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PHOTOGRAPH BY AGÊNCIA NATIVA DO MEIO RURAL

EDITORIAL . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4

ILLUSTRATION BY NEGREIROS

CONTENTS

MEMORY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 SOFTWARE INTEGRATES DATA BANKS ON LIVING SPECIES . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 BIOTA-PARÁ DRAWS UP A LIST OF SPECIES THREATENED WITH EXTINCTION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 BRAZILIANS SEQUENCE LEPTOSPIRA INTERROGANS’ GENOME . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24 COMPETITION MADE DNA PREVAIL AS THE MOLECULE OF LIFE . . . . . . . . . . . . 28

PROTEIN FROM THE PITOMBA ELIMINATES FUNGI AND BORERS . . . . . . . 38 DISCOVERIES AID PERNAMBUCO WOOD’S CONSERVATION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40 SMOKE FROM SLASH-AND-BURN FIRES BLOCKS OUT SUNLIGHT AND COOL DOWN THE AMAZON FOREST . . . . . . . . . . .46 WOOLLY SPIDER MONKEYS HAVE A SINGULAR FORM OF COMMUNICATION . . . 52 BIOLOGISTS TRY TO REPOPULATE CORAL REEFS AT THE BRAZILIAN COAST . . . . . . . 58 BRAZILIAN PHYSICISTS JOIN THE WORLDWIDE RACE IN SEARCH OF THE QUANTUM COMPUTER . . . . . . . . . . 64

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70

CATTLE RANCHING

SOFTWARE

Bovine genome project will boost Brazil´s advantage in the international beef market

Linguists and engineers formulate a speech system with a Brazilian accent

18

90

MEDICINE

Transplants using stem cell usher in the prospect of using this technique against heart failure

Researcher organizes collection of tunes, ballads and poems that was in Villa-Lobos possession

PHOTOGRAPH BY MIGUEL BOYAYAN

PARTNERSHIP BETWEEN UNIVERSITIES AND THE STEEL PRODUCER CSN BRINGS IN US$ 85 MILLION . . . . . . . . 72

POPULAR CULTURE

SILICON FILM IMPROVES RESISTANCE OF WING’S LIGHT OF EMBRAER’S PLANES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 76 CACHAÇA HAS FEWER SUBSTANCES RESPONSIBLE FOR HANGOVERS THAN WHISKY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 78

IMAGE BY FUNDO VILLA-LOBOS

SCHOOLTEACHER AND FARMER DISCOVER DINOSAUR FOSSILS IN MARANHÃO . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32

MATERIAL FROM LATEX OF THE RUBBER TREE HEALS ULCERS . . . . . . . . . 86 NELSON RODRIGUES AND GILBERTO FREYRE: CONFLICTIVE NOTIONS ON THE BRAZILIAN FAMILY . . . . . . . . . . . . 94 DARIO FO’S PLAYS GUARANTEE LONG LIFE TO THE POLITICAL THEATER . . . . . . . 98 ANALISYS AUTHENTICATES DÜRER’S XYLOGRAPHS AT RIO’S COLLECTION . . . . 102 CARTOON . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 114

Cover and art: Hélio de Almeida

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INTERVIEW

BIOTECHNOLOGY

Small company teams up with Brazilian pharmaceutical industry to produce hormone against dwarfism

Ismail Xavier analyzes the dialog between the Brazilian cinema and the Nelson Rodrigues theater PESQUISA FAPESP

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ISSN 1519-8774

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FAPESP CARLOS VOGT PRESIDENT PAULO EDUARDO DE ABREU MACHADO VICE-PRESIDENT BOARD OF TRUSTEES ADILSON AVANSI DE ABREU, CARLOS HENRIQUE DE BRITO CRUZ, CARLOS VOGT, CELSO LAFER, HERMANN WEVER, HORÁCIO LAFER PIVA,MARCOS MACARI, NILSON DIAS VIEIRA JUNIOR, PAULO EDUARDO DE ABREU MACHADO,RICARDO RENZO BRENTANI, VAHAN AGOPYAN, YOSHIAKI NAKANO

EDITORIAL

The best of the science made in Brazil

EXECUTIVE BOARD JOAQUIM J. DE CAMARGO ENGLER ADMINISTRATIVE DIRECTOR AND PRESIDENT DIRECTOR (TEMPORARY) JOSÉ FERNANDO PEREZ SCIENTIFIC DIRECTOR

PESQUISA FAPESP EDITORIAL COUNCIL LUIZ HENRIQUE LOPES DOS SANTOS (SCIENTIFIC COORDINATOR), EDGAR DUTRA ZANOTTO, FRANCISCO ANTONIO BEZERRA COUTINHO, JOAQUIM J. DE CAMARGO ENGLER, JOSÉ FERNANDO PEREZ, LUIZ EUGÊNIO ARAÚJO DE MORAES MELLO, PAULA MONTERO, WALTER COLLI EDITOR IN CHIEF MARILUCE MOURA MANAGING EDITOR NELDSON MARCOLIN SENIOR EDITOR MARIA DA GRAÇA MASCARENHAS ART DIRECTOR HÉLIO DE ALMEIDA EXECUTIVE EDITOR RICARDO ZORZETTO EDITORS CARLOS FIORAVANTI (SCIENCE), CLAUDIA IZIQUE (S&T POLICY) MARCOS DE OLIVEIRA (TECHNOLOGY), CARLOS HAAG (HUMANITIES), HEITOR SHIMIZU (ON-LINE VERSION) SPECIAL EDITOR MARCOS PIVETTA ASSISTANT EDITORS DINORAH ERENO ART CHIEF TÂNIA MARIA DOS SANTOS ART JOSÉ ROBERTO MEDDA, LUCIANA FACCHINI PHOTOGRAPHERS EDUARDO CESAR, MIGUEL BOYAYAN COLABORATORS CLAUDIUS, DÉBORA CRIVELLARO, MARILI RIBEIRO, MÁRIO VIANA, NEGREIROS, TÂNIA MARQUES, THIAGO ROMERO (ON-LINE), YURI VASCONCELOS ENGLISH VERSION TRANSLATION ROGER SKIPP, MARTIN FOLEY REVISION ALEX PADALKO SUBSCRIPTIONS TELETARGET TEL. (55 11) 3038-1434 – FAX: (55 11) 3038-1418

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The signed articles do not necessarily reflect FAPESP’s opinion THE TOTAL OR PARTIAL REPRODUCTION OF TEXTS OR PHOTOGRAPHS WITHOUT PREVIOUS PERMISSION IS STRICTLY PROHIBITED

SECRETARIA DA CIÊNCIA TECNOLOGIA E DESENVOLVIMENTO ECONÔMICO

GOVERNO DO ESTADO DE SÃO PAULO

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PESQUISA FAPESP

SPECIAL ISSUE DEC 2002 / FEB 2004

W

e are glad to present the most recent English edition of Pesquisa FAPESP, a leading science news magazine published monthly in Brazil. This special issue is the second one printed in English and exhibits some of the best articles written by our staff and collaborators between December 2002 and February 2004 – the first one was printed in 2002 and comprised articles written from March to November of that year. The following 112 pages bring you a short overview of the Brazilian scientific production that reached 11,285 papers December, 2002 published in the ISI indexed journals in 2003 – almost half of Latin America scientific production and 1.55% of world scientific production – in many different areas such as genetics, physics, medicine, ecology, chemistry, materials science and biochemistry, just to mention some. In this issue, you will discover that the preeminent Brazilian sanitarian Oswaldo Cruz, who lived in the beginning of the last century, was a promising talent since his early years when he went to study at Pasteur Institute in Paris. You will also find the most advanced results of an experimental treatment: the transplant of stem cells into the heart muscle to recover from heart failure. Pesquisa FAPESP narrates Brazilian researchers efforts to save pernambuco wood (pau-brasil in Portuguese), the tree that named the country, from the risk of extinction and the climate alterations caused in the Amazon Forest by the use of the slash-and-burn clearance to prepare the land for cultivation. From page 72 to 75, we show the successful partnership between scientists that work at universities and scientists of the enormous Companhia Siderúrgica Nacional (CSN), one of the biggest Brazilian steel producer. At the huma-


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January, 2003

February, 2003

March, 2003

April, 2003

June, 2003

December, 2003

January, 2004

February, 2004

nities section, you can read the charming story of a researcher that organized an abundance of documents – tunes, parodies, songs and musical duels – registering popular culture that were in possession of the maestro Heitor Villa-Lobos, one of the most important Brazilian classical composer. Pesquisa FAPESP is an effective means to diffuse the scientific knowledge discovered by the São Paulo State Research Foudation (FAPESP), the second biggest science funding agency in Brazil that has been associated for 40 years with the expansion of scientific research in São Paulo – state that produces nearly 50% of the Brazilian scientific production. Find every month at the web site of Pesquisa FAPESP (www.revistapesquisa.fapesp.br) – published in Portuguese, English and Spanish – an in-depth prospect of the most representative Brazilian studies in several scientific branches. MARILUCE MOURA Editor in Chief PESQUISA FAPESP

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PHOTOGRAPHS BY ACERVO DA CASA DE OSWALDO CRUZ/FIOCRUZ

MEMORY

The sanitarian at the Pasteur Institute, Paris, in 1897: the first Brazilian to study at the institution

A promising start At the age of early 20, Oswaldo Cruz published his first work N ELDSON M ARCOLIN Published in May 2003

Cruz with other researchers in Manguinhos, Rio de Janeiro. In the background, the Serotherapy Institute 6

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anitarian Oswaldo Cruz lived only 44 years, but he used every moment for learning and taking an active part in the life of the country. To start with, the thesis which earned him a doctorate, at the age of 20. At the end of the 19th century, the candidates to become physicians would be enrolled in the rare courses available, and had to prepare, write and defend a thesis to be approved at the end of six years. A native of São Luís do Paraitinga, in São Paulo, but brought up in Rio de Janeiro, Cruz decided on medicine at the age of 14. He graduated at 20, knowing exactly what he wanted to do in life. “Since the first day that is given us to admire the enchanting panorama that is descried when one puts the eyes to the eyepiece of a microscope (...) the idea took root in our spirit that our intellectual efforts from now onwards would converge for us to acquire learning and become specialized in a science that supports itself on microscopy”, says Oswaldo Cruz, in the first paragraph of his thesis Microbial Transmission through Water, defended on November 8, 1892, at the School of Medicine in Rio and published 110 years ago. In the same work, the patron of the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation and of Brazilian sanitarism presented an apparatus invented by him, for collecting ground water with as little contamination as possible, as an alternative to foreign machines that he regarded as no good. This was just the beginning of a brilliant

Cruz (in the middle, seated), with scientists at the Manguinhos Teahouse. Also seated, Carlos Chagas (2nd, from left to right) and Adolpho Lutz (the 5th)

career that enjoyed the collaboration of a new generation of scientists, such as Carlos Chagas, Adolpho Lutz, Vital Brazil and Henrique da Rocha Lima, amongst others. Cruz studied at the Pasteur Institute (from 1896 to 1899), founded the Serotherapy Institute (1900), the future Oswaldo Cruz Institute, and became director-general of Public Health (1903), at the age of

30. His work was fundamental in campaigns to combat the epidemics of those times. This year, there will be the possibility of getting to know more about this scientist. The Bank of Brazil Foundation, Odebrecht and the House of Oswaldo Cruz have created an exhibition that will visit municipalities all over Brazil. For further information, write for cidadania-e@fbb.org.br. PESQUISA FAPESP

Cover of the thesis (left) and the caricature of the French magazine Chanteclair, of 1911 (above): international recognition

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SCIENTIFIC AND TECHNOLOGICAL POLICY CATTLE RANCHING

The advance

of the cattle herds

The bovine functional genome project will boost Brazil’s competitive advantage in the international beef market Published in June 2003

D

uring 2002, Brazil counted some 183 million head of cattle and moved on to have the largest commercial herd in the world. This year it is going to take over first place among beef exporting countries. With sales forecast at 1.2 million tons, passing ahead of Australia – whose external sales should not be more than 0.95 million tons since they are suffering from a bad drought – and the United States – that have maintained the historic mark of between 1.05 and 1.1 million tons. This performance, not at all bad for a country that twenty five years ago had registered a deficit in the trade balance of this product, must be accredited, in a large part, to the scientific research developed by the universities and specialized institutions in partnership with cattlemen’s associations that have guaranteed genetic improvements, the increase of productivity and the health of the herds, and added value to Brazilian ex-

ports. Looking only at the figures of last year, the external beef sales accounted for US$ 1.1 billion. If this total were to be added to the results of all of the productivity chain – leather and leather goods and footwear –, one would arrive at an income of US$ 3.2 billion, out of US$ 60.3 billion coming from Brazilian exports during this period. This competitive advantage gained by the country should widen with the research results from the Bovine Functional Genome Project, launched on the 7th of May of this year. The project is going to identify the bovine genes of animals belonging to the Nelore breed, a variety of Zebu (Bos indicus) – that make up 80% of the Brazilian cattle herds – in order to develop products and technologies that will permit overcoming limitations related to growth, quality of meat, health and reproductive efficiency, which still impedes greater competitiveness in the national cattle breeding. “This is a historic leap for the country”, declared the São Paulo


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State Governor, Geraldo Alckmin, present at the launching of the project. The studies will be undertaken by researchers with the Agronomy and Environment Genomes Program (AEG), at twenty research laboratories. The project has a budget of US$ 1 million, funded by FAPESP in partnership with the Central Bela Vista de Genética Bovina (see Pesquisa FAPESP magazine, issue 87). “The final objective is to improve the quality of the meat so as to achieve good prices and get into new markets”, says Jovelino Mineiro from Bela Vista. “Biotechnology opens up a new window of opportunity for the country”, emphasizes José Fernando Perez, FAPESP’s scientific director. Besides boosting the productivity of the herds and sustaining the outstanding position of Brazil in international beef commerce, the studies on bovine genome are going to allow the country to ad-

vance towards the demands of the World Trade Organization (WTO), responsible for establishing the rules for sanitation, genetics and zootechniques. These rules are based on research developed by countries with the most up-to-date scientific knowledge. “With the functional genome project, we can anticipate and even establish new rules that guarantee even greater advantages on the world beef market”, forecasts the State Secretary for Science, Technology, Economic Development and Tourism, João Carlos de Souza Meirelles. A cattle producer himself, the secretary is a qualified observer: he has been the President of the National Council of Cattlemen, of the National Committee for Animal Health, Vice President of the International Meat Secretariat and coordinator of the Forum for the Productivity Chain in the Bovine Cattle Raising for Mercosul, among other positions.

