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Letter from the editor | 110

A law for life

The Biosafety Law could not take up any other position other than that of the front cover of this issue of Pesquisa FAPESP. This is because its final approval in Congress, last 2nd  of March, and its sanctioning by president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, on the 24th of the same month, represents a clear and important advance in the country’s scientific and technological policy – indeed, well understood and covered in-depth by the national media as a whole. Throughout its twelve pages that, starting from page 24, deal with the theme, the editors Claudia Izique and Marcos Pivetta take turns to show us the battles and the positions taken up among the different actors that has guaranteed a victory for the defenders of research with embryonic stem cells and transgenics; the panorama of the current research with stem cells in the country and its possibilities of development under the new law; and finally, the prospects, both in knowledge and economics, which open up with the chapter referring to genetically modified foods within the new legislation. To complete this wide coverage we have made use of the fact that the geneticist Mayana Zatz has been transformed into a sort of symbolic figure in the fight for the approval of research with embryonic stem cells, to be our guest to the interviewee of this issue, starting on page 12. Clearly Mayana, a brilliant researcher, internationally recognized, listened to on this occasion by editor Pivetta and myself, could have appeared in one of our interviews for some considerable time now, and, de rigueur, the magazine has long been in debt to its readers. We have taken this opportunity to remedy the situation.

One of the other highlights of this number, which for sure would have been the cover if it had not been for the Biosafety Law, is the report by the assistant science editor, Ricardo Zorzetto, starting on page 48, about the results of the most recent research into sleep, ongoing at the Sleep Studies Center, one of the Cepids, or Research, Innovation and Diffusion Centers, funded by FAPESP. The most surprising of them, to be taken and re-examined with caution, speaks of the evidence found using rats in which the female hormone progesterone would be responsible under determined circumstances for penis erection. Not always, it would seem, does testosterone rule. If this is confirmed by new studies, we will certainly have in front of us a weighty change on the current knowledge of sexual hormones, and especially those of progesterone, estrogen and testosterone. Also in the science section it is worth drawing attention to the article by editor Carlos Fioravanti, starting on page 62, about new and unexpected properties of magnetic materials, discovered by a São Paulo and a Rio de Janeiro research group. In the practical world, these properties already bring about dreaming, for example of refrigerators worked by materials capable of cooling or warming with considerable more efficiency when submitted to a magnetic field.

Anyhow, if dreams and sleep still have vast untapped regions, and perhaps even unreachable for a long time to come, the ups and downs, the peaks and valleys of the Brazilian relief map on the contrary are now unveiled with enormous clarity thanks to work produced by Embrapa, the Brazilian Agricultural research Corporation, from images captured by the space shuttle Endeavour, as told by our technology editor, Marcos Oliveira, beginning on page 72. And finally, it is worth while taking a fun dive into the universe of comic books, in order to confirm its past and its present – powerful, indeed – within the Brazilian cultural panorama. The humanities editor, Carlos Haag, starting from page 86, that new esearch and a fascinating book show that comics, in the style of He-Man from the decade of the 80’s, is still a force to be reckoned with around here.