Document 8755

May Issue , 2006
Mei Uitgawe, 2006
In hierdie uitgawe:
In this issue:
Genetics—the next
fifty years
Kongres presteerders
2056—some views
on the future
The year 1956
Top ten scientific
Immune to fear
The lighter side of
Hiermee wil ek met
hierdie eerste nuusbrief
kongresjare word die
eerste uitgawe vertraag
tot na die kongres)
welkom sê aan die nuwe
lede en ook aan die nuwe
uitvoerende komitee wat
tydens die kongres in
Bloemfontein verkies is.
Daarmee saam ook baie
geluk aan Prof Spies en
sy span vir die reelings
negentiende kongres. Ek
is seker al die lede wat dit
bygewoon het sal saamstem dat dit insiggewend
en stimulerend was. Baie
geluk veral aan al die studente wat deelgeneem
het. Dis altyd goed om te
sien hoeveel opkomende
jong navorsers ons in ons
geledere het.
Remember to visit our
Not only are the newsletters published here but
you can feel free to use
this as advertising space
as well for positions and
bursaries available or in-
teresting workshops etc.
which your institution
might be hosting. If you
have knowledge of any
interesting conferences
which you might be involved with in the organization of or will be attending,
please also notify us - I
am sure other members or
visitors to our website
might also be interested.
As we are all taking in
new students continuously
or welcoming new honours
students in our labs,
please remind and encourage these new students to
join the Society. Registration forms are available
from the Society home
Na die onlangse kongres
het ons baie gehoor oor
die begin van die
vereniging en waarheen
die vak oppad is. Ek sluit
‘n interessante stukkie
geskiedenis in om die
ontstaan van die vereniging 50 jaar gelede in
perspektief te stel. Prof.
Louise Warnich het dan
ook haar “kristalbalver-
volgende vyftig jaar van
genetika, wat sy tydens
die pasafgelope kongres
met ons gedeel het, vir
ons hier saamgevat.
Hiermee saam is daar
die verwagtinge van hoe
Genetika in 2056 sal
lyk. Lees gerus wat
huidige navorsers in die
veld hieroor dink.
May you enjoy this issue and have a welldeserved June / July
break. Unfortunately due
to a problem with my
“suppliers” no genetic
fingerprint is included in
this issue. I will be sure
to remedy this for the
next issue.
"That is the essence of science: ask an impertinent question,
and you are on the way to the pertinent answer."
Jacob Bronowski (1908-74), British scientist and writer
Bladsy 2 / Page 2
May Issue , 2006
Genetics—the next fifty years
If one looks back at the
remarkable advances within
genetics over the past 50
years, one cannot help but
look forward to the next 50
years with great expectations. However, just as little
as the founding members of
the SAGS could foresee the
ahead in 1956, can we in
turn predict all the developments that we will witness in
the next 50 years. Despite
this, we may safely say that
a number of aspects of our
fascinating discipline will
keep geneticists occupied
for the next few decades.
From genomes to phenomes
The last 10 years have
been characterised by phenomenal accomplishments
in the study of genomes, and
we currently have in hand
the complete genome sequences of many organisms,
representing all three domains of all living things.
Although we will probably
see less emphasis on the
study of genomes, genomics
will remain indispensable.
Future improvements in
technology should contribute
to the elucidation of even
more genomes in less time
at lower cost. It is already
predicted that it will be viable to determine the genome sequence of every
human being on our planet
before 2050 (Muggleton,
2006). Will we be able to
determine the genome sequence of every species on
earth within the next 50
years? Probably not, as new
species are constantly being
discovered. In Southern Africa, therefore, where we
have a wealth of diverse and
unique plant, animal and
microbial species, our scientists still have abundant opportunities to contribute to
the elucidation of the genetic makeup of all organisms on earth.
Genomes are records of
their own evolutionary histories (Wilkins, 2003). Conse-
continue to fulfil this role
until we have identified all
the genes, regulatory elements and other yet unidentified functional components
in a number of representa-
quently, the availability of
more and more genome sequences will allow us to
compare entire genomes
and to analyse evolutionary
changes on a new scale that
will contribute significantly to
our comprehension of the
these changes. Comparative
proved to be an important
tool in the identification of
functionally important genomic elements, and will
tive genomes from all the
However, to fully understand the role of genetics in
biology, the time has already
come to move on from genomes to other “-omes”
such as transcriptomes, proteomes and metabolomes.
The elucidation and identification of these components
and their interaction in biochemical pathways and cellular networks, under the
influence of the environ-
ment, is no trivial task and will
dominate the molecular biology research field for a long
time. The biggest challenge in
these studies, though, is not
the genotyping, but the collection of sufficient information
on the constantly changing
transcriptome, proteome, metabolome and resulting phenotype, as well as the environment. Help will hopefully come
in the form of miniature computers, called motes or pods,
which could constantly monitor biological systems, such as
human bodies for various
physiological features and
environmental factors (Butler,
2006). These networks of sensors will collect and transmit
information to databases
where researchers will be able
to exploit this real-time data
and test hypotheses to an
extent that is currently impossible. We will thus have to
master systems biology before
we will be able to fully comprehend the relation between
genotype and phenotype in
cells, tissues, organs and organisms.
