Colliding Worlds—A Rare Visit to the CERN Collider Gives a Biologist New Hope

LHC StefNearly 170 meters beneath CERN, ASCB Executive
Director Stefano Bertuzzi gets a rare look at the Large
Hadron Collider. Here he stands in front of the detector.
Photo Credit: ASCB
Last week, I was invited to speak about research and innovation at an Aspen Institute meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, held at the Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire, better known to the rest of the world by its acronym, CERN. Like all Aspen Institute meetings, this one flew at a high level, and, needless to say, it was an exhilarating experience.


The Scholarly Paper That No One Will Want to Read Is Being Written in Congress

quality of lifeSpelling It Out: Spending on basic research has increased
our longevity and the quality of that longer life.
Photo Credit: John Fleischman
This week, a paper in the American Journal of Public Health, a well-respected scholarly publication in the field, caught my attention.1 The paper reported how health economists, using well-validated instruments, examined the state of population health in the United States and how population health changed from 1987 to 2008. They took into consideration not just mortality and morbidity, but also quality of life, which is an essential measure of health in developed countries like ours.


Why Congress Should Be Worried About the Endoplasmic Reticulum

Morphogenesis in biology always fascinated me. As a developmental neurobiologist at the bench, I studied how homeobox genes patterned the neural epithelium, the retina in particular, to understand the events that turn a flat sheet of epithelium into a three-dimensional hemisphere, the optic cup. Since I came of age scientifically during the “genetic revolution” era, I was mesmerized by the ability of that technology to alter the mouse genome and allow me to watch powerful genes operating in vivo. However, I also had at the back of my mind an idea for a different if complementary approach to genetics. I envisioned a new kind of theoretical modeling that could take into account the physical forces acting on single cells while shaping a developing tissue. In particular, when imagining the retina’s formation, I always thought of the role of mechanical forces on cells, bending the epithelium sheet into an optic cup, and how this must be achieved with the lowest possible energy consumption.


The Story of WI-38, the Other Famous Cell Line

Recently, a news feature published in the journal Nature caught my attention. I was pleased to read such an insightful piece on a key issue for cell biologists—the ethical and effective use of human tissues and cells. Credit goes to science reporter Meredith Wadman who took a closer look at the intriguing “back story” behind a rather famous cell line, WI-38, that was established in 1962 by Leonard Hayflick at the virology powerhouse of the day, the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia1. The twists and turns of the WI-38 story are complex, and I strongly encourage followers of this blog to read Wadman’s feature article, which sets out the facts clearly and yet doesn't duck the implications.

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