Letters from the September 8, 2007, issue of Science News

Patent pending

If Drs. Glass and Venter succeed in assembling a viable synthetic bacterial genome (“Life Swap: Switching genomes converts bacteria,” SN: 6/30/07, p. 403), will the genome or the new life form itself be patentable?

Virgil H. Soule
Frederick, Md.

The team that performed this work stirred controversy when it applied for a patent on a synthetic bacterial genome in October 2006. The patent hasn’t yet been granted.—P. Barry

Whisky or sour?

It has been reported that vinegar, taken before a meal, can lower postmeal blood glucose. If so, the lowering of postmeal blood glucose by alcohol, as reported in “Alcohol Answer? Drinks lower glucose to protect heart” (SN: 6/30/07, p. 405), may be the result of the alcohol being metabolized to acetic acid by the body.

William Haag
Bloomer, Wis.

While both alcohol and vinegar lower blood glucose after a meal, they act through different pathways in the body. Vinegar lowers blood glucose by retarding the release of food from the stomach.—C. Barry

One more thing

“Antibiotics in infancy tied to asthma” (SN: 7/7/07, p. 14) offers two explanations for the correlation of asthma with early infancy antibiotics: a need for the immune system to be trained by early exposure to microbial toxins and a need for normal intestinal microflora in the development of normal immune response. Another possibility is that the rashes and infections that prompted the use of antibiotics share a common cause with the subsequent asthma.

Matthew H. Fields
Ann Arbor, Mich.

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