Sperm gene ‘totally crapped out’

A team of University of Toronto researchers has identified the gene that causes male infertility, reported the National Post May 23. Along the way they turned to the expertise of York Biology Professor Peter Moens, Faculty of Pure & Applied Science, who is a world authority on genetics. Scientists found that the gene, Fkbp6, prevents sperm production (they were actually looking for a cure for heart disease). “They [the genes] got halfway to developing sperm and they just totally crapped out,” said Moens. The Post story noted that since the U of T research team knew “next to nothing about the production of sex cells,” they went to Moens for help. Moens tested the cells of the experiment’s test subjects, mutant mice, that give rise to sperm – spermatocytes. He found they were indeed defective. The mysterious gene also appears to play a critical role in meiosis, the creation of sex cells, and could help scientists learn to prevent spontaneous miscarriages and disorders such as Down’s Syndrome. The discovery was published May 23 in the journal Science.

C’mon, enlighten up!

Commenting on a provocative study by University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers, who found Buddhist-style meditation can lower anxiety, promote happiness and boost the immune system, York philosophy Professor Evan Thompson, Faculty of Arts, suggested more research should be done on the efficacies of meditation, reported the Hamilton Spectator May 23. Thompson plans to attend a fall symposium at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology exploring the common ground between Buddhism and behavioural science.

Biz students thirsty for ethics

Students from York’s Schulich School of Business were among 1,700 respondents, from a dozen international business schools, polled by the non-profit Aspen Institute about their attitudes on a number of issues, including social responsibility, job prospects and corporate mismanagement, reported the Globe and Mail May 23. According to poll results, only 22 per cent of respondents said that business schools are doing “a lot” to prepare the next generation of corporate leaders to manage value conflicts such as fraud and mismanagement, while 19 per cent reported that students are not being prepared at all. “MBA students are sending the signal that they want to be better trained to balance the complex, interdependent needs of business and society,” said Nancy McGaw, deputy director of the Aspen Institute’s business and society program.

Biotech brainiacs

Local senior high-school students won the $5,000 first-place prize in the 2003 Aventis Biotech Challenge at the Ontario Science Centre for their biotechnology research on Nitroreductase, “A New Breed of Pollution-fighting Secret Agent”, reported Canada News-Wire May 22. York biology Professor Logan Donaldson, Faculty of Pure & Applied Science, mentored the team’s project, which involved the development of a system to remove highly toxic nitrogen-based contaminants from water.

Population growth and the Jewish community

Sociology Professor Leo David, Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies, said Canada’s Jewish community “is potentially in trouble” if immigration is not substantially increased, reported the Canadian Jewish News May 22. He was responding to recently released figures from Statistics Canada indicating Canada’s Jewish population is growing – but slowly. One of the problems, said David, is that there seems to be no national Jewish strategy. “To what extent can Canada act nationally? Is Canadian Jewry ‘mobilizable,’ the way it is in Britain? Canada doesn’t seem to have the mechanisms in place. Canadian Jewish Congress has fallen into a slump, and it’s individual cities that are acting.”

Schoolyard bullying happens every seven minutes

Bullying in schoolyards occurs once every seven minutes and can be physical, verbal or psychological, varying from direct and face to face to indirect in the form of gossip, according to a York University research project conducted by the LaMarsh Centre for Research on Violence and Conflict Resolution, cited in the Canadian Jewish News May 22.

On Air

  • Osgoode Hall Law School Professor Alan Young spoke about the legalization of marijuana on the “Stirling Faux Show” (CKNW -Vancouver/Western Canada) May 18.
  • Osgoode Hall Law School Professor and Director of York’s Innocence Project Dianne Martin was interviewed on “Metro Morning” (CBL-FM Toronto) about police pressure on three men to supply DNA samples in the Holly Jones’ murder case. Martin questioned police tactics.