Volume 389 Issue 6652, 16 October 1997


  • Opinion |

    Radical developments in biology often appear to represent new conflicts with moral principles. Such perceptions are frequently misconceived, but independent consideration of ethical implications is beneficial.

  • Opinion |

    An imaginative attempt to tap Asian resources for the benefit of the developing world deserves more support.


  • News |


    France's ministry for education, research and technology is alleged to have blocked a report on the risks of asbestos, which was prepared by an expert panel from INSERM, the national biomedical research agency.

    • Declan Butler
  • News |


    Tara O'Toole, the highly-rated official responsible for environment, health and safety at the US Department of Energy left Washington with a warning for scientists: engage with the communities you live in, or face oblivion.

    • Colin Macilwain
  • News |


    US and European space agencies will begin formal discussions to collaborate on a Next Generation Space Telescope. The telescope will be launched in the first decade of the next century.

    • Tony Reichhardt
  • News |


    The US National Bioethics Advisory Commission is to find ways of providing adequate protection for mentally disabled research subjects, for whom no specific protection exists under federal regulations.

    • Meredith Wadman
  • News |


    A proposal that the US Office of Alternative Medcine be elevated to a grant-giving centre has run into stiff opposition from critics in the scientific establishment.

    • Meredith Wadman
  • News |


    Japan's Atomic Energy Commission says the country should continue research and development work at its experimental fast-breeder reactor Monju, but should postpone any decisions on the construction of a prototype reactor.

    • Robert Triendl
  • News |


    A war of words has broken out between politicians on the island of Guernsey in the English Channel and officials at Britain's National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB).

    • Ehsan Masood
  • News |

    são paulo

    Brazil is to create a network of laboratories to sequence the complete genome of Xylella fastidiosa, a bacterium that destroys many important cash crops.

    • Ricardo Bonalumé
  • News |


    The world's first institution devoted to the research and development of vaccines for developing countries opened its doors in the South Korean capital Seoul last week.

    • David Swinbanks

News in Brief



News & Views

  • News & Views |

    Since their invention, announced in 1948, transistors have become an irreplaceable part of modern life. How can they be made ever tinier? A marriage of lithography and colloidal chemistry is a promising approach.

    • Marc Kastner
  • News & Views |

    Mice with thereeler phenotype cannot form the correct patterns of neurons in the brain. The reelin and scrambler genes are known to be involved in neuronal patterning, but three groups have now identified another player in the pathway — the mouse disabled homologue 1 ( mDab1 ) gene. Inactivation of this gene results in a reeler-like phenotype, and mDab1 is a cytoplasmic protein that is phosphorylated during neural development.

    • André M. Goffinet
  • News & Views |

    During development, genes can be expressed from either the maternal or the paternal chromosomes, in a process known as genomic imprinting. Usually, one copy of the gene is not expressed. But how is this expression controlled? A new study shows that the crucial imprinting signal may be carried by differentially methylated genes. Moreover, expression from, say, a maternal gene, may be prevented by the production of an antisense transcript from the corresponding paternal gene.

    • Wolf Reik
    •  & Miguel Constancia
  • News & Views |

    Roughly once in ten billion decays, in theory, the K meson should turn into a pion and two neutrinos. This very rare process has now been seen for the first time, and the experimenters are a little lucky to have seen it so soon — unless there is something wrong with the theory.

    • Frank Wilczek
  • News & Views |

    Members of the Ras family of G (GTP-binding) proteins play pivotal roles in transmitting signals between the cell surface and the nucleus. They are turned off when GTP is hydrolysed to GDP. But how? Now we know, for three crystal structures reveal the details of the mechanism concerned. A great deal of attention will centre on the work of the groups concerned — for the structures show, at atomic resolution, why mutations in Ras cause 25 per cent of human cancers.

    • Henry R. Bourne
  • News & Views |

    Many mechanical applications need materials that are not just strong and hard, but tough and resistant to wear. The ceramic β-SiAlON is a good example — it is inherently hard and strong, and can be grown with a whiskery microstructure that makes it tough. Now the even harder α-SiAlON has been grown with the same sort of tough microstructure, promising higher-performance cutting tools and engine components, for example.

    • Derek Thompson
  • News & Views |

    The extracellular plaques of amyloid-b (Ab) peptide that form in the brains of pateints with Alzheimer's disease are thought to be involved in neurodegeneration but, until now, nobody was sure how Ab interfered with neuronal function. The finding that Ab interacts with the newly discovered endoplasmic-reticulum-associated binding protein (ERAB) in neurons may help to solve this puzzle.

    • Konrad Beyreuther
    •  & Colin L. Masters
  • News & Views |

    Periodically, the Earth's magnetic field reverses, and has done so hundreds of times in the past. What happens to the direction of the magnetic field during reversals remains a matter of debate, as do what constitute the best sources of palaeomagnetic information on the subject. Records from North Atlantic sedimentary cores now add fresh data on the two most recent, well-documented events. They are especially notable because the sediments concerned were deposited at comparatively high rates, and thus provide a high-resolution record.

    • Ronald T. Merrill
  • News & Views |

    The expression patterns of transcription factors have been studied at early stages of morphogenesis in various animals, always with the assumption that expression of these genes is dedicated to particular functions, and that this hasn't changed through evolution. But a new study looking at the expression patterns of three transcription factors in four classes of echinoderm has shown that these factors are expressed in a pattern that is unique to the echinoderms.

    • Eric H. Davidson
  • News & Views |

    Daedalus is tired of being stuck behind slow vehicles on narrow, winding roads, unable to overtake because he cannot see whether the other lane is clear. He proposes embedding optical fibres of varying lengths in the road bed, which would reveal the distance and speed of approaching cars, from their flickering `road shadow'. And they would even strengthen the road.

    • David Jones

Scientific Correspondence

  • Scientific Correspondence |

    • A. G. Jongmans
    • , N. van Breemen
    • , U. Lundström
    • , P. A. W. van Hees
    • , R. D. Finlay
    • , M. Srinivasan
    • , T. Unestam
    • , R. Giesler
    • , P.-A. Melkerud
    •  & M. Olsson

Book Reviews



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