News releases for scientific meetings


The following news releases were written for the Experimental Biology conference in April 2013 in Boston. I handled media relations for the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

The human immune system in space
When the space shuttle Atlantis touched down in the summer of 2011 at Cape Canaveral, closing the book on the U.S. shuttle program, a team of U.S. Army researchers stood at the ready, eager to get their gloved hands on a small device in the payload that housed a set of biological samples. On Monday, April 22, at the Experimental Biology 2013 conference in Boston, the team will present the results of nearly two years’ worth of study on those samples, results that shed light on how the human immune system responds to stress and assaults while in space — and maybe here on Earth.

Sniffing out solutions for millions of Americans with smell loss
Snot. It’s not something most of us spend a lot of time thinking about, but, for a team of researchers in Washington, D.C., it’s front and center. Robert I. Henkin, founder of the Taste and Smell Clinic is charmingly self-deprecating. He says with a chuckle that he’s often called a “spit and snot doctor,” but he knows all too well that for his patients — those who no longer can appreciate the fragrance of fresh-cut grass or the intricacies of an herb-infused sauce — such loss is no laughing matter.

Scientists seek an answer to an existential question for an East Texas hibiscus
Since 1997, a shrubby perennial found only in East Texas has been on a waiting list to be officially declared by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A ruling on the fate of the Neches River rose-mallow is expected by 2016 under a settlement agreement between the feds and a conservation group. If the plant is listed as threatened, it will become eligible for government-funded restoration. But the future of the white-petaled, ruby-throated hibiscus may hinge on its past: The jury is still out on whether the showy plant is actually its very own species.

Pain, epigenetics and endometriosis
Most of us probably know at least one woman, and maybe quite a few more, with endometriosis. Despite the disease’s prevalence, there is no consensus on the cause of it, the existing treatment options leave a lot to be desired, and there are too few ways for women to, at the very least, effectively numb the pain that the disease provokes. Scientists – who over the years have suspected hormones, the immune system, environmental toxins, genetics or some combination – still have a long way to go in terms of better understanding the disease’s molecular bases. Researchers at the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine at Marshall University, in Huntington, W.V., say that a great deal more attention should be paid to the daily pain suffered by endometriosis patients.


The following news releases were written for the Experimental Biology conference in April 2012 in San Diego. I handled media relations for the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and the American Association for Anatomists.

A new diagnosis for Frida Kahlo’s infertility
Frida Kahlo’s many haunting self-portraits have been studied by experts for decades, have attracted worldwide attention and have sold for millions of dollars at auction. Yet, despite the fact that Kahlo’s work focuses largely on anatomy and failed reproduction attempts, relatively little attention has been paid to Kahlo’s own body and infertility. Intrigued by the messages manifested in Kahlo’s work and surprised by the apparent lack of interest by scientists in Kahlo’s clinical condition, Fernando Antelo, a surgical pathologist at the Harbor UCLA Medical Center, set out to reassess the condition that caused Kahlo’s infertility and inspired some of her greatest pieces.

Making human textiles: Research team ups the ante
with development of blood vessels woven from donor cells

A lot of people were skeptical when two young California-based researchers set out more than a decade ago to create a completely human-derived alternative to the synthetic blood vessels commonly used in dialysis patients. Since then, they’ve done that and more. “There were a lot of doubts in the field that you could make a blood vessel, which is something that needs to resist pressure constantly, 24-7, without any synthetic materials in it,” explains Nicolas L’Heureux, a co-founder and the chief scientific officer of Cytograft Tissue Engineering Inc. “They didn’t think that was possible at all.” But they were wrong

Avocado oil: The ‘olive oil of the Americas’? Mexican researchers find
the fruit bolsters cells’ power centers against harmful free radicals
Atmospheric oxygen facilitated the evolution and complexity of terrestrial organisms, including human beings, because it allowed nutrients to be used more efficiently by those organisms, which in turn were able to generate more energy. However, as we find out more about how oxygen molecules work inside the body, more attention is being paid to their not-so-good effects, and researchers are seeking ways to thwart them.

What did the scientist say to the sommelier? ‘Show me the proof!’
What does lemon pan sauce chicken have to do with biochemistry and molecular biology? If you ask the students in Joseph Provost’s class at Minnesota State University Moorhead, they’ll tell you that successful execution of the dish requires the Maillard reaction, a chemical process that’s responsible for the flavors and colors in a variety of food, including toast and maple syrup. In Provost’s class, students are asked to do what would be unthinkable in a traditional science course: eat the results of their experiments.

Programming highlights for the annual meeting of the American Association of Anatomists
The American Association of Anatomists will gather this week for its annual meeting in conjunction with the Experimental Biology 2012 conference, which will draw more than 14,000 scientists from industry, government and academia. Below are some programming highlights for the anatomy meeting. All presentations will be made at the San Diego Convention Center.