Novel technology
The preceding 50 years
have been characterized by
major breakthroughs in technologies that contributed substantially to the accomplishments of this era, such as
DNA sequencing, the polymerase chain reaction (PCR)
and DNA-based markers, to
mention but a few. The next
50 years will be even more
dependant on breakthrough
technologies, and we are
probably not even capable of
imagining what novel technologies will be implemented.
We can presume that automation and miniaturization will be
key features of any technologies to be employed and
nanotechnology and microfluidics should dominate at least
for the next decade or two.
May Issue , 2006
Bladsy 3 / Page 3
Genetics—the next fifty years
Computational biology will
also play an increasingly
intrinsic part in genetic research in future and computers will be involved
throughout the scientific
process, from the development of hypotheses, through
the design and execution of
experiments, to the handling
and analysis of the vast
loads of data. Ultimately
they will facilitate the integration of different data
types, such as genetic variation, protein structure, biochemical pathways and phenotypic profiles. In a recent
paper in Nature, Brent and
Bruck have even suggested
that biologists will need to
naturallanguage descriptions of
biological components such
as molecules and pathways
and adopt formalisms from
computer science in order to
attain better insight in functional biological systems
(Brent and Bruck, 2006).
The promise of future applications
Genetics will play a progressively more important
role in various spheres of
influence and will affect our
lives in more than one way –
from what we eat and drink
to understanding and manipulating our behaviour
(Cornelis et al, 2006, Rothstein, 2005). We will see
numerous applications in
fields as diverse as health
care, forensic and sport sciences, production of food
and other commodities, nature conservation and environmental remediation. We
can assume that tests will
be available for accurate risk
calculation of developing
complex disorders such as
diabetes and schizophrenia,
and that the emphasis will
shift from diagnosis to prevention of disease. Personal
health care will be enhanced
by the availability of designer drugs and organs,
and gene therapy should be
available for numerous genetic defects. It is still an
open question as to whether
there will be fairness in access to these technologies.
For plant and animal geneticists the biggest challenge will remain to feed the
world while conserving the
environment to sustain the
interests of both present
and future generations. Although conventional breeding, assisted by marker assisted selection, will still play
an important role in years to
come, genetically modified
(GM) organisms are the order of the day as illustrated
by recent figures on global
and local GM crop production (James, 2006). We
should see an emphasis
shift, from benefit to breeders, such as improved growing conditions, to benefit to
consumers, such as allergen-free, more nutritious
foods. The production of
novel products should also
expand, and we are already
witnessing this in diverse
forms such as pharmaceutical products, bio-degradable
plastics and energy.
The ethical, legal and social
issues that will consequently
emerge from the new knowledge and applications there
of, are, however, profound.
Many of these issues provoke uncertainty and even
fear in the public and if
these are not duly addressed, we will see very few
of the promised benefits and
outcomes of genetics in the
next 50 years. What we
need now are, to quote Francis Collins, Director of the
National Human Genome Research
“proactive efforts to ensure
that benefits are maximized
and harms minimized in the
many dimensions of human
geneticists will have to engage
in multidisciplinary collaborations while future geneticists
will need interdisciplinary
skills, ranging from physics
and mathematics to the humanities such as law and ethics (Collins et al., 2003).
Unless all the genes involved in aging are identified
quite soon and the reversal of
the aging process elucidated,
some of us will not be here in
50 years time. May those who
will be looking back at our
current future in 2056, agree
that genetics has been applied to the benefit of all on
Brent R, Bruck J (2006) 2020
Computing: Can computers help
to explain biology? Nature 440:
Butler D (2006) 2020 Computing:
Everything, everywhere. Nature
Collins FS et al.
al. (2003) A vision
for the future of genomics research. Nature 422:835-847
Cornelis MC et al.
al. (2006) Coffee,
CYP1A2 genotype, and risk of
myocardial infarction. JAMA.295
Wilkins AS (2003) 2003 as a
vantage point for Genetics Past
and Genetics Future. BioEssays
25: 1029-1030
James C (2006) Highlights of
ISAAA briefs NO. 34-2005: Global
status of commercialized biotech/GM crops. CropBiotech Update Special Edition, January 11,
Muggleton SH (2006) 2020 Computing: Exceeding human limits.
Nature 440:409-410
Rothstein MA (2005) Science and
society: applications of behavioural genetics: outpacing the
science? Nat Rev Genet 6
Contributed by Louise Warnich, SU
May Issue , 2006
Bladsy 4 / Page 4
Hofmeyr van Schaik wenner
Kongres presteerders
Beste MSc voordrag
Luke Solomon, UP
Anthia Gagiano, UV
Beste PhD voordrag
Ruhan Slabbert, US
Beste MSc plakkaat
Michele Victor, UP
Michelle Victor (beste MSc plakkaat)
ontvang haar prys van Vise president,
Zander Myburgh.