From registers to research - The functional genome study represents an extraordinary advance in bovine research that began last century when the first genealogical registers of the Brazilian herds were established. “The first necessary piece of information to make any kind of genetic improvement is to know who the animal’s father and mother are”, comments Antônio do Nascimento Rosa, a researcher at the Brazilian Agriculture Research Corporation (Embrapa) Beef Cattle, with its headquarters in the city of Campo Grande, in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul. The first of these registers, dating back to 1904, was started in the town of Bagé, in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, and catalogued bulls and cows of European origin (Bos taurus). During 1918 a register for the Zebu breed (Bos indicus) was published by the Rural Society of the Minas Gerais Triangle (a cattle rai-


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sing region in the state of Minas Gerais), currently the Brazilian Association of Zebu Breeders (ABCZ); the original breed having come from India. Starting in the 50s, there began to be carried out in Brazil the so-called Proofs on Weight Gain (PGP in the Portuguese acronym). “Animals from different herds were brought together in a confined environment or in a closed field and exposed to the same conditions so as to know which animals would gain weight the fastest”, tells Rosa. At this point, the selection of the better animals would take place and they would be used for reproduction. Classic genetics - In the 60s, the first great official leap forward in Brazilian production was registered with the establishing of the National Program for the Development of Cattle Breeding, when the country developed a cold store cycle and went on to invest in production technologies to improve the sanitary conditions of the slaughter houses. Ten years afterwards there was the start of classical research into applied quantitative genetics, implemented by universities, research institutions and associations of cattlemen in order to improve the herds. These programs had as their objective the production of animals with improved commercial characteristics, or that is to say, animals that put on weight faster, had precocious reproduction and produced a better quality of meat. “Today, after more than three decades of research, we can say that Brazil is a world center of reference in genetic improvement research”, declares Irineu Umberto Packer, from the Luiz de Queiroz College of Agriculture (Esalq) of the University of Sao Paulo (USP). The Advanced Center of Technological Research in the Agribusiness of Beef Cattle belongs to the Zootechnique Institute of the Secretariat of Agriculture of the State of Sao Paulo, one of the pioneers in research towards the reduction of the animal’s age for slaughtering, has registered scientific results and excellent practices.“We can confirm a weight gain in the order of 1% per year, or 3 kilograms, in the selected animals. With this a young animal of one year of age, weighs close to 60 kilograms more than a similar animal twenty years ago”, explains Alexander George Razook, who headed the selection program 10

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of Zebu cattle (Nelore, Guzera and Gir) based on the post weaning weight and their effects on food conversion, reproduction and carcass, that started back in 1976.“This difference is translated in the weight at slaughter and in the carcass”, he stated.

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ince 1991, researchers at the São Paulo State University (Unesp) in the town of Botucatu, have also been carrying out research to accelerate the precocity of the animals. “In Brazil, cattle take on average three to four years to be ready for slaughtering. With our research into super precocious calves, we have reduced this time to thirteen months. The sooner the animal is ready for slaughtering the softer is its meat”, explains Antônio Carlos Silveira, who coordinates the thematic project Beef Cattle Growth on the Super Precocious Biological Model, financed by FAPESP. Started in 1999, the project can count upon the participation of the Agrarian Sciences and Veterinary College (FCAV) of Unesp at Jaboticabal, the School of Medicine of USP at Ribeirão Preto, of Esalq and of the Biosciences Institute of Unesp at Botucatu. “Now we want to produce a super precocious calf using only animals of the Nelore breed which, it is recognized, are considered late developers. We have to discover how to accelerate the speed of the growth of bone and muscle tissue of the animal, and for this reason the Bovine Functional Genome Project is going to help us a lot”, says the researcher. The Southeast Embrapa Cattle has also been working to raise the productivity of national cattle raising by cross breeding among different breeds, but maintaining the Nelore as the base, explains Maurício Mello de Alencar. Five cross breeding systems involving bulls of the Nelore, Canchim, Angus and Simmental breeds along with cows of the Nelore or of high interbreeding of the Nelore, are being evaluated. The research is part of the thematic project Cross Breeding Strategies, Management and Biotechnique Practices for the Sustained Intensification of the Production of Cattle Meat, also financed by FAPESP.“It is a project for animal production that involves genetic improvement based on commercial cross-breeding”, explains Alencar. “Our objective is to

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produce biologically different large calves in order to study their efficiency.” After birth the animals are evaluated in various aspects (genetic, nutrition, reproduction, health and economic) throughout their lives. The researcher explains that the calves and heifers are produced in different seasons of the year so that it will be possible to study distinct techniques of feeding and managing. This is a lengthy project whose results should come out next year. Pasture improvement - Besides the efforts to increase the productivity of the herds, there is also a search on for improving pasture. “The average animal productivity in the country is of five arrobas (one arroba is equivalent to 15 kilograms) per hectare annually and 1,000 liters of milk per hectare per year. These numbers can get as high as 58 arrobas and 45,000 liters of milk, respectively, depending on the degree of intensification of use of this pasture”, reveals Moacyr Corsi from Esalq, who has been investigating forms of improving Brazilian pasture for some thirty five years and is the coordinator of the thematic project Properties and Evaluation of Irrigated Pastureland and its Management (Capim), financed through FAPESP. The quantity of pasturage depends on an increase of productivity of the fodder plant and of its management. “In Brazil the average efficiency in the pasture is around 30% to 50%, which means that between 50% and 70% of the fodder produced is lost. It is possible to raise the level of efficiency to between 70% and 80%”, Corsi forecasts. The increase in production of pasturage might well be achieved through better soil conditions, by the use of liming and the application of fertilizers containing nitrates, potassium and micronutrients. In the states of Paraná, Goiás and São Paulo, they have been able to reach a productivity of around 60 arrobas per hectare per year in non-irrigated pasture and above 70 arrobas in irrigated pasture”, says Corsi. The economic and commercial results of the scientific research are unquestionable. In twenty years, the birth rate measured by weaning – generally occurring at nine months into the life of the calf – has fallen from 72% to 50%; the average age for slaughtering has been reduced from five years to


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Scientific research has guaranteed genetic improvement and greater productivity of the herds

three and a half; and the production from the carcass – measured by the quantity of meat and bone after the animal has been gutted and its skin removed – has increased from 190 kilograms to 220 kilograms. This gain in productivity last year allowed the country to produce 8.2 million tons of meat, to register an internal consumption of 37 kilograms of meat per capita, “one of the highest in the world”, according to Meirelles, and to export almost 1 million tons. It has been this constant increase in productivity of the herds that during 1978 allowed Brazil to invert the inflection of the curve of importing and exporting. Up until that point, the country had exported beef to Europe, mainly to Great Britain, but imported an even greater amount from the Argentine and Uruguay. “During 1979 we became net exporters and we began thinking in a strategic manner about Brazilian cattle rearing”, the Secretary recalls. Starting at the beginning of the 80s, the Productivity Chain of Beef Cattle, in the environment of the National Council of Beef Cattle was established. The Council organized the productivity sectors – “from the calf to

the beef steak, passing through the leather industry”, says the Secretary –, started up scientific research, the production of inputs, refrigerated slaughterhouses, the tanneries and the artifact sector and the leather industry. “Today this conjunction of activities makes up the productivity chain with the largest number of direct jobs in the country: 8.5 million workers”, emphasizes Meirelles. Currently the cattle industry represents two of every three hectares occupied by rural activities, or that is to say, of the 3.8 million square kilometers of the land where agricultural activities are being developed in the country, 2.6 million are dedicated to cattle rearing. Epic zoo-sanitation improvement -

However, to win over the external beef market, Brazil had to declare war on tuberculosis, on brucellosis and above all, the illness that terrorizes cattlemen: foot and mouth disease.Various countries will not import fresh meat from regions with foot and mouth disease, among them the European Union, which is currently the main importer of Brazilian beef. Scientific research and official vaccination campaigns against foot and mouth disease today guarantee that 140 million

head of cattle, from a total number of 183 million, are raised in zones free of this illness, in a production belt that runs from the states of Rio Grande do Sul to Bahia, passing through Tocantins, Mato Grosso and Rondonia. The expectation is that the illness will be completely eradicated by the year 2005. Recent research is also promising advances in combating bovine brucellosis, which brings about abortion in cows starting at the fifth month of gestation. The vaccine most widely used in Brazil is produced starting from live microorganisms but Sérgio Costa Oliveira, from the Biological Sciences Institute of the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG), has developed a DNA vaccine, already successfully applied in mice, which is currently under test with cattle. “In genetic research we have evolved in a spectacular manner. From the sanitary point of view the evolution of the Brazilian herds has perhaps been the greatest epic zoo-sanitation improvement in history, when one considers the size of the herds and the dimensions of national territory”, commemorates Meirelles. “We have most definitely left the state of being mere shop assistants.” •

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MEGA SCIENCE

Network

oflife

Software permits the integration of data banks with information on plants, animals and microorganisms R ICARD O Z ORZET TO Published in December 2002

I

n the very near future, Internet users will be able to access an integrated network of data banks with information on the name, classification and distribution of thousands of species of plants, animals and natural microorganisms in the state of São Paulo – essential knowledge for the definition of strategies for the preservation of the local biodiversity. As yet without a defined name, this network will integrate the data of the Phanerogamous Flora Project of the State of São Paulo, which for nine years has been cataloguing 7,500 species of flowering plants, with those of the network Species Link, which brings together information on twelve herbarium and museum collections in the state of São Paulo, and microorganisms registered through the SinBiota, the Information System of the Biota-FAPESP Program, responsible for the survey of the biodiversity and natural resources of São Paulo. It will also be the first step that may allow the Brazilian participation in a much wider network, directed towards the conservation of the biological diversity of the planet. Technically the fulfillment of this initiative, pioneer in Brazil and, in some aspects in the world, has become possible thanks to a protocol of communication named DiGIR (Distributed Generic Information Retrieval), which allows tracking down information in distinct data banks and presents the results to the user as if the information had come from a single data bank source. The in-

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ternational team that developed the software just about a year ago presented the most recent tested version, the last one before DiGIR 1.0, at the end of October in the town of Indaiatuba, in the interior of São Paulo, during the forum entitled Tendencies and Development in Information Technology for Biodiversity – the branch of information technology directed towards the creation of tools applicable for the study of the distribution and analysis of species. The team includes researchers from the Reference Center on Environmental Information (Cria in the Portuguese Acronym), the institution responsible for the maintenance of SinBiota, and Australian and German specialists and others from the universities of Kansas and California, in the United States. The idea of developing a program that would integrate data from different systems – the so-called inter-operability, essential for allowing access of a greatest number of researchers to the greatest possible quantity of information on biodiversity – came about at a meeting of the Work Group on Taxonomic Data Bases that occurred during 2000 in Frankfurt, Germany.“Up to that moment, each network had developed its own software for exchanging information. We were on the road to developing the Species Link, and probably we might have created yet another different program, without the capacity of being able to inter-communicate with the other networks”, explains the systems analyst Ricardo Scachetti Pereira,

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from Cria. “During the meeting the idea of DiGIR was presented, which would allow the exchange of information. Consequently we decided to participate in the development of this protocol of communication.” Exactly because of the possibility of exchanging information between different data banks, the influence of DiGIR must not be restricted to the São Paulo network. It will also be a tool to be used in the virtual integration of this network with other networks of data banks on biodiversity existing in North America (Species Analyst), in Europe (European Natural History Specimen Information Network) and in Australia (Australia’s Virtual Herbarium). And furthermore, according to the researcher Vanderlei Perez Canhos, director president of Cria, the DiGIR program is even a strong candidate to be adopted as the protocol that would make the integration of information systems of a multinational initiative, much more ambitious, namely: the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF). Catalogue of life - Established in 2001, under the auspices of the Mega Science Forum of OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development), the GBIF is an international ini-

Difficult access: drawing of the shrub Physocalyx major, part of the work Nova Genera et Species Plantarum, by the botanist Karl von Martius

KARL FRIEDRICH PHILIPP VON MARTIUS/MISSOURI BOTANICAL GARDEN

SCIENTIFIC AND TECHNOLOGICAL POLICY


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tiative responsible for the coordination of a network that aims to integrate, and to make available through the Internet, not only the biology collections of the whole world – it is calculated that museums, herbariums and other collections store three billion examples of all the organisms extinct or currently living –, but also an electronic list with the name and the taxonomic classification of 1.75 million species of plants, animals and microorganisms scientifically described, the so-called catalogue of life. All of this, with the objective of assisting towards the solution of a question as old as it is important: the loss of the planet’s biodiversity. “This is a global crisis in which everyone loses. It’ll only be slowed down if concrete measures are taken to preserve the environment, for which it is necessary to have a large portfolio of scientific and technological knowledge”, Canhos comments.

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hough the degradation of the environment has been under discussion since the 70s, the prospects for reversing the losses in biodiversity are not exciting. The very author of the term biodiversity, the American biologist Edward Wilson, from Harvard University, alerts in his most recent book The Future of Life, about the need not only of making data on described species available, but of completing, over a twenty five-year period, this inventory of living species along with the close to eight million still to be described. And for a worrying motive: over the last century human activity has triggered mass extinction never before seen since the Mesozoic era, which may eliminate or endanger a quarter of the plants and animals during the next thirty years. In an article published during 2000 in the magazine Science, Wilson estimated that it would be necessary to work twenty years and have an investment of US$ 5 billion to complete this mapping, done in a comparable manner to the Human Genome Project, which took some thirteen years to sequence man’s genetic material. To turn the existing information available, to complete the mapping of the species and to analyze this data with information technology tools is an impossible task to be taken on by only a few institutions. It is an effort that de-

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Catalogue of life: digitalization preserves data about diverse species, such as the woolly spider monkey (Brachyteles arachnoides) and the solanaceas (right)

mands the help of researchers from several areas and the involvement of the greatest number of countries as possible, working in a cooperative and integrated manner – a characteristic of mega-science projects, kicked off in biology by the Human Genome Project. “No single country’s capable of carrying this out alone”, comments Dora Ann Lange Canhos, the project director at Cria. For this reason, at the OECD meeting during 1996, the establishing of a mega-structure (the GBIF) was recommended, capable of stimulating the participation of researchers and institutes of various countries – principally those that possess considerable biological diversity. Lack of consensus - In spite of being

the owner of the largest biodiversity on the planet, Brazil has still not officially joined the GBIF – which is made up of around thirty nations – and participates only informally, through the development of information technology tools for use in biodiversity. And it is not because of a question of budget – joining would cost the country around US$ 50,000 annually, the equivalent of maintaining two doctorate students abroad for this period –, but because of a lack of consensus. While technical personnel from the Ministry of Science and Technology (MCT) and an expressive part of the scientific community are in favor of joining, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs believes that Brazil would be at a disadvantage, since it would cede more information abroad than it would receive in return – and, in this manner, the decision will remain with the future government. “If we were officially part of GBIF, Brazil would only gain”, says Cria’s director. “We would be able to have more of an active participation in the GBIF’s work program, as well as financing for the development of national projects linked to the repatriation of data on biodi-

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versity.” In the opinion of Ione Egler, from the Secretary for Policies and Programs of the MCT, the admission of the country into the GBIF would be important mainly during this initial phase in which the members taking part in the initiative are defining action priorities. During the forum at Indaiatuba, organized by the Cria, with financial support from FAPESP and other institutions, criteria were established for the selection of projects involving the digitalization of data from biological collecting, which should go into operation during the first semester of 2003. The active participation of Brazil in the implementation of the GBIF would contribute to clearing up one of the principal difficulties of national research in this area: the lack of access to information about Brazilian species that are found abroad, mainly in the North American and European institutions, in which there are deposited examples and Brazilian types (a type is an example used to describe a species) collected by historical exploration expeditions such as those of Hans Langsdorff and Karl Friedrich Philipp von Martius. Out of the GBIF, Brazil is lo-


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PHOTOGRAPHS BY MIGUEL BOYAYAN

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sing, for example, the opportunity to propose priority actions, such as the digitalization of information of national interest, which would permit to speed up the repatriation of data existing in institutions abroad. To illustrate the need for access to this information, Ione cited the case of the Phanerogamous Flora of São Paulo: “There are some 7,500 species identified in the flora of São Paulo, but less than 500 types can be found in national collections. The rest is abroad. With this material digitalized, we would cede information on about 500 species, but would receive information on about 7,000.” Flora Brasiliensis - Another example of this difficulty of access is that which occurs with the work named Flora Brasiliensis, a collection of forty volumes edited by von Martius with information about close to half of our national flora, today estimated at 56,000 species. Most of the work’s copies, mainly those complete and well preserved, can only be found abroad. As a consequence, this resource is underused by Brazilian researchers, according to the botanist George Shepherd, from the São Paulo State University of Campinas – a situa-

tion that could begin to change shortly: Shepherd is coordinating a project, as yet in its initial phase, that aims to digitalize a complete copy of this work, an initiative that could serve as a base for the production of a new Brazilian flora – digital and updated.