Timing is everything when using oxygen to regenerate bone
A research team at Tulane University will report this week that the application of high levels of oxygen to a severed bone facilitates bone regrowth, study results that may one day hold promise for injured soldiers, diabetics and other accident victims.


The following news releases were written for the Experimental Biology conference in April 2011 in Washington, D.C. I handled media relations for the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and the American Association for Anatomists.

High-profile panel to address causes, consequences of the politicization of science
Science is playing an increasingly prominent role in many controversial political, religious and socio-economic debates, such as those about embryonic stem cells, genetically modified foods, teaching evolution and climate change. As a result, scientists are finding themselves forced into the fray and frustrated when their data and findings are misunderstood by policymakers and the public and even misrepresented for political gains. At 12:30 p.m. Sunday, April 10, at the Experimental Biology meeting in the Washington, D.C., Convention Center, three high-profile panelists will share their views on how science, the media, politics and society interact and, perhaps more importantly, what scientists themselves can do to communicate more effectively and restore their credibility.

NIH chief Collins to give plenary lecture at Experimental Biology 2011
As part of the Experimental Biology 2011 conference in Washington, D.C., next week, National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins will discuss how the federal agency he leads is capitalizing on the gains made by the biomedical research community over the past few decades, describing his vision for translating work at the lab bench into therapeutics that will improve human health and reduce suffering here and across the globe.

D.C.-area science teachers experimenting with partnerships
Dozens of D.C.-area junior high science teachers looking for new ways to encourage their students to pursue high-tech studies and careers will gather Saturday as part of the Experimental Biology conference at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. The free four-hour event will take place from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday. It is intended as a means to pair local teachers with college and university faculty members from across the region to forge partnerships that will support their efforts over future years. In addition to hearing about ongoing outreach activities being conducted, participants also will engage in potential in-class projects.

Hot topics in chemical biology and drug development at EB2011
What do blinking fireflies, the cellular power plants that are human mitochondria, parasitic worms in sub-Saharan Africa and synthetic sugars have in common? At first glance, not a lot; but, after a good hard look, they represent bright threads in the tapestry of knowledge for those trying to patch the gaps between chemical biology, technology, therapies and cures. In the coming days, as part of the Experimental Biology 2011 conference in Washington, D.C., two dozen researchers will go public about their ongoing work aimed at improving our understanding of biological systems and contributing to our cache of healing compounds.

Findings may help keep pancreatic disease off the menu
Timing is everything. That’s especially true when it comes to the activation of enzymes created by the pancreas to break down food. When the timing is right, those enzymes are activated only when they reach the gut, where they get to work releasing and distributing nutrients that we need to survive. If the timing is wrong and the enzymes are activated too soon, they break down the pancreas itself, which is painful and sometimes fatal. Fortunately, most of the time the body is a master timekeeper and has a game plan for what to do if a signaling misfire activates those enzymes too soon. But sometimes even those natural defense mechanisms aren’t enough to thwart pancreatitis, making the pursuit of a better understanding of the enzymes’ behavior a high priority for patients and physicians. On Wednesday, April 13, an international research team determined to figure out and eventually manipulate the activation of such enzymes will present an important new finding at the Experimental Biology 2011 meeting in Washington, D.C.

What’s coming next in the biochemical battle of the bulge?
Dozens of researchers in the coming days will lay out what’s around the corner in the biochemical battle of the bulge as part of the Experimental Biology 2011 conference in Washington, D.C. The three-day program on obesity, sponsored by the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology’s minority affairs committee, will showcase the work of scientists from all over the world who have their sights set on reversing the epidemic by laying bare and manipulating, to mankind’s advantage, its molecular underpinnings.

11 award-winning scientists to talk about successes, future of biomedical research
The winners of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology annual awards will give lectures at the Experimental Biology 2011 conference April 9-13 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C.

Physically active moms-to-be give babies a head start on heart health
Moms-to-be long have been told by their doctors and baby-related books and websites that staying fit during pregnancy is good for both mother and child. When it was reported a couple of years back that exercising strengthens a fetus’ heart control, many pregnant women took heed and hit the ground running, literally. Some signed up for prenatal yoga classes; others found new ways to incorporate low-impact aerobic activities into their daily lives. But, for those pregnant women out there who might not be feeling all that motivated, or anything but energized, new research being reported this weekend could tip the scales: It turns out that exercising during pregnancy might be the earliest intervention strategy available to you for improving your child’s heart health after birth.

Researcher doggedly pursues new treatments for traumatic brain injury patients in coma

We’ve all watched it unfold on soap operas, medical dramas and films: A patient falls into a coma, and loved ones at the bedside try to peel away the veil by talking or reading aloud. Some of us have done it ourselves, desperately hoping for any hint of wakening or awareness. For Theresa Louise-Bender Pape, who studies patients with traumatic brain injury in various stages of coma and recovery, the “it can’t hurt” reasoning just isn’t good enough. She needs evidence. She wants answers.


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