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The new head of the National Center for Science Education promises to "fight the good fight" against attacks on...
Analyses of the H7N9 strains isolated from four new cases show that the virus is evolving rapidly, heightening anxiety...
In 2009, Jack Szostak shared a Nobel Prize for his part in discovering the role of telomeres, the end bits of...
Science has exposed a thriving academic black market in China involving shady agencies, corrupt scientists, and...
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Featuring the first lunar rover in 40 years, Chang'e-3 is seen as an important milestone on China's quest to send a...
Data collected by satellites and floating probes have chronicled a 2-decade rise in the temperature and thickness of a...
Cholesterol, the artery-clogging molecule that contributes to cardiovascular disease, has another nasty trick up its...
- 27 November 2013 12:59 pm , Vol. 342 , #6162
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Cell Biologists Blast NASA
17 July 1998 7:00 pm
WASHINGTON, D.C.--NASA's program to study protein crystallography has made "no serious contributions" to scientific knowledge and should be canceled--along with most other life science research in space. That's the thrust of a report released yesterday by the American Society of Cell Biology. ASCB undertook the study last year after NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin spoke about space-based research at the ASCB's annual meeting.
NASA scientists maintain that crystals grown in space are larger and, consequently, reveal more details of protein structure. This could open the door for novel drug designs, they say. But the ASCB believes life science results simply haven't been worth the millions that NASA invests each year. "If space-based [biological] science had come before a review panel, it wouldn't have been funded," says Donald Brown, the Carnegie Institution of Washington biologist who chaired the study. The panel concluded that only experiments in astronaut physiology should be conducted aboard the space station, and that most life science research should be ground based.
This angers some biologists whose experiments have flown aboard NASA shuttles and on Mir. "It just seems to be more of an opinion than a review of the facts," says Daniel Carter, a biophysicist who formerly worked for NASA and now directs Century Pharmaceuticals of Huntsville, Alabama. His space-based crystallography work yielded protein crystals longer than 1 centimeter--more than 10 times the length of most crystal proteins grown on the ground.
But many crystallographers note that new cryogenic techniques can freeze very small crystals and yield comparable data sets. "If there were stunning successes from microgravity crystallization, we would be clamoring to continue the program," says Wayne Hendrickson, a biochemist at Columbia University. However, NASA's director of life sciences, Joan Vernik, says she is "perplexed" by the report and notes that the space-based crystallography program recently received glowing reviews from the National Institutes of Health.