Beste PhD plakkaat
Martin Ranik, UP
Baie geluk aan al die
studente vir die goeie
gehalte werk gelewer.
Nicola Panton, wenner van die HofMeyr van
Schaick medalje, Universiteit van Stellenbosch
Die Universiteit van die Vrystaat het geen
toekenning in 2006 gemaak nie. Met druktyd was die wenners by Pretoria en Natal
nog nie bekend nie.
En aan die wat dit nie
gemaak het nie — nou
is jou kans: spring aan
die werk vir die 2008
kongres in Pretoria.
Luke Solomon (gedeelde beste MSc
voordrag) ontvang sy prys van Vise
president, Zander Myburgh.
SAGV Uitvoerende komitee 2006-2008
Prof Johan Spies,
Mr. Willem Botes
Dr. Rouvay Roodt-
[email protected]
[email protected]
Wilding, US
[email protected]
Vise president:
Dr Zander Myburg,
Mej Louise van der
Addisionele lid:
Merwe, US
Dr. Wilma Fick,
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
"But in science the
credit goes to the
man who convinces the world,
not to the man to
whom the idea first
Francis Darwin
"If I have seen further than others, it
is by standing
upon the shoulders of giants."
Isaac Newton
May Issue , 2006
Bladsy 5 / Page 5
2056 — Some views on the future
During the conference a
launched as to views on
what the future has in
store for us.
Here are geneticists’,
who attended the nineteenth congress, views
on what genetics will
look like in 2056:
Need an organ transplant? Companies in this
era will be able to produce organs uniquely for
individuals. No more
waiting lists or incompatibilities.
N Ruivo and D Badenhorst, Stellenbosch University
DNA based computers
will be the order of the
M Ranik, University of
Genetically engineered
crops will be designed
and produced that could
be grown in outer space
or inner ring planets.
This will feed the earth
as well as long term
space missions
R Slabbert, Stellenbosch
gnologie span saam, sal
genetiese projekte gelykstaande wees aan
vandag se kernwapen
projekte. So neem solank lewensversekering
uit want Bush gaan gekloon word.
A. Zietsman
Genetics is destined to
become an increasingly
influential decision making tool which will affect
most facets of our existence over the next 50
years to ensure and secure our understanding
of life
D. Lakay, University of
Kwazulu Natal
May I please see your
Personalized Identity
cards for every individual
containing each persons
unique genetic code for
predisposition and high
risk testing
N Ruivo and D Badenhorst, Stellenbosch University
Worldwide application of
eugenics and human
cloning – homo sapiens
super species
A Kerensky
A final solution to the
preservation of our
unique cultures and individuals
N Ruivo and D Badenhorst, Stellenbosch University
As die oorpopulasie krisis nie opgelos word nie
en genetika en nanote-
What is your unique
Individualized drug cocktails
N Ruivo and D Badenhorst, Stellenbosch University
My expectation of genetics in 2056 is that it will
be affected most significantly by the emerging
field of nanotechnology.
The recent publication in
Nature highlighting “DNA
origami” – the ability to
use DNA’s inherent property of hybridization to
build structures such as
rectangles and pyramids
points to a future where
human transgenes will
build micro-machines
from transcribed mRNA
These machines will enhance life for humans by
repairing DNA mutations,
fixing cell damage and
maintaining telomeres
thus greatly increasing
expected life span
L Solomon, University of
Family genetic history
will be available online.
Can trace possible risk /
predisposition to genetic
disorders or diseases
that are hereditary.
Therefore one can make
the necessary lifestyle
changes and start treatment early if necessary
Ethical considerations:
Only family members will
have access to the information
N Ruivo and D Badenhorst, Stellenbosch University
Nanobot DNA surgery
Using nanobots to remove defective genes
and replacing it with
functional DNA this eliminating genetic diseases
and enhancing crops
N Creux, University of
Automation of molecular
genetic techniques will
have become the order
of the day. Much more
complex studies with
bigger cohorts will hence
be possible. Treatment
(once off) of viruses such
as HIV will be a reality.
