Archive by date | May 2010

Deepwater Horizon: Top kill fails

BP’s efforts to staunch the flow of oil from its ruptured wellhead in the Gulf of Mexico have failed.

The ‘top kill’ operation – pumping drilling mud over the leak – was followed by a ‘junk shot’ to force debris into fissures in the leaking pipe. Neither attempt worked

Acupuncture ‘works in mice’

Long derided by much of the mainstream medical community, acupuncture may have just got a little bit less alternative.

Despite thousands of years of anecdotal evidence claiming benefits in treating ailments from allergies to hiccups, acupuncture faces two big challenges to acceptance in mainstream medicine: most clinical trials have found no evidence of efficacy; and there is no scientifically accepted mechanism for how the treatment could work. Many researchers assume that any benefits are down to the placebo effect.

Now, research in mice has provided a biochemical explanation that some experts find more persuasive, although it might account for only some of the treatment’s supposed benefits. “Our study shows there is a clear biological mechanism behind acupuncture,” says Maiken Nedergaard, a neuroscientist at the University of Rochester, New York, who led the research, published in Nature Neuroscience.

How safe is your lab?

The New York Times ran an interesting story yesterday about safety in biology research labs. The reporters were clearly hamstrung by the lack of real data on the issue, but the anecdotes – which include a University of Chicago scientist who died of the plague he was studying – make for troubling reading.

Capitol Hearing for Venter

It is in the ordained order of things on Capitol Hill that Congress shall, more often than not, hold hearings when large scientific splashes are made. Thus did the House Energy and Commerce Committee, chaired by Democrat Henry Waxman of Los Angeles, convene this morning to hear from J. Craig Venter the details of his latest coup: the manufacture and insertion of a fully synthetic bacterial genome into a closely-related cell which then booted up and began life’s processes according to the directions of that genome.