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n an independent manner, foreign institutions have already been providing this type of access to other countries. An example is New York’s Botanical Garden, which made available, on line, data about 600,000 examples of plants – from a collection of seven million. But as yet this is insufficient. To better understand national biodiversity, it is necessary to have access to information on the largest possible number of collections. Ione Egler, from the MCT, was emphatic: “Without information about our species, the country will not be able to recognize its biodiversity and will not implement the Biological Diversity Convention (which looks to promote conservation, the sustainable use of biological resources and the fair redistribution of the benefits coming from the use of genetic resources of this biodiversity)”. In the case of not integrating into the ini-

tiative, the country will fail to even benefit from the possibilities of improving the qualification of personnel which the GBIF promotes and will remain without an active role in the definition of the information system adopted by it. A frequent doubt, when one is dealing with the availability of information about national biodiversity on the Internet, is to know if this will make biopiracy any easier. “This is an incorrect idea. In the case of the GBIF, we’re not dealing with material leaving the country, but an exchange of information of which there is a lot available within scientific magazines”, Ione explains. The form of how the system is being proposed even allows that the researcher controls the information that he intends to place on the network. But the greatest difficulty that the team from Campinas envisions for the effective implementation of the São Paulo network is to change the mentality of researchers so that they begin to share data and to work in a cooperative manner, as the very project demands. “People need to perceive that scientific information is essential for the formulation of policies and for taking decisions”, says Dora. •

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SCIENTIFIC AND TECHNOLOGICAL POLICY

ENVIRONMENT

Protection for biodiversity Biota-Pará Project draws up list of species threatened with extinction Published in April 2003

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he biodiversity of the state of Pará is starting to be assessed by Conservation International of Brazil and the Emílio Goeldi Museum of Pará. This diagnosis, baptized as Biota-Pará Project, has the objective of assisting political decisions on conservation and the use of biodiversity in the region. The survey will be concluded in four years and has a total budget of R$ 1.3 million. The first product of this research, which should be made public before the end of this year, is a list of endangered species. Ten researchers are now gathering information on the geographical and ecological distribution, behavior and population densities of each one of the candidate species, using as a basis studies, consultations of reference works and syntheses of field studies not yet published. “In a second stage, some 50 researchers will be doing a critical analysis of this list of species that are candidates for extinction during a workshop, to draw up the final list”, says José Maria Cardoso da Silva, the director for the Amazon of Conservation International of Brazil. Among the species currently found in Pará and which are on the official list of Brazilian animals threatened with extinction are the golden parakeet, the scarlet ibis, the hyacinth macaw, the black-tailed marmoset, and the white-nosed saki, amongst others. The list of threatened species, the first to be drawn up in the state, is one of the basic instruments provided for in Law 6462 of July 4, 2002, which makes provisions for the State Forest Policy. The second product of Biota-Pará will be a diagnosis of the biodiversity of the Belém Endemism Center – so denominated for sheltering endemic species that do not occur in any other region of the planet –, located at the far east of the Amazon biome, incorporating all the forests and associated ecosystems to the east of the Tocantins River and the whole of Amazon in the state of Ma-


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PHOTOGRAPHS BY FABIO COLOMBINI

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n The black-tailed marmoset, a rare species at the Belém Endemism Center

Project wants to save the scarlet ibis (left page) and the golden parakeet (above)

ranhão. The region is regarded as the most cleared sector of the whole of Brazilian Amazon , on account of the advance of farming and cattle raising, the high population density, and the action of lumbermen and settlers. “Some 60% of its forests have already been cleared, and the few trees that are left remain under great pressure”, observes Ima Célia Vieira, the coordinator of Research and Postgraduate Studies at the Emílio Goeldi Museum. Recent studies have indicated, for example, that of the 531 species of birds recorded in the region, about 166, or 22%, were threatened with extinction.

The white-nosed saki and the hyacinth macaw: two victims of forest clearing

Conservation plan - Pará has over 1.25 million square kilometers of area. About 16% – which is the equivalent of the state of Paraná – are areas of forests and fields that have now been altered by human activity. The annual rate of forest clearing between 1998 and 2000 was 6,700 square kilometers, according to data from the National Institute for Space Research (Inpe). “The situation of the biota of the Belém Endemism Center is similar to the situation of the biota of the Atlantic Rain Forest. Unless something is done urgently, we may have a mass extinction , the first of this kind to hit Amazonia since the entry of man into the region”, warns Cardoso da Silva. When the diagnosis of biodiversity is concluded, the Emílio Goeldi Museum and Conservation International of Brazil intend to draw up – together with other organizations, the state and municipal governments, indigenous leaderships and local communities – a conservation plan for the region. These actions will begin to be defined at a meeting scheduled for August this year, and they should include measures like the implementation of ecological corridors, by means of the creation of private reserves and the restoration of the forests in critical areas that are currently degraded. • PESQUISA FAPESP

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SCIENCE MEDICINE

Restored Heart Results from the first transplants using stem cells in Brazil usher in the prospect of using this technique against cardiac arrest, one of the main causes of death in the world

R ICARD O Z ORZET TO

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he target of severe criticism and recent heated discussions, a special type of cell comes back onto the scene, but this time bringing good news. These are the stem cells, intensely studied over the last five years because of their fantastic peculiarity: that of multiplying themselves and ending up as the cells of the different body tissues, as distinct as those of the skin, muscle and the nervous system. In Brazil, results from at least three research groups have come out which, in parallel with European and North American teams, consolidate the stem cells as an option for – if not a cure – at least improving the quality of life of people with serious heart problems, against which medicines no longer produce the desired effects. Using distinct techniques, researchers from the States of Rio de Janeiro, Bahia and São Paulo have concluded that the transplanting of stem cells is a promising alternative against chronic cardiac insufficiency brought on by hypertension, obstruction of the coronary arteries and by Chagas’s disease. A problem in which the heart progressively loses its capacity to pump blood, cardiac insufficiency hits

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between 3% and 6% of the world’s population, and in Brazil between five to ten million people. The team from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) and the Pro-Cardiac Hospital, which published the most advanced data, recently obtained an international triumph for their results which they arrived at after two year’s work, a short period of time when dealing with a new area worldwide. On the 13th of May, the magazine Circulation, the most important scientific magazine dealing with clinical cardiology, published an article in which the researchers from Rio describe the first transplants using stem cells in sufferers from chronic cardiac insufficiency. Of the fourteen patients treated, twelve are doing well and two have died, apparently through causes not linked to the use of the stem cells, according to the doctors. “The project only went so quickly because we had already had at the UFRJ a model for transplant in rats when we initiated the study”, recognizes the cardiologist Hans Dohmann, from the Pro-Cardiac Hospital. “The impression is that the totipotent use substitute the fibrous tissue for muscular cells”, comments Antonio Carlos Campos de Carvalho from

IMAGES BY INCOR

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INCOR

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IMAGES BY INCOR

Cardiac insufficiency: the left ventricle of the heart dilates on receiving oxygenated blood from the lungs (above) and cannot manage to contract and pump the blood to the body

Normal heart: with thicker and more flexible walls, the left ventricle dilates on receiving the blood from the lungs and then contracts, sending the oxygenated blood to the tissues


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UFRJ, which works with the Millennium Institute of Tissue Bioengineering, supported by the federal government. This treatment increases the irrigation of the injured part of the heart, allowing the cells that have entered into a type hibernation to return to contracting themselves.

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t the same time a group from the Heart Institute (Incor) and the School of Medicine of the University of São Paulo (USP) applied these cells in nine patients suffering from cardiac insufficiency caused by hypertension, Chagas’s disease or of unknown origin. Two distinct techniques were used. One, by applications either of stem cells filtered from the blood of the patient himself, the other by using a hormone that stimulates the liberation of stem cells from the bone marrow to the bloodstream. Four months afterwards three were no longer on the list for heart transplants, five improved considerably and one died, death being attributed to the serious state of health the patient before entering into the experiment. “Looking at the as yet restricted number of patients, it is early to talk confidently about the efficiency of these techniques”, comments the cardiologist Edimar Bocchi from USP, one of the research coordinators.“But the results point to the prospect of improvement for these people who have an extremely serious illness.” In practical terms, the teams from Rio and São Paulo have maintained beating – with a good part of their previous vigor – the hearts of men and women who could no longer walk in the morning to the baker’s shop nor feed themselves, such was the dimension of the tiredness brought on by cardiac insufficiency. Before the treatment with stem cells, the only solution for them was to wait for months for a heart transplant. If they managed to resist, they would confront surgery that begins with a cut of some thirty centimeters in the thorax, finishes some nine hours later, demands a month for recovery, and in total the bill runs up to R$ 200,000. The implanting of stem cells is much simpler. Carried out by the introduction of a catheter into the artery that runs from the thigh to the heart, the operation lasts a little more than an hour, demands only two days in hospital and costs ten times less. 20

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Such is the confidence today deposited in the use of stem cells that the National Commission of Ethics in Research (Conep in the Portuguese acronym), an organ of the Ministry of Health that authorizes medical research with human beings, approved in March of this year the proposal presented one year ago by the medical doctor Ricardo Ribeiro dos Santos, the coordinator at the Millennium Institute of Tissue Bioengineering and researcher with the Osvaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz) in Salvador, Bahia. During this month, Santos in partnership with cardiologists from the Santa Izabel Hospital, also in the Salvador, intends to begin a study with five patients suffering from cardiac insufficiency caused by Chagas’s disease, the illness brought on by the protozoa Trypanosoma cruzi, the parasite that lodges in the cells of the heart. In recent research, Santos demonstrated that the use of this type of cell reduces in a longstanding manner the inflamed and damaged areas of the heart of mice with

Before and after transplant with the stem cells: the Incor team evaluates via nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) the capacity of the heart to pump blood

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Chagas’s disease. This could be a way of keeping the healthy heart free of trouble so that under these circumstances the parasite, which causes an illness that affects sixteen million people in Latin America of who six million are Brazilians, can then be fought against. Only at the beginning - Even with these results some years will still be necessary before this type of treatment becomes available to the population both in the public and private health systems. The experiments are merely the start of a long trajectory until the approval of new medicines or medical procedures for human beings. This is called phase 1 of clinical studies the objective of which is to investigate if the treatment is safe and does not cause any serious side effects. This is followed by other stages in which the efficiency of the treatment in tens and then thousands of patients are analyzed. The Brazilian researchers are by-passing the ethical questions associated with the use of these cells because they are


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working with only one of the two types in existence. They are using adult stem cells, produced by the bone marrow of the individual himself that he will later receive in the transplant. In this manner, they are avoiding the controversial question surrounding the use of the other type of stem cells, the embryonic stem cells, so-called because they are removed from embryos with only a few days of life. This is exactly the reason for the controversy as the embryo dies when the cells are extracted. More versatile than the adult cells, the embryonic stem cells are capable of originating all types of body cells. For this reason, countries with legislation considered to be more liberal, such as Britain, have limited research to the cells removed from embryos discarded in the treatment of assisted fertilization. Nobody can also forget the more conservative attitude adopted by the President of the United States, George W. Bush, who has restricted federal financing only to studies with sixty two strains of embryonic

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stem cells already characterized in the laboratory.

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n a situation in which the scientific result receives help by accident, the project of the implanting of stem cells in the heart was born from a solution in search of a problem. During 2000, Hans Dohmann, from the Pro-Cardiac Hospital in Rio, had been working with the Brazilian cardiologist Emerson Perin at the Texas Heart Institute, building a special catheter using a fine needle and sensors capable of identifying the dead portions of the heart. In this same year, they got to know at a meeting in Hamburg, Germany, that another team had completed the catheter before them. It was at that point that the specialists recognized that the gadget could be used in research with stem cells. “On the plane coming back to Rio, I was imagining that we would need cooperation with foreign teams in the case I decided to get involved in this area”, recalls Dohmann.

