Molecular genetics in Russia

Molecular genetics in Russia

tion of antimyelin protein neutralising antibodies in vivo promotes the regeneration of severed corticospinal axons into the cord distal to the hemise...

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tion of antimyelin protein neutralising antibodies in vivo promotes the regeneration of severed corticospinal axons into the cord distal to the hemisection-a response that is augmented by application of neurotrophins (NT-3) at the lesion. Stride length and foot placement behaviour tests were almost restored to normal by the combined treatment. Axons of fetal transplants integrate well into the host anatomically and Ray Lund (Cambridge) has shown that some function may be mediated by their synaptic connections. For example, fetal retinal transplants send fibres to the superior colliculus and pretectal area, which subserve pupillary reflexes and light-driven behaviour. Fetal transplants have also been placed into the spinal cord by Paul Reiel (Gainesville), but function recovery has so far been minimal.

Protecting women

from AIDS

Despite health education campaigns, risky Latina women, many believed that a woman ought to be submissive and less sex practices are still common among than a man. And are even and the Americans, problems i sexually knowledgeable in a survey about oral and anal sex, many more severe in the Haitian, Jamaican, and Latina communities. These difficulties respondents thought they were being asked about "hourly" and "annual" sex. were discussed at a symposium on Prevention of HIV in Women, sponsored by Among the many impoverished and unthe National Institute of Mental Health, educated Haitian immigrants in Florida, to explore cultural issues and the psychol- i culture and language barriers are more ogy of disease prevention. : extreme, rendering a narrow "safe sex" The National AIDS Behaviour Study message totally useless. Most ascribe disfound that 11 % of American women 18 to eases to supernatural causes. Many of 49 years old are at some risk of acquiring these women are economically dependent HIV. The commonest risk factor is multion a boyfriend (who is often promiscusex and the next a is ple partners, having i ous) ; they have very little control over their lives. a risky primary partner-ie, partner with Under conditions like these, women are intravenous HIV, multiple partners, drug in no position to negotiate safe sex, and or blood transfusions. use, haemophilia, 62% of these females with a risky main evidently even many who are in a better partner never use condoms. Also, amongi position do not consider it worthwhile. individuals who were sexually active with Although the speakers agreed that it both men and women, 12% of the women would be desirable to give all women the and 26% of the men identified themselves information and resources they need to However, peripheral nerve bridges as "heterosexual". Thus, the message has protect themselves, education and interbetween the eye and superior collicuto be, "It’s not who you (and your parti vention directed at men will remain indislus promote the regeneration of 1% ner) are, it’s what you do". : pensable. of the retinal ganglion cell axons and Among women in high-risk urban areas, a few of these penetrate the synaptic 19% were judged to be at risk. Among Paul M Rowe of the

superior colliculus in their topographical interrelationMolecular ships. Mike Rasminsky (Quebec)



showed that these axons make functional connections mediating a normal pattern of light-induced evoked potentials. Geoff Raisman (London) described how Schwann cells transplanted in the CNS quickly invade the neuropil, moving preferentially along blood vessels forming a mosaic of peripheral and central nervous system tissue. He also laid Schwann-cell tracts through CNS tissue and showed that axon growth aligned with the Schwann-cell columns. It was envisaged that this technique could be perfected to facilitate long-

: growth. implications for the development of clinical treatments from these diverse laboratory-based observations are both immediate and long tract





post-traumatic one

highlighted management way of preserving residual function. The consensus of the meeting was that pharmacological regimens for the acute phase of injury are imminent and likely to be involving the use of neurotrophins, was




suppressors, extracellular


modifiers, and disinhibitors of axon growth. Ann








The Russian Academy of Sciences has announced that a special prize will be awarded for the identification of the human remains found near Yekateringburg (then Sverdlovsk) in summer, 1991. The forensic laboratory at Aldermaston, UK, had identified the bones as those of Tsar Nicholas II, his wife, three daughters, and four attendants. The remains of one daughter (probably Maria) and the haemophiliac heir, Alexis, were not found. Among the Russian public there is a widespread feeling that, when the bones are eventually reinterred with the full rights of the Orthodox Church, tribute will also be symbolically paid to the millions of victims of the Communist era without known graves. To the scientific community, the affair has become a plea for funding for basic science. Molecular biology and genetics had a late start in Russia (a result of the Lysenko affair). Despite sudden priority boosting and massive injection of funding 20 years ago, it did not have the glamour of eye-catching branches of science such as space. Now, all the minutiae of the identification-the blood sample from Prince Philip, the intervention of Rostropovich to persuade the Japanese to part with a few threads of the handkerchief that staunched Nicholas’s wound when he was attacked by a would-be assassin-are being deployed to evoke interest in the


The identification of the imperial remains was made at the 98-6% probability level. The degree of uncertainty was largely due to the tsar’s DNA. His mitochondrial genes possessed two sequences, only one of which matched those of the surviving Romanov relatives. This "heteroplasmia", according to Dr Pavel Ivanov, of the academy’s Institute of Molecular Biology, was probably due to a mutation in the genes transmitted to him by his mother, Princess Dagmar of Denmark. If this could be proved, Ivanov says, then the probability would rise to 99-8% that the identification is correct. But there is no way of doing this "as yet". Vera Rich

News in brief Family planning clinics win protection passed a House of

The US Senate has

Representatives-Senate conference version of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act this week by a vote of 69 to 30 (see Lancet 1993; 343: 939-40 and 1355). The House approved the same measure on May 5. President Clinton promises to sign the bill. The new law prohibits any attempt to use force, physically obstruct, or threaten patients or staff at clinics providing abortions or other reproductive health services. Non-violent offences carry a maximum penalty of 18 months in jail and fines of US$25 000; violent offenders may be imprisoned for 10 years.