North Korea: don’t take the bait, says poli sci prof

By Clifton B. Parker

North Korea’s nuclear testing and bellicose rhetoric are raising the stakes for the U.S. and its allies.

Rather than take the bait, the U.S. should act “unimpressed with the nuclear brinksmanship,” said Miroslav Nincic, an international relations scholar who studies war, U.S. foreign policy and national security.

“A minimal response,” Nincic said, “allows the ineffectiveness of attempts to play the nuclear card to sink in. This might, in a few months, lead Pyongyang to explore better ways of acquiring the assistance and respect it wants.”

Final mouse genome published

The most complete version to date of the mouse genome was published yesterday in the journal PLoS Biology. “Build 36,” from the C57 inbred strain of black mice, has 175,000 fewer gaps, 139 megabytes of new sequences and realigns genes that were incorrectly described in an earlier version of the mouse genome.

The new genome map predicts just over 20,000 protein-coding genes in the mouse. About 75 percent of these are 1:1 “orthologs” or counterparts of human genes. The authors note that about 5,000 of these genes can be studied in “knockout” mice.

Law profs blog live on Prop 8 noon today

The Sacramento Bee will host a live debate on the California Supreme Court’s ruling upholding Proposition 8 at noon today. The panelists are Vikram Amar, professor and associate dean of the UC Davis law school; Professor Alan Brownstein, an expert on constitutional law at UC Davis; and John Cary Sims, a professor at McGeorge School of Law at the University of the Pacific.

Law dean welcomes Obama’s SCOTUS pick

Kevin Johnson, dean of the UC Davis School of Law, welcomed President Obama’s selection of Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court yesterday.

“It’s an amazing nomination,” Johnson told the Sacramento Bee. “He has hit the ball out of the proverbial park.” Johnson went on to say that Sotomayor was likely to disappoint both liberals (by not being liberal enough) and conservatives (by being a Democrat) but that she would have a huge impact on the court.

As the first Latina appointed to the Supreme Court, Sotomayor is “pathbreaking,” Johnson told the San Francisco Chronicle’s Carla Marinucci,  comparing her appointment to that of Thurgood Marshall.

Human stem cells form new blood vessels in mice

Therapy restores blood flow in mice, forms the basis for upcoming clinical trials in humans

(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) — Researchers have successfully induced the formation of new blood vessels in mice with reduced blood flow (ischemia) to their limbs using adult human stem cells. The breakthrough treatment resulted in fully functioning limbs that showed both increased blood flow to previously damaged areas and an increase in the number of blood vessels. The study, published in this week’s print edition of the journal Blood, paves the way for the stem cell-based treatment of peripheral arterial disease (PAD) in humans, a painful condition common in diabetic patients that can lead to amputation.

Teen biotech web competition is Friday

The winners of the 2009 Teen Biotech Challenge competition will be announced Friday at an awards ceremony in Freeborn Hall. In the competition, northern California high school students develop websites about topics around biotechnology — increasing their understanding of biotechnology’s impact on our society by taking an in depth look at topics such as stem cell research, biofuels, personalized medicine, GMO foods, forensic science and bioterrorism. This year over 450 students took part.

More information about the competition, and links to the winning websites in different categories, available here.  The Grand Prize winner will be announced Friday evening.

Rational thinking on flu vaccines

(Contributed by Nicole Baumgarth)

As public health officials look ahead to the continuing fight against H1N1 “swine flu” next fall, a consensus is emerging that a special vaccine should be developed to target this flu alone — and give it to people in the form of a separate shot. Two shots, in fact, as one shot is thought not sufficient to induce protective antibodies against an influenza virus we have not encountered before.

Unfortunately, this consensus view seems to be based less on science and more on regulatory and timing issues. The approach to vaccination should rather be based on the best available science about this virus and the immune response.

KVIE Asthma documentary airs tonight

“Breathless! Asthma in the Valley” airs tonight at 7 pm on KVIE-6. The documentary includes an interview with UC Davis asthma researcher Dallas Hyde, director of the California National Primate Research Center at UC Davis. Hyde and his colleagues at the UC Davis Schools of Veterinary Medicine and Medicine have done ground-breaking work using monkeys to understand how childhood asthma develops in humans.

Religious freedom and gay marriage

States that recognize gay marriage should protect the rights of individuals who object to gay marriage on religious grounds, but should take care not to infringe the new rights of gay and lesbian couples, writes UC Davis law professor Alan Brownstein in an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times.

For example, clergy should be able to decline to perform a religious marriage ceremony if it conflicts with their beliefs — but a religiously-affiliated hospital should not be able to deny visitation and decision-making rights to gay couples, he writes.

Public Forum on Stem Cell Treatments is May 12

Four UC Davis stem cell experts will give brief presentations on stem cell research followed by question-and-answer sessions during a community forum on Tuesday, May 12 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the UC Davis Cancer Center auditorium, 4501 X Street, in Sacramento.

The event, which is free and open to the public, is the first in a series of three discussions entitled “Stem Cell Dialogues,” which offer opportunities for the public to learn about the stem cell therapies UC Davis is developing to potentially treat and cure a wide array of disease and injury. With limited seating, those interested in attending this first session should reserve seats by contacting Michele Steiner at or calling her at 916-734-9116.