PHOTOGRAPH BY MIGUEL BOYAYAN

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By chance he had fooled himself. In Rio, Radovan Borojevic and Antonio Carlos Campos de Carvalho, both from UFRJ, had initiated a study on the application of stem cells to mice with artificially brought on cardiac insufficiency. This is something similar to what is observed when there is an accumulation of fatty tissue in the coronary arteries that diminishes the flow of blood to the heart. This reduction kills some areas of the heart, which then stops pumping blood in an efficient manner to the body. In an attempt to compensate for the lack of force, the heart increases in size, reaching double the normal in the most serious cases, as it can be seen on page 23. The green light for the work came through in October of 2001, five months after Carvalho and Borojevic had verified in mice that the stem cells incorporated themselves into the heart muscle, and, even more importantly, restored, at least in part, its capacity to selfcontract. “There are as yet no detailed studies that explain what is happening”, comments Carvalho. Little by little the researchers from Rio demonstrated, in a pioneering manner, that this type of cellular therapy reestablishes the pumping of the blood by the heart in the most complicated cases of cardiac insufficiency, in which the problem turns chronic and the patient feels fine only when he is sitting down. Under these conditions, the medicines that impede the increase of the size of the heart – such as beta-blockers and the inhibitors for the angiotensin converting enzyme – stop producing the desired effect. In some cases, it also becomes impossible to treat the disease using traditional therapies such as angioplasty, the introduction of a catheter with a balloon on the tip, which squashes the plaques of fat, or the implant of a bridge, a way of detouring the blocked area by using veins removed from the leg or the pectoral region. In the most severe cases, cardiac insufficiency kills half of the patients in six months. Before this Brazilian study, Bodo Strauer, from the University of Düsseldorf, in Germany, had published in September of 2002 in the Circulation magazine an article in which he described an increase in the blood flow rate of the heart in patients who had received applications of stem cells. However, the study took into consideration only people

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who had suffered acute heart attacks and where part of the heart had remained close to a week with out an adequate supply of blood. Furthermore, the capacity of these patients to pump blood was higher than the one shown by the Brazilians – which made their recovery simpler than when the problem became chronic. With the approval of Conep, Dohmann and Perin selected their twenty-one volunteers who were integrated into the initial phase of the clinical study. Each person who was submitted to the therapy with stem cells passed through the same procedure: by way of a small cut in the highest portion of the hip, the doctors introduced a needle into the ilium bone, which forms the bulging sides of the pelvis, and they extracted 50 ml of material drawn from the bone marrow. This viscous and dark red colored liquid consists of a mixture of cells, very rich in adult stem cells that are afterwards separated in the laboratory.

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ack in the surgery theater four hours later, Dohmann and Perin had in their hands a red concentrate of live stem cells. With the catheter, thirty million of them were injected into the internal wall of the left ventricle – the most important of the four heart chambers, which pumps blood rich in oxygen to the body. They applied the stem cells in the areas in which the cardiac muscle had gone into a type of hibernation – inactive although still alive. Four months afterwards it was noted that the transplant had stimulated the appearance of small arteries in the region of the heart that had lost the capacity to self-contract. With the improvement in the blood flow rate, the area that is short of blood decreased by 73% and the capacity to pump from the heart increased from 20% to 29%, sufficient to allow that the transplanted patients increased from five to seven minutes their time for slow steps on a treadmill. “It may seem small but this allowed these people to carry out activities that had become impossible through cardiac insufficiency such as changing their own clothes”, relates Dohmann.

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PHOTOGRAPH BY RICARDO RIBEIRO DOS SANTOS/FIOCRUZ

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The most exciting fact is that up until this moment the technique used on the group from Rio has not caused any serious complication, such as an alteration in heart beat (arrhythmia), which could lead to heart stoppage. The doctors have compared the quality of life of the people who received the stem cells before the treatment and six months after the application. On average, they found them the same as or better than Americans of the same age. The seven members of the control group who took only medicine against cardiac insufficiency did not present any relevant improvement in the condition of their health during the same period. According to Dohmann, they should also receive the implantation of stem cells, possibly starting in August. In a second phase of this study, forecast to begin at the end of this year, the researchers from Rio de Janeiro intend to analyze the performance of this technique in a larger group composed of one hundred and twenty patients with chronic cardiac insufficiency. Cellular reinforcement - In São Paulo the cardiologists Edimar Bocchi and Dalton Chamone have also verified an increase in the force of the heartbeat, restored by techniques distinct from the treatment with stem cells. Instead

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of extracting these cells directly from the bone and injecting them into the cardiac muscle, Bocchi and Chamone were able to count upon the collaboration of the organism itself. On average, during a five-day period they applied to their patients, injections of 600 micrograms of a special protein, the granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor. (GM-CSF), which make the stem cells migrate from the bone to the bloodstream. When they reach a certain concentration the doctors sent the transplant candidates for a series of blood filtering to separate out the stem cells which were then frozen and stored before being once again injected into the bloodstream. Of the nine patients between the ages of thirty-three and sixty-five, two received injections of stem cells into their coronary arteries by way of a catheter. The other seven only injections of GM-CSF – and all of the remaining work had to be done by the organism itself. It is believed that the damaged tissue, like that of the injured heart, exercises a type of chemical attraction on the stem cells through the release of proteins that spur the communication between cells, such as the interleukin 6 and the Human Tumor necrosis factor-alpha. It was not only the methods


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IMAGES BY HANS DOHMANN/PRÓ-CARDÍACO

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Results: on the left, stem cell (in green) lodged in the heart of a mouse with Chagas’s disease. Above, map of the left ventricle with implantation points of totipotent cells and improved blood flow

that varied. The people treated at Incor had cardiac insufficiency caused not by blocking of the veins but by causes as varied as Chagas’s disease, increase of blood pressure (hypertension) or even an increase in the size of the heart without any known reason – an infirmity known in medical jargon as idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy. In a general manner, the capacity to pump blood and the oxygen intake increased and three patients had their names taken off the heart transplant list. Today they are only taking the medicine needed to control cardiac insufficiency. Two of them still present a pro-

THE PROJECT Cellular Therapies for Degenerative Chronic Illnesses COORDINATOR

RICARDO RIBEIRO DOS SANTOS – Millennium Institute of Tissue Bioengineering INVESTMENT

R$ 5,200,000.00 (Ministry of Science and Technology), R$ 500,000.00 (Pro-Cardiac Hospital), R$ 500,000.00 (Fiocruz-BA), R$ 200,000.00 (Faperj)

blem that normally reaches 20 % of cardiac insufficiency sufferers: the blocking by coagulant blood of the artery that leads the blood poor in oxygen to the lungs. “An apparent small increase in the capacity to pump blood many times represents a significant improvement for the patients”, Bocchi explains. Against Chagas’s disease - In Salva-

dor, Santos from Fiocruz, and Fabio Vilas-Boas Pinto from the Santa Izabel Hospital, intend to use stem cells to specifically reverse the damage that Chagas’s disease produces on the heart. After getting into the blood stream, the parasite that causes the disease, the protozoa named Trypanosoma cruzi, lodges in the interior of the cardiac cells, which sets off an alert to the immune system. But the parasite is not the only one that loses. The heart cells have on their surface proteins similar to those of trypanosome and for this reason they also suffer an attack from the defense cells. As a consequence, thousands of scars appear throughout the organ. Both in Chagas’s disease and in a heart attack, which leads to the death of a large area of the heart, the result is similar: 30% of the sufferers from Chagas’s disease acquire the illness during infancy and only around forty years of age do they deve-

lop progressive cardiac insufficiency that leads to their death in ten years. When insufficiency gets worse, the only way out is a heart transplant, not very efficient since the protozoa that remain in the bloodstream infect the recently implanted organ. An aggravation to the problem is that infection by the trypanosome is more frequent in the population of rural areas, especially in the North and Northeast Regions in which there are no heart transplant programs. Stem cells could alleviate this problem. In mice, as Santos verified, one only needs to give an injection of 20 million stems cells associated to the use of the granulocyte-macrophage colonystimulating factor, the GM-CSF, in order to reduce the inflammation and the fibrous tissue of the heart. After two months, the mice treated using this method showed 80% fewer inflamed cells and fibrous tissue than the mice that had not received this therapy. The most important aspect is that this benefit seems to be long lasting: the improvement persisted for six months after the mice received the stem cells, a period equivalent to almost twenty years for human beings. In a recently approved experiment by Conep, Santos is going to inject 30 million of these cells into the interior of the coronary arteries, as well as GMCSF, initially in five patients with cardiac insufficiency caused by Chagas’s disease. If the technique shows itself to be secure, the researcher from Fiocruz will widen and detail the study with a further twenty-five patients – five should receive stem cells and GM-CSF, ten will be treated only with stem cells and ten with medicine. “Using this therapy we hope to reduce the lesions on the heart to the minimal level, similar to those that occur with 70% of the carriers of Chagas’s disease who do not develop cardiac insufficiency”, says Santos. If a success, the treatment will allow that the doctors can give to the patients a medicine to combat the protozoa, named benznidazole, which, as it is toxic, cannot be used with people suffering from cardiac insufficiency. •

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SCIENCE

GENOMICS

On the trail of a vaccine Brazilians sequence the genome of the bacterium that causes leptospirosis and request patents for twenty-four proteins M ARCOS P IVET TA

Published in June 2003

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nyone who has read the issue of the 24th of April of the British magazine Nature, one of the most influential scientific publications, verified that a team from the Chinese Human Genome Center of Shanghai, had sequenced the complete genome of the Lai strain of Leptospira interrrogans, the most common of the bacteria that causes leptospirosis in that country. Transmitted to man by the urine of rats and other animals infected with the pathogen, leptospirosis is considered the most widespread of the zoonoses, the diseases that animals transmit to human beings, especially in rural areas with a humid climate. Carried out by scientists from a developing nation outside of the axis Europe – United States, the work of the Asian group was, without a doubt, of international relevance. But for the Brazilians the most important news about 24

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PHOTOGRAPH BY EDUARDO CESAR

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Open-air sewer: contact with contaminated water boosts the risk of transmission of leptospirosis

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Integrated research - In rea-

lity, the Brazilian group did more than simply unmask the molecular structure of a pathogen similar to that mapped by the scientists from Shanghai. They also took a sure step towards strengthening a promising line of research with the goal of developing better forms of prophylaxis and diagnosis of human leptospirosis, the project’s main goal. This is because in February 2002, one year and two months before the Chinese had published their article in Nature, the Butantan scientists had requested, in the United States, the patents for twenty four genes – and their respective proteins – identified during the work on sequencing and analysis of the genome of serovar Copenhageni, carried out by the AEG, the public network of São Paulo laboratories that specializesin genomes concerning agronomy and the environment. “These proteins could be useful for the development of a vaccine against human leptospirosis (today there is none) or for more efficient tests for the diagnosis of different serological forms of the illness”, says Ana Lucia Tabet Oller do Nascimento, from Butantan, the coordinator of the project on L. interrogans, which was funded by FAPESP. Such a hypothesis is based on preliminary tests in the laboratory that have shown that this group of twenty four proteins react on contact with the blood serum of people or rats infected 26

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themselves to be almost the same size. The serovar Lai has almost 4.7 million pairs of bases (the chemical units that make up the genetic code), divided in two circular chromosomes, one large and the other small. The serovar Copenhageni shows an almost analogous structure, also with two chromosomes, only that they represent around 60,000 fewer pairs of bases than the strain studied by the Asian group. The greatest difference between the two strains is regarding to their probable number of genes and respective proteins. In their study, the Chinese counted some 4,727 genes and a similar number of proteins in the serovar Lai. Working with the serovar Copenhageni, the Brazilians counted around 3,700 genes or proteins. This is a considerable difference for two genomes apparently so close to each other. “We do not believe that there are so many more proteins in the Lai in relation to the Copenhageni”, declares the biochemist Elizabeth Angélica Leme Martins, from the Butantan Institute, and an assistant on the project. “By our analysis, this number difference should be a lot lower, around 200 proteins.” Another contribution from the Butantan team, which also was able to count upon the participation of Paulo Lee Ho and Luciana Leite, was the discovery of 250 new proteins on the surface of serovar Copenhageni. These proteins stay on the membrane of the cells of the pathogen and are in direct contact with the host, man or animal infected by L. interrogans. Among this group of proteins, a smaller group of 174 lipoproteins stand out, these could have greater involvement in the process of infection caused by the bacterium. “Before our work began, only ten lipoproteins had been identified on L. interrogans”, says Ana Lucia. “The Chinese described only a few proteins of this type.” IMAGE BY CDC/NCID/HIP/JANICE CARR

leptospirosis does not come from the Far East nor does it arrive via the pages of some publication – and has been, until now kept in silence. Working with discretion on a project in competition to the Chinese work, a research team from the Butantan Institute of Sao Paulo, with collaboration from colleagues at the branch of the Osvaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz) in the state of Bahia and with São Paulo universities, have also concluded the complete sequencing of another lineage of L. interrogans, known as serovar Copenhageni, responsible for the majority of human cases of the diseases in Brazil.

Leptospira interrogans: transmitted mainly by the urine of rats

with leptospirosis. The reply to the patent request, whose rights extend to Brazil, should come out next year. Comparative study - The Butantan researchers have just completed a scientific paper comparing the genomes of the two varieties of L. interrogans. Much of the information on the work, which was submitted to a large international magazine and is awaiting the green light for publication, is still confidential. However, some general data, results of this comparison, can already be released. The two genetic sequences show

THE PROJECT Sequencing of the Genome of Leptospira interrogans MODALITY

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In the towns - Differently from sero-

var Lai, typical of the flooded rice plantations of Asia, the platform for a large part of the occurrence of the illness


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in China, the Copesease in a person nhageni strain is the helps to prevent the Brazil and China one that is princievolution of the inare studying pally responsible for fection, since there the incidences of huare strains with vardifferent man leptospirosis in ying degrees of agvarieties Brazil, where there gression, and it is of have been a little fundamental imporof the same more than 46,000 tance for the creation confirmed cases betof a vaccine against bacterium ween 1987 and 2001, this disease. This is with an annual death even truer in the case rate of from 6.5% to of this pathogen. 20% of those infected. Here, instead of There are more than 250 known serobeing a problem associated with open vares of L. interrogans, with varying defields, the illness has a more metropogrees of common characteristics. To diflitan character. In towns people usually ferentiate one type from another is not catch the disease in areas without baalways easy from the point of view of its sic sanitation, with accumulated garmorphology, of its external appearance. bage (which attracts rats) and with Seen with the help of an electronic miopen sewage, or during the time of the croscope, the varieties can be considesummer floods when the public roads red identical. All of them are fine and transform themselves into dirty streelongated, with a spiral form, without ams and increase the risk of contact rigid cellular walls. “It is not possible to with water or earth contaminated with distinguish the varieties only by morthe urine of rats infected by the bactephology”, Elizabeth explains. rium. The sewage rat (Rattus norvegiThe problem is that, if its physical constitution does not change according cus), an inhabitant almost as urban as to the serovar, other parameters are a modern man himself, is the main host long way from being always the same or for the serovar Copenhageni of L. insimilar in the diverse forms of the bacterrogans. terium. The degree of pathogenicity, loOnce infected, a person can take cation of geographic occurrence, most from two to thirty days to develop the common host and preferential victims most common symptoms coming (man or other animal such as a dog, cow from the presence of the bacterium in or rat) can vary considerably in function his organism: fever, headache, shivers, of the strain of L. interrogans. For examvomiting, nausea and general ill-feeling. If it is not treated with antibiotics, ple, certain forms of the bacterium cause normally penicillin or doxycycline, the leptospirosis only in men, others infect only animals and there also exist others L. interrogans can affect the kidneys that attack both. The Copenhageni and and liver, and in extreme cases, lead to the Lai are among the most virulent vadeath. As its clinical manifestations rieties of L. interrogans that attack the don’t differ much from the symptoms unchained by other known illnesses human being. In the study of the comsuch as dengue fever, and yellow fever, parison of the genomes of these two leptospirosis is often mistaken for strains, the Butantan researchers belieother illnesses. In order to reach at a ve that they identified two proteins prediagnosis with the minimum degree of sent only in the variety sequenced in confidence, it is necessary to carry out Brazil – and involved in the synthesis of laboratory tests using blood or urine polysaccharides, a type of sugar – that samples from the suspected case.“At ticould facilitate the process of differentimes, even with these examinations, ating between the serovares. “If confirone will not manage to say exactly med, this piece of information could which serovar is responsible for the also be important for the understanding infection”, Ana Lucia comments. of the large antigenic variation of the It may well seem as just a detail to Leptospirae”, forecast Ana Lucia. determine the serovar of L. interrogans responsible for an infection, but this Brazilian variation - The main clinical impression is false. To know the variety implication of the large diversity of of the bacterium that unchains the dithe pathogens responsible for leptos-

