By: Amie D. Moody, Ph.D.
Congressman continues inquiry into National Science Foundation grant decisions
Members of Congress have been known to call out specific grants awarded by government funding agencies that they deem unworthy of the hard-earned tax payers’ dollars. On August 27th of this year, Congressman Lamar Smith (R-TX), who is the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman, wrote a letter to the National Science Foundation (NSF) requesting “all official documents pertaining to 20 NSF-approved research projects.” Although the Committee has the authority to oversee government appropriations, he cited no specific reason for the inquiry. In a letter responding to Mr. Smith, the senior Democrat on the Committee, Eddie Bernice (D-TX), argued that this is a “fishing expedition, pure and simple.” Her letter voiced concern that the inquiry is jeopardizing the NSF’s merit-review process and mentioned that a media report contained confidential material that should have only been known to Committee members. In response, Mr. Smith stated, “Our efforts will continue until NSF agrees to only award grants that are in the national interest.” But, to what end? Richard M. Jones, American Institute of Physics
To beat once more – surgeons successfully transplant “dead hearts”
Historically, the heart was the only organ not used after it has stopped beating. But now a team of surgeons at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney, Australia, has successfully transplanted three hearts that had stopped beating for up to 20 minutes. The doctors utilized a machine known as a “heart-in-a-box” to revive a stopped heart, and then flush the organ with a nourishing fluid. Similar tactics are used to improve the success of liver and lung transplants. Although the exact data to estimate how many more lives could be saved with these new protocols, one estimate places that number around 30%. No matter what the exact number is, the ability to save even more lives each year is a great achievement. James Gallagher, BBC News Health
The oldest man
This week, Nature published an article reporting on the completed sequence from a man who lived 45,000 years ago in Siberia. It is the oldest reconstructed sequence from a modern human. A Russian fossil collector, Nikolai V. Peristov, found the bone in 2008 while looking for mammoth tusks in Siberia. He took it to the Russian Academy of Sciences, where researchers dated the thighbone. They ran the tests twice to ensure they were right. Next, a team of scientists led by Dr. Svate Paabo at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology took samples of the bone and found enough DNA for sequencing. Dr. Paabo’s group has made a name for themselves by deriving highly refined sequencing methods, specifically designed to sequence ancient DNA. They published an entire Neanderthal genome in December 2013. These findings add amazing new insight into modern human migration out of Africa, and place a more precise time frame for how long ago Neanderthals and humans interbred (roughly 50K-60K years ago). Carl Zimmer, New York Times
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