T cells (HTCs) are lymphocytes (white blood cells) that ward off
viruses and help prevent the growth of cancer cells. Researchers
have also long known that the cells are useful in therapies against
aggressive diseases and in aiding distressed immune systems.
gland produces our T cells, and efforts to replicate the production
of T cells in labs have not worked terribly well. It's suspected
that the problem is that growing T cells in layers within petri
dishes doesn't come close to mimicking the three-dimensional
aspects of a real, living organ. Now a Woburn, Mass., company, Cytomatrix,
has engineered a 3-D matrixan artificial thymusthat
works similarly to the actual gland. Using a special, porous metal-carbon
material, Cytomatrix has constructed a biocompatible cell
growth scaffold, Cellfoam . . . that will enable the culture, manipulation
and storage of cells.
T cells evolve
from progenitor cells, and the matrix allows this process to occur
nearly as efficiently as in nature. To grow T cells, Cytomatrixwhich
is working on the project in conjunction with Massachusetts General
Hospitalgathers progenitor cells from skin biopsies. We each
produce millions of T cells that attack foreign antigens that enter
our bodies, and eventually some of the cells specialize in repelling
only very specific ones. The artificial thymus attempts to produce
a broad range of T cells that can be effective against a variety
of ailments; researchers then attempt to select particular cells
to respond to specific dangers, like HIV or hepatitis or cancer
use of the engineered gland will be to train human bodies to not
reject transplant tissue. The cells can be re-engineered to
become tolerant to transplants, says Mark J. Pykett, president
of Cytomatrix. This process involves first killing off all natural
T cells within the recipient, then reintroducing new ones formed
from the progenitor cells of both the recipient and donor. The recolonized
cells then accept tissue from both parties.
thymus remains in the research and development stage, but Cytomatrix
hopes to begin clinical trials within a couple of years.
1958, British researcher Frederick Sanger won the Nobel Prize for
chemistry for detailing the structure of proteins, especially the
insulin molecule. Fast-forward 43 years and now high-school and
college students will be able to virtually recreate the experiment
Sanger used to discover protein sequencing.
of some of the world's most famous experiments will soon be
a part of the Nobel e-Museum (www.nobel.se),
which is operated online by the Nobel Foundation of Sweden. The
foundation annually awards prizes for outstanding contributions
to the sciences, literature, and peace. The e-Museum opened last
year, and currently offers 7,000 pages of information and 3,000
photos to tell the stories of Nobel laureates and describe their
in May, in this the Centenary of the prizes, the e-Museum experience
will be expanded and become more interactive. The virtual lab is
part of the Wallenberg Young Scholars' Program, which will
use audio, video, 3-D virtual reality, graphics, games, text, and
databases to keep young minds entertained while they learn. The
younger generations are growing up using computer games, so they'll
find it easy to access this information, says Nils Ringertz,
in the electronic lab, another groundbreaking experiment students
can follow is that of Archer Martin and Richard Synge. They invented
partition chromatography, the separation of substances from complex
mixtures, a process that earned them a prize for chemistry in 1952.
As students do the work, they'll be ably assisted by Virtual
Eva, an avatar who will offer help and advice. Another
education program, Science & Technology, will highlight major,
basic research discoveries in medicine and biology and show how
they were turned into practical applications.
really is a museum, because information is stored there, but it's
also a learning tool, Ringertz says. Yeah, and it sounds like
ago, civil liberties groups successfully fought a law in Loudoun
County, Va., that required public libraries to install filtering
software on computers to block out pornographic material. Now, the
same groups are planning to fight another filtering lawthis
one passed by Congress late last year and signed by ex-President
Internet Protection Act says that public schools and libraries that
receive federal subsidies to provide Internet connections must install
blocking software to filter out obscene material and child pornography.
The People for the American Way Foundation is joining with the American
Library Association to challenge the law in federal court, probably
in Philadelphia. The American Civil Liberties Union is also planning
a legal assault on the act. It's likely the courts will consolidate
the suits, however.
The act would
let software companies set legal standards, claims Larry
Ottinger, senior staff attorney at American Way, and only a judge
can decide what constitutes illegal material and what's merely
offensive. That's the false illusion the law gives,
he says. Moreover, Ottinger says, filtering software vastly over-blocks
and deprives the public of legal information. In Loudoun County,
it was found that the software used there barred people from the
Quakers' Web page and from a Beanie Babies Web site, and often
blocked medical terms, like prostate cancer. It was found that 67
percent of the sites blocked should not have been.
that adults using public computers in libraries should have the
same choices as those using them at home, and that parents should
decide if they want filters on the computers their children use.
Loudoun County now uses a voluntary system that lets parents decide
if their children must use restricted computers. This [federal]
law does not give an option to the libraries, he maintains.
Ottinger says that despite a few nasty anecdotes, there's little
evidence that there is widespread use of library computers by pedophiles.
function at times in a somewhat parental capacity, the civil libertarians
may not contest that part of the law that requires filters on school
computers. That is more of a strategic decision, Ottinger
the law say that libraries and schools can opt out by not taking
the Internet subsidies, called E-rate funds. But few schools and
libraries can afford IT programs without some kind of federal assistance.
In addition to the Loudoun Country decision, the courts have not
looked favorably on other efforts to restrict online information.
this new act are hoping that legal trend continues, so that libraries
can keep their E-rates while leaving their computers unfettered.