pirosis is the existence of multiple antigens associated with the disease, each one of them literally different from the others. Any substance recognized by the organism as of external origin or capable of offering danger to it is called an antigen. To defend against this potential aggressive agent, normally one or more proteins, the immunological system produces specific defenses (antibodies) against the antigen that is threatening it. In the case of leptospirosis, due to the high number of serovares of the bacteria that causes the illness, to have antibodies against a variety of L. interrogans does not necessarily confer protection against the other forms of the pathogen. In an ideal scenario, the perfect vaccine against leptospirosis would confer immunological protection against all of the forms of the bacterium, or at least those most disseminated. Nevertheless, the maximum that can be obtained in many cases is a more focused and specific product, capable of impeding the infection brought on by one or another type of serovares and that shows itself innocuous to the other forms of the pathogen. The countries that are deeply researching into leptospirosis, which are few, tend to focus their work on the most important local varieties. Besides China and Brazil, that have sequenced distinct varieties of L. interrogans, the Australians are studying the genetic material of another strain of this bacterium. “We have to carry out our very own research with the serovar Copenhageni, which is the major cause of human leptospirosis in Brazil, since nothing guarantees that a vaccine developed abroad, against another variety of the bacterium, will also be useful for us”, emphasizes Ana Lucia. If the clues that the Brazilian researchers have picked up are shown to be correct and everything runs to plan, a form of immunization against the illness could become a reality in five to ten years time. To speed up the process, partnerships with the pharmaceutical industry and researchers in the veterinary area, which are also interested in new therapies against leptospirosis, are one of the priorities of the group from the Butantan Institute. •

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SCIENCE

The genesis ofDNA PHYSICS

Mathematical model describes the competition between molecules that made it possible for living beings to emerge on Earth C ARLOS F IORAVANTI Published in May 2003

PHOTOGRAPH BY MIGUEL BOYAYAN

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n icon of modern science, the DNA molecule is the sole survivor of a struggle that lasted millions of years. Unmistakable for its two intertwined strands, it emerged from an intense competition with other chemical structures that were capable of copying themselves. It only triumphed because there was cooperation, or, to borrow a term from anthropology, altruism, amongst them. The more refined molecules, which managed to buy time copying themselves by means of enzymes, a kind of protein, helped the more primitive ones, probably in an involuntary way, which would generate replicas of themselves by more lengthy methods. The entirely selfish ones, for some reason unable to offer help, simply disappeared. Only after the conclusion of the process of selection amongst the participants that were getting fitter all the time was it that the first organisms started to form themselves on Earth, a probable 4.5 billion years ago. The reconstitution of the backstage of life on the planet with this new ingredient, cooperation between molecules, results from work carried out not by a chemist or biologist, as one might expect, but by a physicist from

Rio Grande do Sul, José Fernando Fontanari, from the São Carlos Physics Institute (IFSC) of the University of São Paulo (USP). Seven years ago, he suspected that the formulas that he used to present to his students in statistical mechanics did not serve just to describe the ways by which atoms react to one another. If looked at as a model for interaction amongst particles, it would perhaps solve wider problems, which biologists dealt with only in a conceptual fashion, perhaps for feeling ill at ease with equations and mathematical models. His hunch was right. In two recent articles, published in October and November 2002 in Physical Review Letters, Fontanari describes mathematically how the selection process took place that led to a single victorious molecule, DNA, whose elegant structure was discovered exactly 50 years ago, as a result of a joint work between physicists and biologists, and which is so well known today that there is no longer any need for reminding that this is the acronym for deoxyribonucleic acid. By bringing physics close to biology, Fontanari solved a few paradoxes that had been aired 30 years ago by German chemist Manfred Eigen (1967 Nobel prize for Chemistry). Eigen had created

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the theory of replicators, molecules that succeed in making copies of themselves, and today, in their more refined version, DNA, store information that starts the process for producing proteins, indispensable for the formation of all the parts of living beings. Capable of attracting smaller fragments that, joined together, would result in a In the copy of itself, the first replicator arose by chance. beginning, “It was an accident of says Fontanari. enzymes would history”, But it was enough to help selfish change the pattern for producing molecules, bemolecules fore that formed by simple aggregation of blocks, as if they were Lego pieces joining themselves together at random. Were it to depend on this first replicator, life would have no future on Earth. For being so small, it could not store sufficient information to start making proteins. It managed to copy itself by acting as a mold for itself, but the process was still too slow and prone to errors, which would become more and more frequent as it grew. “The larger the molecule, the more difficult and time-consuming it is for it to make a copy of itself ”, says the physicist, supported by proofs in experiments. “The probability of the first replicator making a perfect copy of itself was practically nil.” Strategic leap - There was another his-

PHOTOGRAPH BY MIGUEL BOYAYAN

torical accident some time afterwards. Inaugurating the third pattern for making molecules, which persists until today, the descendants of the first replicator, now different from the original because of the accrued mistakes, manage to create intermediary molds – here are the enzymes, a kind of protein that speeds up chemical reactions. With them, the replicator gains time, avoids mistakes, and generates more copies of itself. It is also more protected from the attacks of other molecules, a situation close to the one found in some kinds of virus, in which a molecule acts as a cover for the genetic material. 30

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When formulating this thesis, Eigen noted that there was something odd, which was to be known later as the paradox of altruism. By creating an enzyme, instead of simply carrying on copying itself, the mutant molecule, which starts this new generation of replicators, does something that would not only be used by itself, but would also benefit the replicators that were still copying themselves by a mold. “Eigen solved the problems of the chemical complexity of the origin of life, but he didn’t realize that this would mean there was altruism among the first more evolved molecules of Earth”, Fontanari comments. English biologist John Maynard Smith, from the University of Sussex, England, repudiated this idea for thinking that it was impossible for there to be altruism amongst molecules.

kle if the enzyme would only work for itself – something improbable in the biochemistry of those times. In this way, the protein is going to assist other replicators, which use its advantages at no cost to themselves.

Isolation and mixture - An impasse emerged, however. “The mathematical study of the dynamics and the evolution of these two kinds of replicators competing for their building blocks shows that the enzymatic replicators can neither invade nor coexist with the population of mold-type replicators”, the physicist comments. “But we know that an invasion must have happened, since the current replicators are of the enzymatic kind.” How to get out of this and explain altruism, an apparent disadvantage? Fontanari solved the riddle by showing mathematically that the xamining the impasse, Fonenzymatic replicator manages to survitanari concluded that this ve, even being generous with its comnew replicator had to pay a panions and lending them its precious price for this new skill: it enzyme, provided that it is confined to could not copy itself while a limited space or can not move much, it was creating the enzyme. It is the saso that the enzyme remains close to the me situation met by a worker who earns mother molecule. according to the number of bottle tops The equations agree with a hypothat he can fit by hand. He can put the thesis that enjoys growing acceptance caps on more quickly by building a maamong biologists, according to which chine, but while he is building it he fails life arose in cracks in rocks, particles to meet the production target and earns of mud, or drops of water, which less than his companions, for whom mawould favor the confinement of the nual work is inevitable. molecules. Another point that reinforCompared with the selfish molecuced the thesis is that there is now no les, which had not stopped spawnmore talk that the first reing copies of themselves nor plicators emerged in a mixdid the replicating molecule ture, the primordial soup, see itself at a disadvantage and but in a flat space, similar therefore ran the risk of exto a pizza – something like tinction. It would only the surface of pyrite, an fail to be in a piciron oxide based mineral, the best bet for housing the ancient forms of life. Passing from a space of three to one or two dimensions, the chemical reactions would take place more easily. That was still not enough. If they remained isolated, the enzymatic replicators, being altruists, would be eliminated by the others, the selfish ones. For this reason, Fontanari argues that, besides confinement, there has Pyrites, on which life to be a mixture betwemay have arisen: en the groups of molepizza instead of soup

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cules. “Due to the tides or to the wind, the group are periodically mixed together and are redistributed in a random manner in the compartments”, he says. “In this redistribution, clones of the enzymatic replicators, more numerous for succeeding in copying themselves more quickly, have better chances of going back to the compartments, while those that do not succeed literally go with the wind.” This is the moment at the enzymatic replicators recover from their initial disadvantage, since the mixture makes it possible for the selfish ones to leave groups that are abundant in enzymes due to the presence of the altruists. When they fall into groups that are poor in enzymes, the selfish ones lose the power of replication and allow the altruists to become isolated. “Mathematically, it is shown that a repetition of this process ends up leading to the predominance of altruism”, the physicist avers.

B

ut why was one molecule, DNA, left over? “It is a mathematical result, a consequence of the dynamics of replicators”, says Fontanari. He believes that there was the appearance of another kind of replicator: RNA, or ribonucleic acid, a simpler molecule (it is a single strand, while DNA is a double strand, like two intertwined threads). The idea gains strength with the proof that RNA manages to act like a replicator, creating copies of itself, and like an enzyme of another molecule. “DNA was an invention of RNA and of other more complex replicators”, the physicist suggests. But it is the most recent invention that took the reins of evolution and, in the majority of organisms – save for a few viruses that store their genetic material in the form of RNA –, today it is DNA that makes RNA, in the initial process for producing proteins. This set of ideas, which also helps one to understand why there is a single recipe for the production of proteins, the so-called genetic code, in any organism, contests the thesis of biological individualism, propagated after 1976 by the book The Selfish Gene, by English biologist Richard Dawkins. On the other hand, at no time does it run counter to Charles Darwin’s principle of natural selection. “Nature does not

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need any organizing principle other than natural selection”, he says. The advantages of sex - Fontanari solved other impasses that biologists already knew about, but they were unable to explain with precision how they arose and developed. One of them is sexual reproduction. Scientists always wondered why sex can be an evolutionary advantage, particularly for organisms that enjoy both the alternatives – there are protozoa that can duplicate themselves with autonomy, without needing a partner, ensuring the continuity of all their genetic material, contained in the DNA, but which opt for sexual reproduction, by means of which they transmit only half of their genes. “There is a selective pressure in favor of the recombination of DNA”, says Fontanari, who in this area is working with evolutionist biologists from the Middle Tennessee State University, United States. Who raised the problem was American geneticist Hermann Joseph Müller (1890-1967), on discovering that X-rays cause mutations in fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster), a finding that earned him the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1946. Years later, there came the verdict: the mutations (changes in the DNA) do more harm than good, and they build up more rapidly in species that reproduce only in the asexual way, on a one-way road, which became known as Müller’s ratchet. Müller himself suggested that sexual reproduction, for permitting the mixture of genetic material, could succeed in reversing the ratchet, and avoid the harmful effect of mutations, today seen as a source of diversity in living beings, but which – at least in part – threaten survival if not corrected, for continuously reducing the adaptation of ani-

THE PROJECT Theoretical Molecular Evolution MODALITY

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mals and plants to the environment in which they live. But an explanation was missing for the movement of Müller’s ratchet, associated with phenomena that had been studied a lot, like the degeneration of the Y sexual chromosome. This was what Fontanari did in an article published in December 2001 in Physical Review Letters: the Equations ratchet advances and the pawl moves, passing reveal the from one notch to ano- intensity ther, when all the organisms of a population of natural acquire the same mutation. It was already known selection that it is more probable for few mutations to occur than many – in a virus, at least one mutation per genome occurs at each replication. The researcher from São Carlos closes the article with two formulas that, according to him, “have great potential for practical use”, for determining the rate of mutation per genome and the intensity of natural selection, provided that the distribution of the adaptability of a species is known, measured by means of the frequency of individuals with different capacities for survival in one and the same environment. “If there were no mechanism like Müller’s ratchet to show that microorganisms with asexual reproduction are at a disadvantage for not managing to annul mutation, it is the asexual forms that would predominate”, he says. The same work shows why the ratchet does not stop, even though its movement may be slow. How slow? “It depends on the generation time of the organism involved”, Fontanari replies. For bacteria, which create a new generation every 20 minutes, the ratchet will move a notch every 40 years, which corresponds to 1 million generations. The elimination of mutations that ceaselessly alter the DNA, by means of the continuous production of new beings, can also be understood by means of an analogy with the Theory of the Red Queen, which refers to a character of the British writer Lewis Carroll in Through the Looking Glass. The Red Queen would not let anyone stop running, alleging: “We have to keep on running to stay in the same place”. •

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SCIENCE

S

tanding up, leaning on the jamb of the door at the front of the house, biology teacher Vitorino Coelho de Sousa listened, without paying much attention, to a garrulous lad who was enumerating for him the teachings of the Bible, in the hope of converting him to the evangelic religion. Suddenly, the calm conversation – one of so many that still take up the late afternoons in small towns – took unexpected turns, gave rise to a story rich in apparent flukes, and resulted, days afterwards, in the finding of roughly 70 dinosaur fossils some 110 million years old, found in the hinterland of the state of Maranhão, and in the discovery of a possible new species of these giant prehistoric reptiles, eliminated from the planet 65 million years ago. Up until then, samples of dinosaurs so old were rare in the Northeast. We are in Coroatá, a town with 50,000 inhabitants, in the interior of Maranhão, 200 kilometers to the south of the capital, São Luís, on an afternoon at the end of July last year. After listening to the visitor for a good many minutes, Vitorino lost his patience and went into a clash between science and religion, with heated arguments on both sides, while the young evangelist claimed that the animals existing in the world were of divine origin. Being a biology teacher at a secondary school, Vitorino decided to teach the lad a bit of science. He explained that petrified remains of plants and animals, fossils, were a proof that present-day living beings were not a work of God, but they had evolved from other species that arose millions of years before. Amazed by the explanation, the youngster commented: “A short time ago, I saw some stones that looked like bone, right here in Coroatá, in someone’s house”. Vitorino spent days intrigued with this comment. At the end of the week, he decided to check it out. He picked up his camera, went on to the region indicated, and arrived at the homestead of farmer Alexandre Marques Vaz, a planter of cassava, potato, rice and corn, who had indeed collected, over 13 years, some stones that were similar to bones. The shape of these stones had already generated long debates between Alexandre and his neighbors. Some thought they really were bones of an animal – perhaps even of an elephant, by their size, and why not? –, while for others all that was no more than ordinary stones. Vitorino had to spend a lot of conversation to convince the suspicious farmer to show him the said stones, guarded with the zeal of someone hiding a treasure. And there were not just a few of them: they lined the floor of one of the rooms of the brick-built house, without any plaster, where the 32-year-old farmer lives with his wife and children. Alexandre had collected the stones from the banks of the tributaries of the Itapecuru river, which cuts through Coroatá and runs in a north-

