (April 11, 2000), The Washington Post , "Antioxidant Supplements' Use Questioned," p. A14, The Los Angeles Times (April 11, 2000), and "Study Finds a Lack of Evidence for Claims on Vitamin Megadoses," p. B7, The Wall Street Journal (April 11, 2000). Click for more details .

Collins Disputes Celera Claims

April 11, 2000. Dr. Francis Collins, Chief Scientist for The Human Genome Project, said at a meeting in Vancouver that Celera did not even complete half of its planned efforts." Celera, in turn, denied the allegation. See Nicholas Wade, "Two Groups in DNA Race Differ on Fixing Project's Finish Line," p. A21, The New York Times (April 11, 2000). Click for more details .

Celera Completes Sequencing Fragments of Human Genome:
[3-6] weeks remain for Assembly Task

April 5, 2000. Our conclusion: "Competition does work."

See Paul Jacobs and Peter G. Gosselin, "Celera First With Human Genome Code: Biotech Company Says It Has Deciphered DNA of a Volunteer, Completing Initial Step in Mapping Genetic Material," pp. A1, C1-5, The Los Angeles Times (April 7, 2000) ["... Deciphering the genome is expected to help medical researchers unlock the secrets of major illnesses, such as cancer and heart disease, provide new treatments for a host of ailments and perhaps even forestall the effects of aging itself."] and Robert Langreth and Chris Adams, "Celera Makes Strides in Gene Sequencing: Progress Made in Mapping Human Genetic Code; Genomics Stocks Rally," pp. A1, A3, A6, The Wall Street Journal (April 7, 2000).

Click on the image for more details from CNN.

Click for more details from the AP Wire Services.

[Webmaster's Note: We are pleased to note that this announcement was available here on this GRG website one full day before it appeared as front-page news stories in the major newspapers cited above. We cannot guarantee to scoop the press all the time. We were simply lucky on this one. -- lsc]

Shark Cartilage Useless in Preventing Cancer

April 5, 2000. At a San Francisco Conference on Cancer, it was reported that sharks do get cancer after all, something which careful readers of this web site have known for at least two years. See Thomas H. Maugh, II, "Shark Cartilage Debunked as Cure for Cancer," p. B2, The Los Angeles Times (April 6, 2000). Click for more details .

Genta, Inc. Tests AntiSense Therapy in Malignant Melanoma

April 4, 2000. At a San Francisco Conference, cancer scientists reported early success with a technique called "anti-sense technology," which fights malignancies by starving cancer cells of proteins that shield them from undergoing apoptosis. See The Wall Street Journal , p A1 (April 4, 2000). Click for more details .

Scripps Reports Mutations as the Main Cause of Aging in Proliferative Cells

March 31, 2000. As reported in today's issue of Science, a team led by Richard A. Lerner at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California examined 6,000 genes and found 61 key genes (cell cycle checkpoint genes) went through drastic changes from the age of 9 to 90. See also, Robert Lee Hotz, "Alterations in Cells May Cause Aging, Study Finds: In Midlife, Mutations Apparently Harm Ability to Reproduce True Copies..." pp. A1, A23 The Los Angeles Times (March 31, 2000) and "Failed 'Checkpoint' Genes May Be Linked to Aging," p. B2, The Wall Street Journal (March 31, 2000). Click for more details and questions raised. . Click for more details from CNN and Prof. Roy Walford from UCLA.

Man from India with Reported Age of 123

March 31, 2000. Click for more details .

Human Genome Project Reaches 2/3rd Point

March 29, 2000. The Federally-funded Human Genome Project announced that it has successfully sequenced two-thirds of the estimated three billion nucleotides in human DNA. The project predicted that it would have a "rough draft" of 90 percent of the genome [at 99.9% accuracy] during the month of June. A final, highly-accurate version will be published before the year 2003.

Click the cartoon for more 23 Chromosomes details.