Problems such as pollution will be addressed by
genetically modifying
organisms to degrade
harmful products into
harmless ones. Thousands of species will
have had their genome
sequenced and complex
pathways and mechanisms in different organisms will have been elucidated. Stem cell technology will have advanced so much that
treatment as well as regrowing of organs will
have become the norm
A Hitzeroth, Stellenbosch
Genetics will have become completely intertwined with the disciplines of nanotechnol-
May Issue , 2006
Bladsy 6 / Page 6
2056—Some views on the future
ogy microfluidics, and
even computer sciences
(and probably a couple
of new currently unfathomable scientific
fields). Genetics will become what computers
and microprocessors are
today: the defining science and driving force of
economic growth. The
massively important role
of genetics in 2056 will
not only be evident in
the dramatically improved understanding of
complex human diseases and biodiversity
but also in the manner in
which genetic and biological principles are applied in computer software (and even hardware) design, the manner in which organizations are
run and stocks are
priced an shared and
even in the way economics are structured. In the
year 2056, genetics will
be widely acknowledged
as one of the (if not the
most) important and influential sciences ever
J Parathyras, Stellenbosch University
There will be organ
farms. Farmers that do
not farm mielies, but live
kidneys, hearts, livers
You will give a sample of
your DNA and they will
give you a new organ
that will best work for
you. The most closely
related organ will be sold
to you.
B Paterson
Pharmacogenetics discipline will improve and
become a worldwide
used technology, the
nanotechnology will improve too. This could be
used in conjunction with
genetics where minute
replica “white blood
cells” could be made
with onboard genetic
computer chips consisting of antibody eliciting
sequences. These would
be displayed to elicit an
against infection but the
process would happen
more rapidly while itself
destroying some pathogens. New pathogens
could be recognized and
their neutralizing epitope
sequences obtained to
then display the new infections. Apart from immunology these techniques of combining genetics, nanotechnology
and computational systems would improve any
disease manifestations
B Heinbockel, University
of Pretoria
Its 6:30 am. Time to get
up and get dressed. My
breakfast will be ready in
20min, a synthetically
balanced meal based on
my gene expression requirements for today.
When I am ready Ill take
the sky shuttle to work.
Its 8:00 am. Before I can
enter the lab, my identity
is verified using noninvasive laser scanning
genetic profiling. Once in
my office I can plan my
day. I see on the computer that the results of
the overnight genome
sequencing for a new
species discovered on
planet Alpha 62 is complete. My diary indicates
that I have an appointment with a family requesting corrective gene
therapy for the early onset of Alzheimers. Tonight I must pack for the
34th SAGS congress being hosted by the university of Earth I n Pofadder.
C Viljoen, University of
the Free State
It is impossible to make
a prediction about the
future without taking a
glance at the past. During the past 50 years the
field of Genetics went
from Mendel and peas to
Graig Venter and Dolly.
Phrases like cloning,
RNA silencing, designer
babies and stem cell research have become
everyday terms used not
only by geneticists, but
also by the man on the
In my opinion the conclusion we can draw from
genetics during the past
50 years is: Advances
beyond our wildest
dreams. I predict that in
the next 50 years, the
greater cooperation be-
tween various divisions
in genetics, will solve
issues such as world
hunger and incurable
Future genetics will enable humans too live beyond a 100 years due to
specialized gene therapy, production of patient-specific organs and
medical-genetic advances unimaginable.
With paper regulations,
the subject of genetics
will be the filed of the
future, solving numerous
universal problems, creating bigger and better
crops and revival of species that have long disappeared from earth.
Suddenly cows producing chocalte wilk, sweets
growing from trees, flying
horses and a immortal
human race, does not
sound so impossible…at
least not as far fetched
as designer medicine
sounded 50 years ago.
N Du Plessis, Stellenbosch University
P Naidoo, University
of Kwazulu Natal
This entry will be published
in the next newsletter
"Nothing is so
simple that it
cannot be misunderstood."
Teague's Paradox.
May Issue , 2006
Bladsy 7 / Page 7
The year 1956
What was happening in the world of
Science when the
South African Genetics Society was
founded in 1956?
William Clouser Boyd
assisted by his wife Lyle,
after studies of blood
groups extending back
into the 1930s, releases
a list of 13 "races" of
Homo sapiens based on
blood groups. One surprise is that the Basques
of Spain and France appear to be remaining
members of an early
group that inhabited
Europe before the ancestors of other modern Europeans arrived.
phate), an intermediate in
the cell's energy cycle and
also important in many
other reactions.
Rita Levi-Montalcini
and Stanley Cohen isolate
and purify nerve growth
Herbert Friedman reports that solar flares are
X-ray sources.
Dorothy Hodgkin uses
an electronic computer to
work out the structure of
vitamin B12.
Yugoslav-Swiss chemist Vladimir Prelog with
Robert Cahn and Christopher Ingold develops a
general system for specifying the stereoisomers of
organic compounds for a
given chemical composition.
Sir Cyril Hinshelwood
of England and Soviet
physical chemist Nikolay
Semenov share the Nobel
Prize in chemistry for their
parallel work on the kinetics of chemical chain reactions.
physiologist George Emil
Palade discovers that
small bodies within the
cell, now called ribosomes, are mostly ribonucleic acid (RNA); it is
soon found that the ribosomes are the locations in the cell where
proteins are manufactured.
Arthur Kornberg discovers the enzyme DNA
polymerase, which plays a
role in replication of DNA.