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PALEONTOLOGY

Under the palm trees


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westerly direction. From July to November, when it rains little, the bed of the river drops and the terrain dug out by the water becomes exposed, after having been covered by the forest of babassu palms – this is palm tree woodland, vegetation typical of this region of the Northeast, which spreads to the east through Piauí and Ceará, occupying an area that is larger than England. The vertebra and the phone book - Under the

A biology teacher and a farmer take part in the discovery of a vast deposit of dinosaur fossils in the interior of Maranhão R ICARD O Z ORZET TO Published in February 2004

shrewd gaze of the owner of the house, Vitorino straight away cast his eye on a cylindrical petrified bone, of almost 20 centimeters in diameter. Remembering his lessons in paleontology from his undergraduate course at the Federal University of Piauí (UFPI), he immediately came to a conclusion: it was not an elephant bone, as they had imagined, but a petrified vertebra from the tail of a dinosaur. As the dinosaur fossils found in the country are rare, Vitorino knew he was facing some material of great scientific interest. For this reason, he decided to make the discovery public and called a team from TV Mirante, which retransmits the Globo TV network in Maranhão, to do a story. But he did not like the program, which went on the air a few days afterwards, just in the Coroatá region. “It was sensationalist”, was his definition. Dissatisfied, Vitorino picked up the telephone directory in search of a specialist, and arrived at paleontologist Manuel Alfredo Medeiros, from the Federal University of Maranhão (UFMA). “I thought it was one more false alarm”, Medeiros recalls.“Two other times, they had called me to see fossils in other towns, but they were recent bones.” But as the region could in fact house dinosaur fossils, Medeiros took a chance. He went to Coroatá and was not disappointed: the fossils were indeed of dinosaurs. The major part of the petrified bones are from sauropods, herbivorous dinosaurs with a long neck and tail – the largest sauropods, found in Argentina, reached 30 meters in length and weighed as much as 70 tons. The part with the greatest scientific value is precisely the vertebra from the tail seen by Vitorino at the first encounter with the farmer. According to Medeiros, the fossil belongs to a new species of sauropod, which must have inhabited this region between 110 million and 100 million years ago, during the geological period called the Cretaceous. It was an indirect dating, done on the basis of geological studies by Petrobras and the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ). The discovery also confirms that this region of Maranhão is an immense deposit of continental fossils from a phase of the Cretaceous period that runs from 110 million to 95 million years ago. According to Medeiros, the findings are rare because the layers of more superficial rocks that contain fossils are to be found at a depth that ranPESQUISA FAPESP

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PHOTOGRAPH BY MANUEL ALFREDO MEDEIROS/UFMA

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Treasures from Coroatá

110 million year old fossils found when the tributaries of the Itapecuru dried up

ges between 5 and 15 meters under the Cerrado (savanna) and the palm tree woodland. “If a new dating confirms the age of the fossils at between 110 million and 100 million years, this material should provide precious information about the continental fauna of this phase of the Cretaceous”, says Medeiros. In those days, South America and Africa were still right in the process of separation, and the landscape of Ma-

ranhão was very different from the present. Research by UFRJ and Petrobras has showed that the climate was predominantly arid or semi-arid, but in the regions close to the rivers, there were forests of conifers similar to araucarias, bracken the size of trees, and plants called equiseta, which look like horsetails. As the conversation went on, Medeiros convinced farmer Alexandre Marques Vaz to make him a donation

at least of the sauropod vertebra, kept today at the UFMA’s Paleontology Laboratory. Now, starting from this bone, the researcher intends to identify the animal to which it belonged – before going any further, it does seem something really new, from a genus and species still unknown to science. “We want to know if these groups lived in Africa as well, or if they are exclusive to Brazil”, says the paleontologist. It is now up

The new dinosaur from Maranhão In January, the team led by geologist Ismar de Souza Carvalho, from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), presented the reconstitution of a new species of Brazilian dinosaur, which lived in Maranhão 110 million years ago. It is the Amazonsaurus maranhensis, a herbivorous quadruped of 10 meters in length from head to tail and weighing some 10 tons. It was described in the December 2003 issue of Cretaceous Research, the most important scientific magazine about the Cretaceous, the last geologic period in which these large reptiles inhabited the planet. The Amazonsaurus is the oldest Brazilian sauropod (a herbivorous quadruped dinosaur) from the Cretaceous, a geologic period that ran from 144 million to 65 million years ago, in which plants with flowers emerged and South America began to separate itself from

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Africa. The team from UFRJ found fossils from this dinosaur on the banks of the Itapecuru river – in the municipality of Itapecuru-Mirim, 130 kilometers to the south of the capital, São Luís –, an area of transition between the Amazon Forest and the Cerrado, still within the legal Amazon. For this reason, this animal is regarded as the first dinosaur from the Amazon whose species has been identified. Marked characteristics of this species are the neck and tail that are longer and more tapered at the ends than those of the other sauropods. On the back of the A. maranhensis, a small elevation is prominent: they are prolongations of the vertebras of the backbone, known as neural spines, that stand out as much as 20 centimeters. According to Carvalho, the new species is a distant relative of a sauropod that lived in the northwestern

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region of Africa in this same period, the Rebbachisaurus garasbae. The vertebras of both of them are very similar – a sign that they must have evolved from one and the same ancestral species. The discovery of the Amazonsaurus will make a contribution towards an understanding of how Brazilian terrestrial environments evolved in the Cretaceous, much less studied than the marine environment in this same period, when the Brazilian reserves of oil and gas, located in the Atlantic, were formed. “From now onwards, the analysis of the evolution of the sauropods will have to include a study of the Amazonsaurus maranhensis”, Carvalho explains. The announcement of this discovery crowned 13 years of work marked by hitches. Under the coordination of the veteran chemist Cândido Simões Ferreira, today at the age of 84 an eme-


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to Belém (PA)

Urbano Santos

BR 316 BR 135

ru

Bacabal

ItapecuruMirim Coroatá

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he basin of the Itapecuru, which describes an arch from south to north in Maranhão, is regarded today as a veritable dinosaur valley. It was from there that came the fossils of the most recent Brazilian species of dinosaur: the Amazonsaurus maranhensis, described by the team of geologist Ismar de Souza Carvalho, from UFRJ (see box). In 2001, the teams of Medeiros and Carvalho found on Ca-

São Luís

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to Darciléa Castro, from Medeiros’ team, in conjunction with paleontologists from São Paulo, to begin to classify the other 70 or so petrified bones. By dint of many scientific arguments, the reticent Alexandre abdicated his collection, which, it has now been agreed, will remain under the custody of the Coroatá House of Culture.

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Codó BR 316

ItapecuruMirim

MARANHÃO

to Teresina (PI)

MARANHÃO

jual island, in Alcântara, the vertebra of a new species of sauropod, those corpulent herbivorous dinosaurs with a long neck and tail and a small

ILLUSTRATION BY SIRIO J. B. CANÇADO

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head. With an age of about 95 million years, this petrified bone belonged to a sauropod from a group of saltasauruses. Previously found only in Argentina, the saltasauruses used to measure about 8 meters from head to tail – they are the dwarfs of the family of the titanosaurs, animals that could reach to 30 meters and almost 70 tons. The discovery of the fossil from Cajual island, almost 20 million years older than the Argentinean saltasauruses, made it possible for the Brazilian paleontologists to present a new version for the evolution of these animals.“They probably arose in the region where the north of Brazil is today, and then migrated south”, Medeiros says. The researchers from Rio and from Maranhão have now determined the genus and the species of the saltasaurus from Maranhão, but its name will only be revealed in a few months from now, with the publication of the scientific article that describes it. From north to south - After a mass ex-

ILLUSTRATION BY ARIEL

tinction that swept a good part of life

Amazonsaurus maranhensis: 14 years of searches

ritus professor at UFRJ, in 1991 five young researchers did their first trip to the hinterland of Maranhão to map the areas where there are outcrops of rocks formed in the Cretaceous, to serve as training for the geology students at UFRJ. Regarded as being of great economic interest for holding about half of the planet’s reserves of oil and gas, these areas of rocks from the Cretaceous add up to 150,000 square kilometers – or 1.5 times the size of Portugal – in Maranhão alone. Accommodated as best as possible in a Kombi van laden with provisions, the six researchers set off from Rio and crossed half the country in a five-day

journey. In three weeks of intense work, the team covered hundreds of kilometers analyzing plots of land close to railroads and highways without locating a single area with the rocks they were looking for. Tense and tired, the researchers decided to change their strategy and began to cover the rivers of the region by boat, and then they arrived in the municipality of Itapecuru-Mirim – 70 kilometers away from Coroatá, where more dinosaur fossils were recently found. In one of the first stops on the banks of the Itapecuru river, getting off the boat, Ferreira tripped on a large object, mistaken at first for a bone from a cow. This was the first part of the ske-

leton of the Amazonsaurus maranhensis, reconstituted from 20 well preserved pieces and another 150 bits gathered in the course of six years of excavations on the banks of the Itapecuru river. Just as difficult as extracting the fossils from the hard rock was to get recognition for the work, which Carvalho signs with Leonardo dos Santos Ávila, from the National Museum, and Leonardo Salgado, from the National University of Comahue, in Argentina. For dealing with an animal of an unknown genus and species, the article underwent many revisions in the course of three years, before being accepted by Cretaceous Research.

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PHOTOGRAPH BY JEFFERSON ALBINO

off the Earth 210 million years ago, the dinosaurs evolved from a carnivorous biped that measured less than a meter, the thecodont. Fossils found in different regions of the planet indicate that dinosaurs were the most abundant terrestrial animals during 150 million years, in a phase when the global climate was warmer and the continents of the Southern Hemisphere were still united in a supercontinent, Gondwana.

Paleontologists believe that several species of dinosaurs used to inhabit what is today Brazilian territory, but the fossils of these animals are rare in these parts, mainly because the great reserves of petrified bones are covered by the palm tree woodland in Maranhão or by the Cerrado (savanna), in Mato Grosso and in São Paulo. The Araripe fossils - Even though they are few, the fossils of Brazilian dinosaurs reveal valuable physical characteristics of these reptiles and are helping to understand how they evolved. Not very far from Maranhão there is one of the most important deposits in the world from a phase of the Cretaceous that runs from 140 million to 100 million years ago. It is the Chapada do Araripe, a table mountain 160 kilometers long by 50 wide that rises to a height of 900 meters in the south of Ceará and 36

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Reconstituted past: Alexandre Vaz with fossils of animals that 110 million years ago lived close to rivers

spreads, to the east, to Pernambuco and, to the west, to Piauí. In mining for limestone and gypsum in this region, fossils were found of another three species of dinosaurs. Two of them are part of the group of spinosauruses, biped reptiles of up to 10 meters in length, from whose back a sort of crest stands up. One of these spinosauruses is the Angaturama limae, described in 1999 by paleontologist Alexander Kellner, from UFRJ’s National Museum, based on the fossils from the animal’s

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snout. A relative of the species found in Africa and Europe, this dinosaur lived some 110 million years ago. It had an elongated head and snout, and teeth like those of a present-day crocodile. In 1996, David Martill, from the University of Portsmouth, in the United Kingdom, using the hind portion of a skull found in the Chapada do Araripe and smuggled to Europe, identified another species of spinosaurus: the Irritator challengeri. The Irritator won this name because of the anger its identification sparked


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ILLUSTRATION BY ANDERSON PINHEIRO

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nes de Almeida Campos, from the National Mineral Production Department, in Rio de Janeiro. In 1971, the team led by Farid Arid, from the São Paulo State University (Unesp) found in the region of São José do Rio Preto one of the two species of titanosauruses identified in São Paulo. There were only three petrified bones from the Antarctosaurus brasiliensis, an animal about which there is very little information. In the mid 80s, a farmer from Presidente Prudente, in the west of São Paulo, found fossils of another titanosaurus, which Kellner, in 1999, called Gondwanatitan faustoi – one of the most complete dinosaur skeletons found in the country. In spite of its 8 or so meters, the Gondwanatitan, which lived between 90 million and 80 million years ago, had a shorter neck and tail than the Amazonsaurus. The oldest - But the cradle of the Bra-

off. Martill noticed that the back part of the skull belonged to a dinosaur, but the snout was not compatible with the description of any known group. It was only later that he discovered that the animal’s snout had been artificially reconstructed by the smugglers in order to boost the fossil’s sale price. One of the most precious fossils is the Santanaraptor placidus, which also came from the town of Santana do Cariri, in the Chapada do Araripe. It is the first fossil of a dinosaur that, besides the bones, preserved part of the animal’s hide, muscles and blood vessels. Measuring only 1.8 meters, this carnivorous animal that lived 110 million years ago is an ancestor of the well-known and feared Tyrannosaurus rex, an enormous

predator that dominated North America about 40 million years later. Perhaps as ferocious as the Tyrannosaurus was the Pycnonemosaurus nevesi, the largest Brazilian predator. A biped reptile, 8 meters long, it lived 80 million years ago in the interior of Mato Grosso. With its short front members and welldeveloped tail muscles, the P. nevesi is similar to other animals from the same group found in India, Africa and Argentina. But the closest forms of the Pycnonemosaurus are in Argentina. “There must have been a fauna common to Argentina and Brazil, now different from that found in Africa”, says Kellner, who described this large predator in 2002, in the Archives of the National Museum, in partnership with paleontologist Dióge-

zilian dinosaurs is in fact in the environs of the municipality of Santa Maria, in the central region of Rio Grande do Sul. The three oldest species of the country – and probably of the world – inhabited the lands of Rio Grande do Sul 225 million years ago, during the Triassic. The oldest of them, proved to have been the first Brazilian dinosaur, is the Staurikosaurus pricei. Discovered in 1937, this carnivore of about 2.5 meters is one of the oldest dinosaurs of which one has notice. Dozens of thousands of years more recent than the Staurikosaurus is the Saturnalia tupiniquim, a herbivore of no more than 4 meters in length, described five years ago by Max Langer, nowadays at USP in Ribeirão Preto. A curious characteristic of this reptile, an ancestor of such animals as the Amazonsaurus and the Gondwanatitan, is that, although it was a quadruped, it was capable of getting about on its hind legs alone in some situations. In the municipality of Candelária, on the banks of the Guaíba river, fossils were discovered of a very primitive dinosaur with 1.2 meters. This was the Guaibasaurus candelaria, about 1 million years more recent than the Staurikosaurus. Initially classified as a carnivore, it is currently believed that this quadruped that could probably walk with just its hind legs was, in actual fact, a herbivore. •

