jerry yang, science, biology, animal cloningby Alan Trounson

Leading light in animal cloning

Jerry Yang, who died on 5 February in Boston, Massachusetts, made exceptional contributions to research on animal biotechnology and cloning, and he was a prominent figure in the scientific dialogue between the United States and China. He was only 49 when he died, finally succumbing to cancer of the salivary gland. Losing battles, however, was not Yang's way of life.

He was born in 1959, in China, and barely survived the famine of 1959–1960. His parents were poor pig farmers in the tiny village of Dongcun, about 500 kilometres south of Beijing, but in the late 1970s the award of a place at Beijing Agricultural College set Yang on the road to a wider world. A scholarship to Cornell University in New York followed, where he took a master's degree and completed his PhD in reproductive physiology.

by Monya Baker

Transient expression of a single gene has lasting effects on others

Despite the bad publicity provided by One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, electroconvulsive treatments can be effective for treating depression, and the procedure is known to cause adult mice to grow new neurons in their hippocampus. Now, researchers led by Hongjun Song at Johns Hopkins Medical School have found a mechanism through which this happens. A stimulus, in this case electrical activity, temporarily activates a gene whose protein product modifies DNA in such a way to affect the long-term expression of other genes.

by Sarah Webb

CDK5 plays a critical role in integrating new neurons into the adult brain

Stem cells in the hippocampus continue to produce new neurons throughout our lives. But the birth of these neurons is not enough: they have to both reach their appropriate location and integrate into the neural circuitry.

A team led by Fred Gage at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California, has demonstrated that cells with low levels of cyclin-dependent kinase 5 (CDK5) don't home in on the appropriate location within the hippocampus. However, the loss of the homing signal doesn't keep the cells from integrating into the neural tissue around them, the researchers report in PLoS Biology. "A single gene seems to control orientation," Gage says. "We've separated the appropriate dendritic organization from the ability to make connections."

nerve cell, science, biologyScientists have uncovered new evidence suggesting that damage to nerve cells in people with multiple sclerosis (MS) accumulates because the body’s natural mechanism for repairing the nerve coating called myelin stalls out.

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