Earl Wilbur Sutherland,
Jr. isolates cyclic AMP
(adenosine monophos-
The first transatlantic
telephone cable, linking
Scotland with Newfoundland, is put into operation
on September 25. The
two coaxial cables can
carry 37 circuits and there
are 51 repeaters in each
direction. Before this cable telephone conversations between the United
States and Europe were
possible only by shortwave radio telephone.
Ampex brings its first
video tape recorder on
the market. It uses a 5-cm
(2-in.) tape, quadruplex
heads, and a transverse
IBM introduces the
hard disk for the storage
of data. Their system is
called RAMAC (Random
Access Method of Accounting and Control) and
makes use of indices for
locating information on
the disk.
John Backus and a
team at IBM complete
FORTRAN I, the first fullfledged computer programming language. Previously, computer programs had to be installed
in machine language.
FORTRAN becomes commercially available in
John McCarthy starts
work on a list processor,
later known as LISP, the
computer language of artificial intelligence. The
language is based on the
list processing language,
IPL (information processing language), developed
by Herbert Simon, Allen
Newell, and J. Cliff Shaw.
Newell and Simon present
their program Logic Theorist at a summer seminar
at Dartmouth, where
McCarthy coins the term
"artificial intelligence."
UNIVAC introduces the
first commercially available computer of the second generation; it uses
transistors instead of vacuum tubes, making operation less costly and more
Stanislaw Marcin Ulam
and Paul Stein program a
computer to play a form of
chess on a 6 × 6 board.
The program, called MANIAC I, becomes the first
computer program to beat
a human in a game.
Earth science
Bruce Charles Heezen,
American oceanographer
and geologist and Maurice Ewing discover the
mid-oceanic ridge, a
globe-girdling formation of
mountains and rifts. As in
the part in the Atlantic
Ocean, the other parts of
the mid-ocean ridge have
a deep rift in the center of
the ridge.
Ecology & the environment
The first leak of stored
high-level radioactive
wastes is detected at the
Hanford site near Richland, Washington.
Minamata disease, a
nervous system disorder
afflicting people living
around Minamata Bay in
Japan, is linked to dumping of mercury into the
bay by a local corporation,
where it enters the food
chain. People who eat fish
from the bay are affected
with the disorder, which is
caused by mercury poisoning.
The Lip company in
France produces the first
commercial watch to run
on electric batteries.
William Shockley, Walter
Brattain, and John Bardeen of the United States
win the Nobel Prize in
physics for their studies
May Issue , 2006
Bladsy 8 / Page 8
The year 1956
on semiconductors and
on semiconductors and
the invention of the electronic transistor.
Christopher Hinton
opens Calder Hall in England on October 17. It is
the first large-scale nuclear power plant designed for peaceful purposes, producing 4.2
megawatts of electricity.
Fiber-reactive dyes are
introduced commercially
for the first time. Developed primarily for artificial
fibers and for cotton,
these are easy to apply at
low cost and quite fast.
Medicine & health
Birth-control pills are
used in a large-scale test
conducted by John Rock
and Gregory Pincus in
Puerto Rico.
The kidney dialysis machine, developed by
Wilhelm Kolff in 1943,
comes into use in the
United States.
E. Donnall Thomas performs the first successful
experimental bone marrow transplants on human
identical twins as well as
many experimental transplants on dogs.
Paul Maurice Zoll finds
a way to halt arrhythmia
with electrical currents
applied to the chest.
Organic chemist Frederick Charles Novello
introduces the diuretic
drug chlorothiazide to
treat high blood pressure.
Bruno Kirsh discovers
peculiar dense bodies in
the heart cells of guinea
pigs. The function of
these bodies is unknown
at this time, but much
later they will be discovered to release hormones
that help regulate the circulatory system.
Walter Hess, after developing the technique of
using small electrodes to
stimulate specific regions
of the brain, identifies
various regions in the
brain with their functions.
He publishes an atlas of
the brain based on his
work with dogs and cats.
Werner Forssmann, Dickinson W. Richards, and
French-American physiologist André F. Cournaud
win the Nobel Prize for
physiology or medicine for
their use of the catheter
for study of the interior of
the heart and circulatory
Clyde Lorrain Cowan,
Jr. and Frederick Reines
observe neutrinos for the
first time (they had been
predicted by Wolfgang
Pauli in 1930).
Chen Ning Yang and
Tsung-Dao Lee in May realize that conservation of
parity has never been
checked for the weak
force. By June they have a
paper proposing experiments that could be used
to determine whether or
not parity is conserved.
K. Lande, E.T. Booth, J.
Impeduglia, and Leon M.
Lederman establish the
existence of a long-lived
neutral K particle (a.k.a.
kaon) and determine its
decay modes.
B. Cook, G.R. Lambertson, O. Picconi, and W.A.
Wentzel discover the antineutron.
