Argonne Lab's Ian Foster
| January 1, 2007
A Worm Holds Clues to the Evolution of Sex
The transparent nematode C. elegans (left) is ideal for observing the development of sex cells inside the worms's two large gonads (center) by labeling zinc-finger proteins in Pairing Centers during the pairing process (red, right).
Sex is a boon to evolution; it combines genetic material from parents to produce a unique new genome. But how did sex itself evolve? Abby Dernburg of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory 's Life Sciences Division and graduate student Carolyn Phillips have found a family of genes and zinc-finger proteins that help bring together chromosomes in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans during meiosis, the specialized cell division that produces sperm and eggs. The genes, him-8 for the X chromosome and zim-1 , zim-2 , and zim-3 for the nonsex chromosomes, appear to have evolved rapidly from a common forerunner, offering a peek at how the molecular mechanics of sex may have developed in other organisms as well.
[Paul Preuss, 510/486-6249,
INL nuclear research contributes to advanced cancer treatments
Even with the best of modern medical treatment, Glioblastoma Multiforme kills roughly 90 percent of all patients who contract it within two years. Boron Neutron Capture Therapy (BNCT) is emerging as a promising treatment for this malignant cancer. Although not a new concept (Researchers at DOE's Idaho National Laboratory have been studying BNCT for about 20 years), INL's contributions to neutron dosimetry and neutron source engineering, biophysics, radiobiology and boron chemistry has significantly advanced progress in this field. Boron-10 has a high tendency to absorb neutrons. By attaching isotopically separated boron-10 to a biochemical agent that has an affinity for cancerous tissue, it can be ideally delivered through the blood straight to cancerous cells. When that area is exposed to a beam of neutrons, the boron-carrying cancer cells are exposed to high radiation doses and are killed. Healthy tissue ideally receives a significantly lower radiation dose.
[Teri Ehresman, 208/526-7785,
Quantum keys and unbreakable codes
Scientists at DOE's Los Alamos National Laboratory and the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder have demonstrated a method for unconditionally secure quantum key distribution (QKD) over a record-setting 107 kilometers of optical fiber. The method uses a decoy-state protocol that enables the creation of cryptographic keys that are immune to even the strongest decryption attacks. QKD has emerged in recent years as a promising method of encrypting information for electronic data exchange. The researchers believe the new technology might be the basis for extending the range of unconditionally secure QKD past the current range to 250 kilometers or more.
[Todd A. Hanson, 505/665-2085,
DZero finds evidence of rare top quark signature
Scientists of the DZero collaboration at the Department of Energy's Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory found the first evidence of top quarks produced in a rare subatomic process involving the weak nuclear force. The result is an important test of predictions made by particle theory, such as the number of quarks that exist in nature. Up to now, scientists had observed the top quark only in processes involving the strong nuclear force. Those observations led to the discovery of the top quark at Fermilab in 1995. In the longer term, the techniques employed in this DZero analysis will allow scientists to search for the elusive Higgs boson.
[Kurt Riesselmann, 630/840-5681,
Stealth infector unmasked
| PNNL scientists have identified a protein in Salmonella bacteria that enables it to infect immune cells called macrophages. Seen here: Salmonella, isolated from infected macrophrages. (Mildly color-enhanced. Photo credit: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.)
Scientists at DOE's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have identified a protein in Salmonella bacteria that enables it to infect immune cells called macrophages. Drug and vaccine designers armed with this information may be able to target chemicals or immune responses that disrupt processes linked to Salmonella's colonization of macrophages. To turn up the suspect protein, the PNNL team applied the high-volume sorting and analytical power of proteomics, a detailed survey of microbial proteins present in the 24 hours that follow infection of mouse macrophages. The discovery of the protein, dubbed STM3117, is detailed in The Journal of Biological Chemistry. Knocking out the gene that codes for STM3117, the researchers subsequently crippled the microbe's ability to multiply inside macrophages. The candidate protein emerged through a combination of techniques, culminating in measurements by Fourier-transform mass spectrometry, on a suite of instruments at the PNNL-based Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory.
[Bill Cannon, 509/375-3732,
Foster: Godfather of
Ian Foster of DOE's Argonne National Lab has been called a godfather – but not one of those Mafia types. Foster is godfather of grid computing, a software program that lets people share computing power, databases, and other tools securely online across corporate, institutional, and geographic boundaries without sacrificing local autonomy.
Foster is associate division director for Argonne 's Mathematics and Computer Science Division and is also Arthur Holly Compton Distinguished Service Professor of Computer Science at The University of Chicago. Foster's honors include the Lovelace Medal of the British Computer Society and the Gordon Bell Prize for high-performance supercomputing. He was also the winner earlier this year of the first GridWorld “Industry Leadership Award.”
In March 2006, Foster was appointed director of the Computation Institute, a joint project between The University of Chicago and Argonne that addresses the most challenging computational and communications problems arising from a broad range of intellectual pursuits. Research at the Computation Institute potentially affects every major scientific discipline that requires intensive computing capabilities, including disease diagnosis, weather forecasting and aircraft design simulation.
He is also Chief Open Source Strategist for Univa Corp., a spin-off company formed to commercialize Argonne research in open source Globus software, which enables grid computing. Globus technologies are used worldwide in business and science, forming the basis of several dozen national and international collaborative computing projects.
In 2003, Foster was named Innovator of the Year by R&D Magazine, and also won the Illinois Innovation Award. Silicon.com named him one of the Top 50 Agenda Setters, and MIT Technology Review named grid computing one of “Ten Technologies that Will Change the World.”
His research is funded by the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation to advance the national, economic and energy security of the United States and to promote the progress of science and technological innovation.
Submitted by DOE's
Argonne National Laboratory