Dr. Alex Comfort Dies [1920-2000]

March 28, 2000. We are sad to report that Prof. Alexander Comfort, M.D., world-famous gerontologist, has died at the age of 80. His landmark text The Biology of Senescence (Elsevier) went through three editions (1956, 1964, and 1979). See Myrna Oliver, "Alex Comfort; 'Joy of Sex' Author, Novelist, and Poet," The Los Angeles Times , Obituaries Section, p. A22 (March 29, 2000). [Editor's Note: As a student, I heard Prof. Comfort lecture at the Stanford Medical School in the early 1980's.]

Click the picture Alex Comfort for more details.

HMGIC Gene Stops Weight Gain in Mice

March 27, 2000. Click for more details .

Fruit Fly Genome Posted on the Web

March 23, 2000. The virtually complete decoding of the genome of Drosophila melanogaster, the lowly fruit fly, stands as a landmark of modern biology -- as much for the revolutionary whole-genome "shotgun" technique used in the project as for the rich harvest of new data about what may be the most studied model system in all of genetics. Although the Drosphila genome is only 1/30th the size of the Human Genome, its decoding represents a truly formidable accomplishment for researchers from the University of California Berkeley, Baylor University, and Celera Genomics. The March 24, 2000 issue of Science -- the first of two genome special issues for the year 2000 -- focuses on this achievement. Reviews documenting the history, significance, and potential applications of Drosophila genome research, and other articles detail the actual structure of the fly's genome (including a color-coded, fold-out chart relating the fly genome to genes from mammals, C. elegans, and S. cerevisiae.

See for more details.

"A Brief History of Drosophila's Contributions to Genome Research"
by Gerald M. Rubin [1] and Edward B. Lewis [2]
Science , Vol. 287, No. 546, pp. 2216-18 (March 24, 2000).

The sequence of the Drosophila melanogaster genome presented in this issue of Science is the latest milestone in nine decades of research on this organism. Genetic and physical mapping, whole-genome mutational screens, and functional alteration of the genome by gene transfer were pioneered in metazoans with the use of this small fruit fly. Here we look at some of the instances in which work on Drosophila has led to major conceptual or technical breakthroughs in our understanding of animal genomes.

1. Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720-3200, USA.
2. Division of Biology, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA 91125, USA.

When researchers at UC Berkeley and Celera compared the fruit fly's genes to 289 known human disease genes, they found that the fly shares [175-177] of them (over 60 percent), covering a wide range of diseases. "The fact that the majority of genes known to cause human disease have well-conserved counterparts in the fly argues that the information uncovered in drosophila will have direct relevance to human health," said Prof. Rubin, the senior scientist in this sequencing effort. Indeed, 68 percent of human genes involved in cancer have counterparts in the fly. This is important because the mechanism by which many cancer genes work isn't known yet. Perhaps the same percentage might obtain for the gerontic (longevity) genes, but this is yet to be determined over the next few years.

[Editorial Remark: Back in early August 1999 when I visited Prof. Rubin in his Lab at Berkeley, he had forecast the completion date as "January 2000." Therefore, one can say that the Drosophila Consortium completed the sequence of fruit-fly DNA nearly on time, according to their own schedule and in about a ten-month period. This completion bodes well for the completion of our Human Genome, using essentially the same approach, by the end of this year, regardless of the very important patent questions that are still pending. The critical thing to realize is that we will learn about the existence of more than twice as many genes as we now know about, and they will fall on us "all at once" instead of at the traditional rate of a few dozen per year, and after that there won't be any more to discover for the rest of time, because that's all there is. I repeat, that's all there is . Remember the concept of a "finite parts list."

Thus, we will move quickly from Phase I (sequencing) onto Phase II -- the functional genomics question of deciphering the activity of all these mysterious sequences. {Obviously, we will need to do considerably more Phase I work on all the other mammalian species of economic and zoological interest (mice, rats, bats, chickens, pigs, sheep, cows, horses, dogs [*], cats, whales, elephants, monkeys, chimps, etc.) to establish the exact homologies in a large two-dimensional matrix , but Celera or its sister companies will spit these out in short order over the next decade as computer technology relentless marches forward (in accordance with Moore's Law).} The last Phase, Phase III -- of course -- concerns interventional investigations, i.e., doing something about what we have learned in Phase II by genetic engineering (demonstrating safety and effectiveness), and that's where the real gold lies for the participating pharmaceutical companies. Anyway, thank you Celera for bringing that day a little closer.]