Eisenhower signs the
Federal-Aid Highway
Act, creating the Interstate Highway System
Nicolaas Bloembergen
lays the theoretical foundations for the construction of a solid-state maser
(the microwave analogue
of a laser) that will produce microwaves continuously instead of intermittently.
And other world
news in that year:
The United
bans heroin
Elvis Presley enters the
United States music
charts for the first time,
with "Heartbreak Hotel."
Morocco declares its
independence from
The Broadway musical
My Fair Lady opens in
New York City
Pakistan becomes the
first Islamic republic
Queen Elizabeth II inaugurated Chew Valley
Actress Grace Kelly
marries Prince Rainier
III of Monaco
45 miles south of Nantucket Island, the Italian ocean liner SS Andrea Doria sinks after
colliding with the Swedish ship SS Stockholm
in heavy fog, killing 51.
Beginning of the 1956
Summer Olympics in
Melbourne, Australia.
Japan becomes a member of the United Nations.
U.S. tests the first aerial hydrogen bomb
over Namu islet, Bikini
Atoll with the force of
10 million tons TNT
Adapted from
"Men love to wonder, and that is
the seed of science."
Ralph Waldo Emerson
"Never express
yourself more
clearly than you
are able to
Niels Bohr
"I think there's a
world market for
about five computers."
Thomas Watson
(Founder of IBM)
May Issue , 2006
Bladsy 9 / Page 9
Top ten scientific “blunders”
Albert Einstein once
said: "Two things are infinite: the universe and
human stupidity, and I'm
not sure about the universe." Never a truer
word was said.
As any researcher will
tell you, science progresses through trial and
error, and mainly error.
"One step forward, two
steps back" might be the
researcher's motto. They
are, after all, much more
human than we ever give
them credit for.
Here we list the 10
“biggest” blunders of all
time. It is a highly subjective hall of shame. But it
covers the full range of
academic disciplines showing that all academics are capable of making big mistakes. Sometimes they are unintentional, sometimes not.
The famous biologist,
Stephen Jay Gould, argued that scientists can
delude themselves - so
keen are they to uncover
a new discovery.
Brain power: Scientists
at the Institute for Animal Health in Edinburgh
secured a £200,000
government grant to find
wh e th e r
jumped the "species barrier" from cows into
sheep. Why then had
they mistakenly tested
cattle brains instead of
sheep brains for five
· Scientific Watergate:
The US National Institutes of Health investigatory panel found the immunologist Thereza
Imanishi-Kari had fabricated data in a 1986
research paper authored
with the Nobel prize winner David Baltimore. The
findings claimed in the
paper promised a breakthrough for genetic modification of the immune
Mein bumph:
bumph: Oxbridge
historian Hugh TrevorRoper authenticated the
Hitler Diaries, unveiled
as an exclusive by the
German-based Stern
magazine. The diaries
were later exposed as a
Cold Fusion:
Fusion: In 1989
chemists Stanley Pons
and Martin Fleischman,
of the University of Utah,
claimed to have solved
the world's energy problems by discovering cold
fusion. However, no-one
has since been able to
replicate their findings of
nuclear fusion in heavy
Hubble Space Telescope:
scope: Nasa scientists
launched the Hubble
telescope to create a
lens 10 to 20 times
more powerful than
those based on earth. A
gross design error in the
main mirror was discovered immediately after
launch in April 1990.
Hundreds of millions of
pounds were needed for
the astronaut repair of
the mirror.
rays: A French physicist, René Blondlot,
claimed to have discovered a new type of radiation, shortly after Roentgen had discovered Xrays. American physicist
Robert Wood, however,
revealed that N-rays
were little more than a
delusion. Wood removed
the prism from the N-ray
detection device, without
which the machine
couldn't work. Yet, Blondlot's assistant still
claimed he found N-rays.
Academic standards:
standards :
Cyril Burt, the 1960s
guru of British psychology, produced research
into the intelligence of
identical twins which,
among other findings,
led to the assertions that
academic standards
were falling. Years later
the statistics were found
to be "too perfect" and it
was discovered the twins
- and even the researcher alleged to have
carried out the work never existed.
Piltdown man: In 1913
an ape's jaw with a canine tooth worn down
like a human's was uncovered at a site near
Piltdown. British paleoanthropologists came
to accept the idea that
the fossil remains belonged to a single creature who had a human
cranium and an ape's
jaw - offering the missing
link between apes and
humans in the evolutionary chain. In 1953, Piltdown 'man' was exposed
as a forgery. The skull
was modern and the
teeth on the ape's jaw
had been filed down.
Alchemy: - Sir Isaac Newton - the scientist who
single-handedly created
the foundations of modern day physics had a
little known obsession
with alchemy, and was
convinced for much of
his life that he would be
able to change base
metals into gold. Such a
discovery would have
helped with his later job
as master of the mint,
but never materialised.
Flat Earth: - even though
Christopher Columbus
gave flat earth theorists
a reason to think twice,
there are still flat earth
societies where people
propose (and prove)
elaborate explanations
for why the world actually is shaped like a pancake.
