Chemists from California have created a new form of life—a bacterium that makes proteins out of 21 amino acids, one more than the 20 used by almost every other organism on earth. The new Escherichia coli can manufacture the extra amino acid, p-aminophenylalanine, then incorporate it into proteins. But is there any point? Further experiments to find out are planned (Journal of the American Chemical Society; see http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/ja0284153).
Vaccine research recently inched forward a little with the discovery of a gene that controls long term immunity (Nature 2003;421:282-7). Mice without the SAP gene mount a decent initial immunological response to pathogens, but their immune systems have no long term memory. Defects in the SAP gene are quickly lethal in people.
If youre planning a skiing trip this winter, stay alert for signs of high altitude pulmonary oedema. You dont have to be that high. French researchers reported on 52 skiers