Click to get your very own copy!

Click on the Fly Database at the University of Indiana for algorithms to help locate particular genes in the sequence.

* In the case of dogs ( Canis familiaris ), there are several dozen pure breeds ranging from Pekinese and Chihuahuas at the small end, to Cocker Spaniels and Afghan Hounds in the middle range, to Mastiffs and Great Danes at the large end, whose maximum life expectancies are different by a factor of two [**](the smaller breeds living longer) and whose phenotypes are obviously radically different, but whose genomes are negligibly different from the wild wolves they evolved from less than 100,000 years ago under conditions of careful breeding and domestication for various human purposes (guarding the cave, hunting foxes, etc.). It has been suggested that researchers have a lot to learn from the homology search for gerontic genes amongst all the different breeds of dogs.

** The overall average for the species' maximum life span is approximately 20 years. See pp.123-4, Caleb E. Finch, Longevity, Senescence, and the Genome (The University of Chicago Press; 1990).

See Nicholas Wade, "The Fly People Make History on the Frontiers of Genetics," pp. D1, D4, The New York Times (April 11, 2000). Also, see Robert Lee Hotz, "Full Sequence of Fly's Genes Deciphered," p. A1, A33, The Los Angeles Times (March 24, 2000); Robert Langreth, "PE's Celera Genomics Decodes Entire Genome of the Fruit Fly," p. A1, B6, The Wall Street Journal (March 24, 2000).

Click for more details .

Click the fly for still more Fruit Fly details.

Beta-Amyloid Deposits Primary in Alzheimer's Disease

March 22, 2000. Click for more details .

Dolly-Maker Announces World's First Cloned Pigs

March 13, 2000. See Marjorie Miller, "Five Pigs Cloned; Transplants to Humans Touted," The Los Angeles Times , p. A1, A11 (March 15, 2000), The Wall Street Journal , p. A1 (March 15, 2000), Gina Kolata, "Company Says It Cloned Pig in Effort to Aid Transplants," The New York Times , p A21 (March 15, 2000), and Editorial, "Cloning Promise and Peril," The Los Angeles Times , p. B8 (March 16, 2000).

Click for more Millie, Christa, Alexis, Carrel, and Dotcom details.

Clinton-Blair Positive Statement on the Human Genome Project

March 14, 2000. See Alex Berenson and Nicholas Wade, "A Call for Sharing of Research Causes Gene Stocks to Plunge," The New York Times , p. A1, C16 (March 15, 2000). Click for more details .

Researchers Say Stay With Exercise

March 12, 2000. Click for more details .

Upregulated TRX gene May Significantly Extend Lifespan in Congenic Mice

March 9, 2000. At Kyoto University, enzymes capable of severing the "H-S-S-H" linkage in proteins may actually be useful in controlling the activity of a wide range of enzymes involved in aging. Click for more details .

The John F. Templeton Foundation Held Meeting on the Web

March 5-6, 2000. The legitimate prospect of extending life indefinitely by scientific means, brought a chorus of warnings from theologans. See Nicholas Wade, "Arguments Over Life and the Need for Death," p. D4, The New York Times (March 7, 2000). Prof. Michael Rose of UCI, Prof. Greg Stock of UCLA, Dr. Robert P. Lanza of Advanced Cell Technology, Dr. Michael West, CEO of ACT, Dr. Thomas O'Karma of Geron Corp., Dr. Michael Fossel of Michigan State University, and Prof. Leonard Hayflick of UC San Francisco represented just some of the scientists in the debate. Dr. Leon R. Kass of the University of Chicago, Dr. Daniel Callahan of the Hastings Center in Garrison, New York, and The Rev. Richard J. Neuhaus of the Institute of Religion and Public Life represented some of the ethicists and theologians.