By Lee Elliot Major
Taken from
October 2001
May Issue , 2006
Immune to fear
When antibodies fail to
distinguish between your
own body and an invading
microbe, they make you
sick. This happens in
chronic autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple
sclerosis and systemic
lupus erythematosus,
which have complex constellations of variable,
often debilitating symptoms because of autoantibodies—antibodies that
target the body's own tissues.
Although it might make
intuitive sense that
autoantibodies to connective tissue afflict the joints
and those against motor
neurons impair movement, autoimmune diseases are seldom so tidy
in their causes and effects. Impaired memory
and altered mood are
common to many autoimmune diseases, and even
some "classic" neurologic
and psychiatric conditions—movement disorders, schizophrenia, autism and others—are
linked to antibodies
against the brain. However, unlike joints and
peripheral nerves, the
brain is sequestered behind a barrier that excludes large molecules
such as antibodies. Exactly how antibodies get
into the brain and effect
changes in behavior and
function is poorly understood.
Recent reports help to
fill that void. Using mice
that were immunized to
carry one of the principal
antibodies found in lupus
patients, investigators led
Bladsy 10/ Page 10
by Betty Diamond at Columbia University Medical
Center report that infection or stress can allow
the antibodies to penetrate specific parts of the
brain, killing neurons and
changing behavior.
The authors had previously shown that most of
the 1.4 million people
with lupus in the United
States carry antibodies
against double-stranded
DNA. Some of these antibodies cross-react with
proteins, particularly a
string of five amino acids:
a s pa rta te-trypto ph a nglutamate-tyrosine-serine,
or DWEYS, to use their
one-letter abbreviations.
The team searched the
database to find proteins
with that sequence and
found two parts of a receptor for the neurotransmitter glutamate: the
NR2A and NR2B subunits
of the so-called NMDA
variety of glutamate receptor.
Injecting the DWEYS
peptide into mice caused
them to develop antibodies similar to those found
in lupus patients, but the
antibodies had no immediate effect on cells or
behavior, presumably because they were excluded
from the central nervous
system by the blood-brain
barrier. But this defense
can be compromised, by
head trauma, bacterial
toxins, osmotic changes
or stress in the form of a
spike in adrenaline. In a
recent paper (Immunity,
August 2004), Diamond
and her colleagues used
an injection of lipopolysaccharide, a bacterial
endotoxin, to breach the
barrier and allow antibod-
ies to cross into the
mice's brains. The antibodies bound to neurons
in the hippocampus, a
structure rich with NMDA
receptors, and killed a
significant number of cells
within a week. Not surprisingly, those mice
scored worse than controls on memory tests that
require the hippocampus;
performance on nonhippocampal tasks was
normal. The lipopolysaccharide had no effect on
mice that had not been
immunized with the
DWEYS peptide.
The scientists determined just how the cells
died by giving the mice
memantine (which blocks
the NMDA receptor) prior
to opening the blood-brain
barrier: The neurons were
spared, and behavior was
normal. This result shows
that the cause of cell
death was overstimulation of the NMDA receptors. The neurons didn't
die because the antibodies incurred the wrath of
the immune system; they
died because their uninterrupted firing was toxic.
The follow-up paper was
published in Proceedings
of the National Academy
of Sciences. The study
design was similar, except
that the authors used an
injection of epinephrine
(adrenaline) rather than a
mock bacterial infection
to penetrate the bloodbrain barrier. Surprisingly,
cells in the hippocampus
were spared. The mice did
fine on memory tests and
behaved normally. But
neurons in the amygdala
were half dead. This part
of the brain regulates
fear—and is essential for a
Pavlovian behavioral task
called fear conditioning. In
this test, mice are placed in
a special cage and conditioned to associate a mild
electrical shock with distinctive sensory cues such
as novel smells, textures or
sounds. Later, when confronted with the same cues,
the animals anticipate the
shock, get scared and
freeze. But the mice with
lupus antibodies that received the adrenaline could
not muster the same response of fear. As before,
memantine prevented the
anatomical and behavioral
changes. Furthermore,
treatment with a version of
the DWEYS peptide had a
similar protective effect,
presumably because it
bound the antibodies before they reached the
NMDA receptor.
This story would be interesting enough by itself—
preclinical studies of a lupus drug based on the peptide are under way—but the
implications for other diseases are even bigger. Viruses, bacteria, parasites
and vaccines have all been
implicated in neuropsychiatric conditions, including schizophrenia and autism. But scientists seldom
know how or why an infection leads to behavioral
consequences. Clearly it is
more than infection alone:
Not every person with
toxoplasmosis develops
schizophrenia, and not
every schizophrenic has
antibodies to Toxoplasma
gondii. Diamond's results
offer one example of how to
connect these dots.