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SCIENCE

BIOCHEMISTRY

Pitomba versus pests Protein extracted from the fruit eliminates fungi and borers Published in December 2002

T

he pitomba is not just the yellowish and sweet fruit of the pitomba tree (Talisia esculenta), a tree of up to 10 meters in height found in the northern and northeastern regions of Brazil. The word pitomba comes from Tupi (one the languages spoken by native Brazilian indians), and it means a slap, blow or strong kick. In certain way, it was precisely this pitomba that the biochemist Maria Lígia Macedo, from the Federal University of Mato Grosso do Sul (UFMS), in Três Lagoas, gave to the fungi and beetles known as “borers” that attack the varieties of beans most consumed in Brazil and in sub-Saharan Africa, and which at times of intense infestation can cause heavy

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loss of grains of beans, soy and corn under storage. From the seed of this olive-sized fruit, Maria Lígia extracted a protein – to be precise, lectin – that reduced by 60% the growth of two species of fungi and killed most of the beetles that damage both the plants and the stored grain. If the field tests prove the effectiveness achieved in the laboratory, this molecule may become an option in the fight against these pests and replace agrochemicals, which are toxic for animals and human beings. Pitomba lectin, also known by the acronym TEL, from Talisia esculenta lectin, has proven to be versatile in inhibiting the development of fungi of broad action: it acts against Fusarium oxysporum, which also attacks the leaves of the

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sugarcane and coffee, and against Colletotrichum lindemuthianum, which causes anthracnose, a disease common in agriculture which is, for example, responsible for the dark blotches on mangoes. It was also effective against the larvae of two species of beetles that leave the grains of beans with more holes in them than a Swiss cheese: Callosobruchus maculatus and Zabrotes subfasciatus. Both attack not only peas, a legume with a modest consumption in Brazil, but beans as well, one of the main sources of proteins and carbohydrates in the country. Maria Lígia and the researchers from the Campinas State University (Unicamp), and the North Rio de Janeiro State University (UENF) and the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz)


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do not yet know for certain how lectin works against the fungi or borers. They suspect that this protein prevents the growth of these organisms by combining itself with another molecule called chitin, the main component of some fungi cell walls. By reacting with chitin, the TEL could affect the growth of hyphae – the ramifications found in the majority of fungi. In the case of the insects, it seems to hinder the action of digestive enzymes that contain sugar in its composition and binds to a structure similar to a membrane – known as a peritrophic structure, which covers the inside of the intestines of these insects and is rich in chitin –, causing an imbalance in the absorption of nutrients. Distant plants - TEL shows a sequence of some 20 amino acids (the blocks that makes up proteins) similar to the one shown by a compound extracted from rice, the inhibitor of alpha-amylase, which plays a role on the defense mechanism of plants by acting on one of the insects’ digestive enzymes, alpha-amylase. Following this clue, Maria Lígia decided to assess the action of pitomba lectin on borers, because other known lectins – extracted from peas, wheat germ, nettles and potato – work against Callosobruchus, but show no toxic effect on Zabrotes. TEL represented a promising alternative, since it belongs to a plant family (the Sapindacea),which is distant from the leguminosae. “As the borers had not had any contact with the pitomba protein, there was the possibility that lectin would work”, comments Maria Lígia, who has known of the seeds of the pitomba tree since her childhood in Fortaleza in the state of Ceará, when she would frequently hear people claim that hens that ate the stone of the pitomba would always die. The popu-

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lar saying did not inspire any more deeper investigation in this area, but it did open another path: in collaboration with the team led by Sérgio Marangoni, from the Biology Institute at Unicamp, the researcher purified and characterized the pitomba lectin, in work carried out with funds from the Foundation for the Support and Deve-

culata) and pitomba lectin in variable concentrations (from 0.5% to 2%). After the eggs hatched, 90% of the larvae that had consumed the false beans containing a 2% concentration of TEL died, as is attested by a study published in August’s Biochimica et Biophysica Acta. What was most surprising was that the pitomba lectin eliminated not only the larvae of Callosobruchus maculatus, the main pest for yard-long beans, much consumed in the northeast of Brazil and in subSaharan Africa. The protein also showed an unprecedented effect for a plant lectin, which normally serves as a nutrient in the process of the seed germination: it killed the larvae of Zabrotes subfasciatus, which attacks, besides the yard-long bean, another much more common kind of bean, the common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris). The team from Mato Grosso do Sul intends to experiment shortly with dusting pitomba lectin extracts on corn and soy crops, a more accessible alternative for small plantations, and to assess the action of TEL against another bean borer, the Acanthoscelides obtectus, and the caterpillars of three moths: Spodoptera frugiperda, a predator of corn; Diatrea saccharalis, which attacks sugarcane; and Anticarsia gemmatalis, which damages soy leaves. Maria Lígia is also considering the possibility of producing genetically modified plants capable of expressing pitomba lectin at levels that combat insects – not much would be needed, since the protein has already worked in a concentration (2%) regarded as lower than the one produced naturally by the plants (from 2% to 10%). “This would be an alternative for the large plantations”, is the biochemist’s comment. • PHOTOGRAPHS BY MIGUEL BOYAYAN

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Reduced harvest: beans devoured by Zabrotes larvae. On the left, the adult insect

lopment of Teaching, Science and Technology of the State of Mato Grosso do Sul (Fundect). At the same time, Maria Lígia tested the in vitro interaction between the new lectin and the digestive enzymes of the larvae of these borers and found that TEL does not suffer any action from them: for not being digested, it appears to build up in the insects’ intestines, causing a sort of indigestion. She also assessed the effectiveness of pitomba lectin in fighting the larvae that feed on grain – the adult beetles merely reproduce on the beans. The researcher’s team put females from the two species of borer to lay eggs on artificial seeds, made with a gelatinous capsule with a mixture of paste of yard-long beans (Vigna ungui-

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PHOTOGRAPHS BY MIGUEL BOYAYAN

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Germination of Caesalpinia echinata: reproduction facilitated

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Long life SCIENCE

BOTANY

for pernambuco wood Seeds of the plant are preserved for a year and a half, six times more than previously thought M ARCOS P IVET TA Published in February 2003

H

alf a millennium after the arrival of the Portuguese, a new raid on pernambuco wood is under way. This time, the would-be conquerors of this beautiful and slightly perfumed tree, native to the Atlantic Rain Forest, are some 20 researchers from the São Paulo Botanical Institute. Assisted by colleagues from other São Paulo institutions and even from abroad, they have been attacking on several fronts, for almost two year, this natural resource so intimately linked to with the history of the country. However, instead of extracting the brasilin, the dye that gave the ruddy tone to the clothes of the European royalty, or cutting down its precious timber, as did the tree’s exploiters of the past, the multidisciplinary team of, so to speak, contemporary exploiters (in the best possible sense) of the today scarce and still threatened with extinction Caesalpinia echinata is pursuing more noble ends. By means of experiments in physiology, biochemistry, anatomy, ecology, technology, and even historical research, the group is little by little throwing light on some shadowy zones that sometimes made – and still make – scientific knowledge about pernambuco wood obscure or inexact. Accordingly, more elements are appearing to steer the work of preserving the few remaining reserves of the species, and who knows, to assist in promoting its reforestation, or even its sustainable exploitation, if this proves viable one day. “We are gathering together scientists to study in-depth the historical, scientific and economic importance of this tree,” explains Rita de Cássia Figueiredo Ribeiro, from the Botanical Institute, who coordinates the project and is holding an international symposium on pernambuco wood in São Paulo between March 12th and 14th. “A lot of people think that pernambuco wood has already been widely studied, but this impression is false.” In a short time, less than two years, the project has expanded scientific knowledge on pernambuco wood considerably. For the time being, the most significant discovery shows that the seeds of the tree, known as being relatively fragile and difficult to preserve in their natural environment, can be preserved, provided that they are submitted to certain conditions, for 18 months,


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a period six times longer than used to be sustained by the sparse scientific literature on the theme. Until the publication of the results of this work, which reached the pages of the Revista Brasileira de Botânica[Brazilian Journal of Botany] in December, it used to be believed that the seeds of pernambuco wood were short living: they would last only one month if kept in a natural environment, and 90 days, at most, if kept in a cold chamber. This was the equivalent of saying that unless they were planted straight away, the seeds would not germinate and would rot. Mastering over more and more effective techniques for storing seeds of pernambuco wood makes the task easier for those who dedicate themselves to projects for preserving this tree and reforestation with it.

S

ome specialists went so far as to suspect that pernambuco wood seeds did not tolerate being dried, the main method used for the preservation of this kind of reproductive structure. For the seeds of a large number of plant species, reducing the water content of their total mass to levels lower than 10% is an effective way of ensuring their longevity. Desiccation almost paralyzes their metabolic activity and reduces the occurrence of harmful reactions, as well as reducing the activity of harmful microorganisms and insects. With pernambuco wood, this procedure did not seem to bring about a similar protective effect. Or so it seemed. Until the researchers from São Paulo showed that, with some additional precautions, drying extends the useful life of pernambuco wood seeds as well. They selected only the best, mature seeds, and submitted them to heat from 40 to 50° Celsius (C), which left them with a humidity of a little over 8%. Finally, they stored them in an environment with the temperature controlled at around 8° C.“With these procedures,

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and is made up of a different kind of cell from that usually present in seeds of leguminosae, the family to which C. echinata belongs. “In the place of the cell structures that give rigidity to the covering of leguminous seeds, we found stomata in pernambuco wood seeds,” says a specialist in plant anatomy, Simone Teixeira de Pádua, from the School of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of São Paulo (USP) in Ribeirão Preto. Normally located in the leaves of plants, where they regulate the exchange of gases with the environment and work like pores, stomata rarely occur in seeds. Fragility - This anatomical

peculiarity may be one of the reasons why the pernambuco wood shows seeds that are more fragile and complicated to preserve than other leguminous plants. A little bit of comparative anatomy helps one to understand this situation. Simone compared seeds from the pernambuco wood and from the Brazilian ironwood (Caesalpinia ferrea), a typical leguminous plant. Seeds and flowers: discoveries encouraged More specifically, she analyconservation and reforestation projects zed the testa of the two seeds, the coat or integument that wraps and protects the embryo, popularly called the shell. The conwe managed to extend their longevity clusion: the testa of the ironwood seed considerably,” says Cláudio José Barshows two layers of cells rich in lignin, bedo, who also comes from the Botathe same substances that makes wood nical Institute. “But the method only rigid, while the pernambuco wood’s tesbrings results when good quality seeds ta is, literally, more porous, with stomaare used.” The researchers found that ta. It comes as no surprise, then, that the when they followed the procedures two kinds of germinative structure bedescribed above, over 80% of the seeds have quite differently when put in their would germinate, if kept in a refrigenatural environment. “The ironwood rated environment for a year and a half. seeds are so hard and resistant that they “We are now trying to understand what can preserve themselves in the ground, metabolic changes make these dry sewithout germinating, for up to two years, eds lose their viability at a given mowhich does not happen with the perment,” explains Rita. “There are signs nambuco wood seeds,” Simone notes. that this is related to alterations in their Other lines of research have also levels of soluble carbohydrates (sugars).” arrived at important preliminary results. Other findings have germinated Agronomist engineer Marcelo Dornefrom the pernambuco wood seed. The las, who is doing postdoctoral studies scientist found that the covering of the at USP’s Luiz de Queiroz College of pernambuco wood seeds is not so thick

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Agriculture in Piracicaba, is studying the species’ reproductive capacity and observed that the development of the flowers of the C. echinata occurs in a similar way to other leguminous plants,” Dornelas believes. There are also surveys that seek to understand the reactions of the tropical species under quite different environmental conditions from those in the Atlantic Rain Forest. In this line of investigation, experiments carried out in the city of São Paulo and in a Spanish study center indicate that the pernambuco wood seems to grow less in environments with a high level of a specific king of pollutant, ozone gas, and develops better in places where the air is pure. “Apparently, the species is more affected by the presence of ozone than by the primary pollutants, such as carbon monoxide or sulfur dioxide,” comments Marisa Domingos, from the ecology section of the Botanical Institute. The first clue in this direction was provided by the as yet preliminary results of a comparative study that has been under way for ten months in the capital city of São Paulo. Resistance to pollutants - About 600

pernambuco wood plants were exposed at four different points of the city: the Ibirapuera Park, Congonhas Airport, a large garden maintained by the State Secretariat for the Environment on the banks of the Pinheiros River (the Orchard Project), and a special nursery (Vegetation House) at the Botanical Institute. Each one of these places was chosen as a result of the pollutants to which they are most frequently exposed. At Congonhas, there is a large quantity of the so-called primary air pollutants, gases like carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide, which are direct byproducts of fuel burning. In Ibirapuera, ozone predominates, a secondary pollutant that is not emitted directly by any polluting source: it is formed naturally in the atmosphere by chemical reactions between molecules of hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides, mediated by sunlight. In the Orchard Project, there is a bit of everything: primary and secondary The tree in the cities: concentration of ozone limits growth

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The unbeatable Pernambuco Some 230 years ago, Frenchman François Tourte constructed the first violin bow with pernambuco, a wood that gathers together a rare combination of physical attributes: rigidity, flexibility, density, beauty, and a capacity for keeping its curve for years on end. Since then, nobody has discovered any material, synthetic or natural, better than pernambuco for making bows for violins, violas, cellos and string bas-

pollutants, plus the baleful effects from being in the vicinity of a river in its death throes. The Vegetation House works as a control point, with its maximum temperature controlled at 28° C and pure, filtered air, to represent an urban spot free from pollution. Although they have not yet reached the middle of the study, the researchers have already noted a tendency: plants cultivated in the nursery with pure air, where they receive sunlight normally, grow more than the others, and those exposed to an environment with a lot of ozone apparently develop less significantly than those from other places. To see whether an excess of ozone may be the cause of this retardation in the growth of the Ibirapuera seedlings, a more detailed study was carried out at the Fundación Centro de Estudios Ambientales del Mediterráneo (Ceam), in Valencia. In special chambers, pernambuco wood cuttings remained for one month in three environments with different characteristics: one with pure air, another with of ozone, and a third with a greater quantity of this gas. “Generally speaking, we saw that the higher the level of ozone in the atmosphere, the lower the levels of photosynthesis of the plants and the production of antistress (antioxidant) substances,” says Marisa. 44

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ses. “It is possible to make bows to an extremely high standard with other wood, such as ‘ipê’, but musicians are traditionalists and are prejudiced against new materials,” says Daniel Romeu Lombardi, aged 54, a graduated architect who in the 80s became

a bowmaker, as these craftsmen who sculpt this fundamental accessory for the string instruments of an orchestra are called. Each month, four bows leave his atelier in the city of São Paulo – actually, it is a room at the back of his house, in the Perdizes district. The most expensive, which can cost as much as US$1,000, are always made of pernambuco wood. This does not mean to say that any piece of Caesalpinia echinata shows a potential for taking on the shape of a Bowmaker Lombardi: bows of up to US$ 1,000