Far from accepting the possibility of greater longevity as a blessing, many of the religious leaders offered a passionate praise of death (sic)! Although this point of view may be puzzling -- even incomprehensible -- to the regular members of the GRG, it appears to be commonplace within the theological community. Indeed, gratuitous, even hostile, apologist remarks were prevalent among this group. As a few examples: "The finitude of human life is a blessing for every individual, whether he or she knows it or not." or "The search for immortality is a pagan quest, essentially an amoral and mindless dynamic of the technological imperative." However, Dr. Kass [establishing a somewhat more tempered middle ground] feared that public wisdom is unlikely to prevail against the temptation of immortality [Editor's Qualification: assuming it's authentic]. He concluded, "even though the head might council finitude, the blood likes to live." This seemed to be a rather circuitous way of giving us permission to move ahead, despite the opposition of those theologians who perceived the scientists as threatening the status quo.

For more details, take a look at their web site at Extended-EternalLife . More interesting details about the life of Sir John Templeton can be found on this site [providing you are willing to navigate through the site's rebarbative complexity].

Hemophilia B Gene Therapy Tried in Three Humans

March 1, 2000. As a follow-up to our story of February 24th (see below), researchers at Stanford University and Children's Hospital in Philadelphia have had some preliminary success. Click for more details .

EvC Syndrome Gene Identified

March 1, 2000. This gene may help researchers understand embryonic/fetal growth and development. Click for more details .

Stem Cells Reverse Type I Diabetes in Mice

February 28, 2000 [Reuters; "Scientists Say Cell Treatment Can Reverse Diabetes in Mice," The New York Times , p. A19 (February 29, 2000)]. Researchers at the University of Florida have published in the journal Nature Medicine that they have identified stem cells in the pancreatic ductal epithelium capable of differentiating into mature beta islet cells that synthesize insulin in the normal fashion. Click for more details .

Gene Therapy Heals Injuries in Animal Trials

February 27, 2000
This could be important for both athletes and the elderly. Click for more details .

Cell Membrane Pores Controlled by Chip at UC Berkeley

February 25, 2000
Click UC
Berkeley for more details.

Vaccine Protects Rat Brains Against Stroke

February 24, 2000; Click for more details .

Gene Therapy Used to Treat Hemophilia in Dogs

February 24, 2000; Click for more details .

Gene Therapy Investigation Continues under Congressman Henry A. Waxman

February 23, 2000; See Marlene Cimons, "NIH to Order New Reports on Past Gene Therapy Cases," pp. A1, A14, The Los Angeles Times (February 24, 2000) and Chris Adams, "Rep. Waxman Blasts Handling of Gene Trials," p. B2, The Wall Street Journal (February 24, 2000). Click for more details .

Mitochondrial Division Control Gene

February 18, 2000; Click for more details .

The University of Pennsylvania Defends Itself on Gene Therapy Protocols

February 14, 2000; See Chris Adams, "University of Pennsylvania Fires Back at FDA Over Gene-Therapy Review," p. B17, The Wall Street Journal (February 15, 2000); Sheryl Gay Stolberg, "Scientists Defend Suspended Gene Therapy," p. A16, The New York Times (February 15, 2000); and "Pennsylvania: Researchers Admit Gene Therapy Errors," p. A11, The Los Angeles Times (February 15, 2000). Click for more details .

Geron Seeks Patent on Human Clones

January 28, 2000. See Gretchen Vogel, "Geron Gets Patent Rights to Cloned Human Beings," Science, Vol. 287, No. 5453 (January 28, 2000). Click for more details .

Integrase Inhibitor with Potential to Block AIDS

January 28, 2000. See Michael Waldholz, "Scientists Find Compounds that May Pave Way for AIDS Drug," The Wall Street Journal, p. B10 (January 28, 2000). Click for more details .

Gene Identified in Spinal Cord Injuries

January 27, 2000. See Robert Langreth, "Crucial Finding Could Aid Spinal-Cord Injuries," The Wall Street Journal, p. B14 (January 27, 2000). Click for more details .

Clone of Cloned Steer Now Bred in Japan

January 25, 2000. See The New York Times, p. D6 (January 25, 2000). Click for more details .

Stem Cell Research Tops Science for 1999

December 16, 1999. Click for more details .

News Items for the Years 1999 and 1998

Click for News Items from 1999 and earlier .