Christopher R. Brodie
Taken from American Scientist
94 (2): March-April 2006
May Issue , 2006
Brasília, May 25, 2006
The Brazilian Network of Eucalyptus Genome Research, better
known as the GENOLYPTUS project, will make
important contributions
to advance the prospects of having a draft
sequence of the Eucalyptus genome. Convened at the annual
meeting held in Porto
Alegre between April 26
and 28, the steering
Genolyptus project decided that it will give full
support to the international initiative of submitting a proposal to
the Joint Genome Institute (JGI), the sequencing powerhouse of the
US Department of Energy, to generate a draft
sequence of the Eucalyptus grandis genome.
On behalf of over 80
breeders and graduate
students from 14 private forest based companies, six universities
and EMBRAPA, all part
of the Brazilian project,
Dr. Dario Grattapaglia,
out that “ This initiative
will certainly represent
Bladsy 11 / Page 11
a major advancement
toward an increased
understanding of tree
biology and will accelerate the development of
increased sustainability
of forest based operations worldwide that
produce pulp, paper,
energy and wood. We
are ready to help make
this project a success,
and we call on all other
eucalypt research organizations internationally to join us in supporting this important
The formation of an
international collaborative network around the
started some three
years ago at an IUFRO
Tree Biotechnology conference in Umea, Sweden in 2003. After a
series of meetings in
Australia and Japan in
the last two years, DOE
Tuskan, announced at
the Tree Biotechnology
conference held in Nov
2005 in Pretoria, South
Africa, that JGI would
consider a proposal for
a Eucalyptus genome
sequencing project in
the context of the
“Genomes to Energy”
focus area of the recently launched Laboratory Science Program at
Contingent upon the
approval of a Eucalyptus grandis draft se-
quencing project by JGI,
the GENOLYPTUS network, through its participating institutions, will
contribute the following
genomic resources to
assist the assembly and
annotation phases of
the genome project:
1) A reference linkage map for Eucalyptus
with over 400 microsatellite markers derived
sequences and ESTs
mapped on existing fullsib pedigrees;
2) The construction
of a publicly available,
high coverage, BAC genomic library and the
assembly of a fluorescent
fingerprintingbased physical map in
collaboration with the
Arizona Genomics Institute;
3) The
around 20,000 unigenes derived from the
sequencing of over 20
cDNA libraries.
Besides the genomic
resources, GENOLYPTUS, through one of its
participating companies
Suzano, will be privileged to provide a top
performance selfed tree
of Eucalyptus grandis to
be used as the target
genome to be sequenced and physically
mapped. “A more homozygous
should greatly facilitate
the genome assembly.
Additionally, this tree
has been cloned and will
be made fully available
to the public in the form
of in vitro micropropagules” indicated Dr. Grattapaglia.
The availability of a
draft sequence of the
Eucalyptus grandis genome will generate extraordinary opportunities
for reaching a much
higher level of understanding of the unique
biology of forest trees
and will have obvious implications in eucalyptbased production forestry as well as environmentally relevant issues
such as carbon sequestration and water use efficiency in the tropics.
The detailed genome
sequencing proposal to
be submitted by June
2006 is now being finalized by a group of scientists from several countries world-wide, led by
Dr. Zander Myburg from
South Africa, the coordinator of the international
Eucalyptus Genome Network.
For more information,
please visit
Contributed by Zander Myburgh, UP
"I have a hunch that
the unknown sequences of DNA will
decode into copyright
notices and patent
Donald E. Knuth
Conservation and the genetics of populations
ISBN: 1405121459
644 pages
FW Allendorf & G Luikart (Editors)
Gene cloning and DNA analyses
ISBN: 1405111216
408 pages
T. Brown
Plant Biology 2006
5 — 9 August 2006, Boston, Massachusetts
International Plant Breeding Symposium
20– 25 August 2006, Mexico City, Mexico
11th International Congress of Human Genetics
6 - 10 August 2006, Brisbane, Australia
Interesting websites
SAGV/ SAGS is on the
Why did the chicken cross the road?
The fittest chickens cross
roads. [Darwin]
The road moved beneath
the chicken. [Einstein]
Chickens at rest tend to
stay at rest, chickens in
motion cross roads.
We're not sure which side
of the road the chicken
was on. [Heisenberg]
There was already a
chicken on this side of
the road. [Pauli]
It had a dream. [Martin
Luther King Jr.]
Because the road was
there. [Sir Edmund Hilary]
None of your business: We
own the chicken and we own
the road. [Bill Gates]
The chicken did not --I repeat: did not-- cross the
road. [Richard Nixon]
It is in the nature of chickens to cross roads.
The news of its crossing has
been greatly exaggerated.
[Mark Twain]
Define "road". [Bill Clinton]
I missed one? [Colonel
"Strike while the …………...insect is close."
"Never underestimate the power of………….ants. "
"Don’t bite the hand………….that looks dirty."
"You cant teach an old dog……… maths."
Grade one proverb solving
The lighter side of genetics