Cities and termites - Why study the behavior of a tree that is typical of the Atlantic Rain Forest outside its natural habitat and, on top of all that, in polluted places? The answer: to see if it makes sense to establish a public policy to stimulate the planting of pernambuco wood in the major Brazilian cities, a project that, besides its undeniable symbolic and historical value, could help to embellish urban centers. Capable of imparting to the air a subtle aroma that is reminiscent of jasmine, pernambuco wood is, leaving patriotism aside, a pretty ornamental tree, above all in the period in which its yellow flowers blossom, between August and November, and it can reach a height of 20 meters, although its dimensions are not great enough for it to have a massive presence in an urban setting. With an equally practical approach, but focused on the physical and acoustic characteristics of the pernambuco wood’s timber, laboratory tests carried out at the Technological Research Institute (IPT) are beginning to come up with the first signs that the tree’s ruddy

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trunk that in other times gave color to the world may offer good natural resistance to the actions of termites. The species seems to have properties similar to those of the curupay or angico-preto (Anadenanthera macrocarpa), a tree that stands up well to being attacked by these insects (and to fungus as well). “For the time being, we have seen that the wear and tear experienced by the pernambuco wood, when it is in contact with the termites, is limited to the surface”, says biologist Maria Beatriz Bacellar Monteiro. Also at the IPT, a study is being performed about the mechanical and acoustic properties of pernambuco wood, an attempt to understand why this wood is preferred by the makers of bows for string instruments (violins, violas, cellos and stringbass), perhaps the only commercial use still maintained by this tropical tree (see article above). Following a path that is uncommon in botany projects, the efforts of the researchers at the Botanical Institute are considering an onslaught on the pernambuco wood and a review of its geographical distribution in Brazilian territory, in the past and in the present – today, this species is found naturally in the states of Pernambuco, Bahia and


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first class bow. “There can be a lot of difference between two pieces of pernambuco wood”, warrants Lombardi, who, on an informal basis, exchanges practical information with Edenise Segala Alves, a researcher from the São Paulo Botanical Institute. She coordinates the anatomical studies with the wood that serves as raw material for his work. “That is why I sometimes have to discard some pieces.” With the assistance of an Italian apparatus, which emits an electrical field in the strips of pernambuco wood in their semi-raw state that are intended to be transformed into bows, the bowmaker measures what he believes to be the acoustic potential of the bit being examined.

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When the result of the test is rather unpromising, Lombardi simply discards the strip of a doubtful standard. In Japan, researchers have already tried to transfer some chemical compounds from pernambuco wood to other woods, in the hope of passing on the acoustic characteristics of the Brazilian tree. But the results are still not encouraging. Nature is winning this battle - for the time being.

Cello bow: the wood has unique properties

Rio de Janeiro. Last year, working as a mixture of a historian and a taxonomist, agronomist engineer Yuri Taveres Rocha, from the Botanical Institute, went on two long journeys. In April and May, he was in Portugal, from where he brought back copies of some 800 documents dating from the 16th to 19th centuries The main source of his research was the Ultramarine Historical Archives (AHU) in Lisbon. There, Rocha examined 500 manuscripts, with the purpose of providing input for telling the story of the exploitation and trade in pernambuco wood in the 17th and 18th centuries, based on the analysis of the cargoes of the

THE PROJECT Caesalpinia echinata Lam. (pernambuco wood): from the Seed to the Wood, a Model for Studies of Brazilian Tropical Arboreal Plants MODALITY

Thematic project COORDINATOR

RITA DE CÁSSIA LEONE FIGUEIREDO RIBEIRO – Botanical Institute INVESTMENT

R$ 400,648.82 and US$ 68,754.88

ships that left the Brazilian coast, above all Pernambuco, on route to Portugal. “Until now, it is not known for sure how much pernambuco wood left Brazil and where it was that this tree used to occur naturally”, says Rocha. Swapped identities - In the second trip, Rocha covered 12 São Paulo cities by car, to carry out a survey of the main spots in the state where the pernambuco wood cuttings were planted.“This information is fundamental for us to know how the conservation ex situ (away from its natural habitat) of pernambuco wood in São Paulo,” the researcher comments. A few findings: in Iperó, in the pernambuco wood Copse, for Conservation Ex Situ, there are over one thousand specimens of this tree, planted in 1999; in Paulínia, in the Brazil 500 Copse, there are another 500 specimens; on Lageado Farm on Unesp’s campus in Botucatu, Rocha came across a pernambuco wood tree 15 meters high, and probably 80 years old. The travelling through the state of São Paulo also tried to answer a ques-

tion that intrigues scientists and historians: did the species occur spontaneously in São Paulo? There are reports that there were native reserves of pernambuco wood in Ilhabela and Ubatuba, but up to now there has not been any scientific proof. Rocha went along trails in the Ilhabela State Park, always with the same result: all the tree formations pointed out to him as being pernambuco wood were instead, specimens of other species, whose popular names swing between the funny and the nearly obscene: jacarandá-bico-de-pato (duck-billed rosewoodMachaerium sp.), cockroach shell or palmfiber rope (Xylopia brasiliensis), araçá-piranga or big guava (Eugenia leitonii) and sow’s nipple (Zanthoxylum rhoifolium). The confusion was due to the fact that these trees have red bark or spineshaped protuberances (aculei) on the trunk or branches, characteristics that are reminiscent of pernambuco wood. In spite of having had fundamental importance for the history and the economy of colonial and even imperial Brazil, in many aspects, to use a hackneyed phrase, pernambuco wood is still an illustrious stranger. In the hands of man, the calling of this natural resource was almost an unwritten maxim: a good tree was a felled tree. In the course of some 370 years, between the beginning of the 16th century and the end of the 19th, while the Atlantic Rain Frest still had considerable stocks of this tropical tree and artificial dyes had not yet made headway, C. echinata imparted its tones of fire to clothes, paper and pictures, besides being used in construction and shipbuilding. After this, it was forgotten or relegated to a superficial role in the history books. Fortunately, this scenario is starting to change, with the advance of the efforts to preserve the species, which were given an impulse three years ago, during the commemorations of the discovery of Brazil 500 years ago and the launch of major scientific projects on the most Brazilian of trees. •

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SCIENCE

ECOLOGY

Forest clearing fires (red dots) in Mato Grosso: smoke creates a sunshade for the forest

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Shadows o


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f

s over the orest Clouds of smoke from forest clearing fires block out 20% of the light from the sun, reduce rainfall and cool down the Amazon Forest M ARCOS P IVET TA Published in April 2003

IMAGES BY NASA

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lmost everyone has already seen this scene, either live or on the television: clouds of smoke stain gray the sky of the Amazon at the peak of the forest clearing fire season, between August and October, the driest time of the year in the region. In this period, for lack of visibility, the airports of capital cities such as Rio Branco and Porto Velho close all the time for take-offs and landings, as microscopic particles – called aerosols – arising from the combustion of the vegetation, cloud the firmament in a striking manner. On a particularly murky day, a false, slow – and beautiful – sunset can begin at midday and drag on for hours. All because of the shadow of the aerosols that hangs over significant parts of the Amazon when man uses fire, one of the most primitive and polluting ways of clearing and preparing the land for cultivation. The untimely darkness, as if over the forest there were a giant manmade sunshade, can be the most visible effect of an atmosphere saturated with suspended particles, but it is far from being the only one. It is only now that science is beginning to have some elements to see that these forest clearing fires, the main source of aerosols during the dry season in the northern region, disturb the climate and the vegetation in even more subtle and perverse ways. Unleashing a chain of physico-chemical events a few kilometers above the forest, the startling concentration of aerosols at the height of the fire season reaches peaks of 30,000 particles per cubic centimeter of air, a level some 100 times greater than found in the polluted city of São Paulo in deepest winter. This alters the environment immediately beneath the cloud of smoke. It reduces by an average of one-fifth the PESQUISA FAPESP

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sunlight that hits the ground, and has the potential for cooling the surface by up to 2º Celsius and for reducing by from 15% to 30% the rainfall in the region. The reduction in solar radiation on the surface, caused by the excess of particles in suspension, can also pull down the photosynthesis rate of trees. “As the particles sometimes travel thousands of kilometers in the atmosphere before falling to earth, the aerosols can show their effects at spots that are distant from where the forest clearing fires occur”, explains Paulo Artaxo, from the Physics Institute of the University of São Paulo (IF/USP), one of the researchers taking part in the Large Scale Biosphere-Atmosphere Experiment in theAmazon (LBA). “Particles coming from the Amazon have now been found in the Andes and in São Paulo.” his does not mean that, due to the cooling down and the dry season, associated with the action of the aerosols, the sales of sweaters have shot up or that umbrellas have fallen into disuse in sectors of the Amazon between August and October. Neither is there unequivocal evidence that the trees are suffering from lower photosynthesis in this period of the year. For the time being, except for the measurable fall in the light intensity that hits the surface at the time of the forest clearing fires, the other consequences attributed to the mantle of dust suspended over the forest still hold a considerable degree of uncertainty. They appear more in theory, in the calculations and mathematical models run on computers than in the daily reality. But one should not forget that the models are, in good measure, the laboratories of the climate scientists, and they would otherwise have no way of studying the impact of some of nature’s phenomena. The good news is that the amount of information that is beginning to arise about the climate of Amazonia with the LBA – an international US$ 80 million mega-project that since 1999 has gathered together over 300 researchers from Latin America, Europe and the United States, under Brazilian leadership – has no parallel, and is already helping the effect of the aerosols in this ecosystem to be understood.“Now, we have amount of in-

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formation that had never been available”, says researcher Maria Assunção Faus da Silva Dias, from USP’s Astronomy, Geophysics and Atmospheric Sciences Institute, who is also participating in the project. Action of the aerosols - When one talks about the forest clearing fires in Amazonia, the first environmental villain that comes to mind is carbon dioxide (CO2), one of the byproducts of the combustion of vegetation. The main compound associated with the increase in the greenhouse effect, a phenomenon responsible for heating the atmosphere all over the planet and that can alter the condition of life on Earth drastically, carbon dioxide is a recurrent theme. Aerosols, though, which have a diameter varying from 0.01 to 20 micrometers (1 micrometer is a millionth part of a meter), are a theme that is newer and less understood. Not for this reason less important. “This field of study is still in full spate of development”, comments Carlos Nobre, of the National Institute for Space Research (Inpe) in São José dos Campos, the LBA scientific coordinator. “It is more difficult to understand the impact of the aerosols.” The hypothesis that aerosols have a deacreasing temparature effect is not an unprecedented one, nor is it used only in the context of Amazonia. When it broke out in eruption in 1991, the Philippine volcano Pinatubo expelled large quantities of lava and ash and led to a significant reduction in the average temperature of the planet throughout one year. In this context, a hasty thinker could conclude that mankind

ought to increase deliberately the levels of production of aerosols, to combat the global warming caused by the increase in the greenhouse effect. Besides nobody knowing for sure wether this solution would really be effective, there is a sort of craziness within this line of thinking: aerosols are a form of air pollution, and it makes no sense to fight global warming with more dirt. “They are harmful to human health and carry toxic elements that affect ecosystems”, Artaxo warns. Everything that produces smoke in a large quantity can originate aerosols. These particles may be produced by industrial activities, volcanoes eruptions, automobile engines, pollen grains, bacteria, and soil dust. In the north of Brazil, during the dry season, it is the ashes from the forest clearing fires that cause a steep increase in the levels of aerosols. As they are short lived, with about one week in the atmosphere, aerosols produce effects more at the local or regional level. They are not like carbon dioxide, a gas that takes over 100 years to vanish from the atmosphere and which has a much more cumulative and global action on the climate of the Earth. But as every year, during at least three months, the particles launched into the air by the forest clearing fires are incorporated into the Amazonian ecosystem with an impressive intensity, their repercussions should not be all that temporary in the northern region of the country. Sunblocker - With the help of satellite

images, instruments set up at fixed points of the forest that record without inter-

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PHOTOGRAPH BY PAULO ARTAXO/IF-USP

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Sunset at 10 a.m. in Ji-Paraná: the atmosphere saturated with particles

ruption the temperature, the solar radiation and the flow of gases, and measurements made with the help of an aircraft, mainly during the two major campaigns carried out by the mega-project (one in the in the humid season, between January and February 1999, and another at the time of transition between drought and the beginning of the rains, from August to November last year), the action of the aerosols on the climate of Amazonia struck the eyes of the researchers in the LBA. There are many uncertainties about the impact of the particles in suspension, but one thing is certain: they are really very efficient in blocking out the sun during the forest clearing fires in Amazonia, as the smoke cover can extend over an area of from 2 to 4 million square kilometers, something between 40% and 80% of the total territory of this ecosystem.

It is true that to see this, one does not have to be a scientist, one just has to look at the sky on a smoky day. But the researchers have just quantified this decrease in solar radiation on the surface in detail. Calculations done at two points of the northern region – at Alta Floresta, in the north of Mato Grosso, and in Ji-Paraná, in Rondônia – show that, on average, from August to October, 20% of the solar radiation is absorbed by the aerosols or reflected and sent back to space. In extreme cases, peaks occur when the retention or reflection of the rays of the Sun can reach 50%. Even the light that is able to cross through the thick layer of smoke reaches the surface altered to a large extent: the quantity of direct radiation frequently falls to one third of the normal, and the diffused radiation (which does not strike the eyes directly) may increase up to sevenfold. To obtain these results, the researcher Aline Sarmento Procópio, from Paulo Artaxo’s team, of USP’s

Physics Institute, analyzed the data referring to four years of observation in JiParaná and Alta Floresta. “It is interesting to point out that despite being separated by roughly 700 kilometers, these two towns show similar patterns of alterations to the flow of solar radiation caused by aerosols. This indicates that the problem is of a regional nature and affects a major part of Amazon”, Aline comments. Cooling down - If dust in suspension

works as a sort of opaque sunshade over the forest, preventing a considerable part of light to arrive at the surface, it is reasonalbe to think that these particles induce a cooling effect at ground level during the dry season. It may seem ironical to say that a byproduct of plant combustion – a process that, at the first moment, logically heats up the place where the forest clearing fire occurs – may bring about, at a second moment, a fall in the temperature. But, by the researchers’ reasoning, the concentration of particles coming from the forest clearing fires has, theoretically, the

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capacity for lowering the temperature on the surface immediately beneath the cloud of smoke by around 2º C (Celsius). In a region like the Amazon, where daily averages easily reach 35º C, a reduction like this in the temperature may seem modest. But these values are, on the contrary, extremely high, even more so when one knows that significant changes in the world’s climate can be caused by oscillations in the order a mere half degree Celsius. There are, however, a few flaws in this story of looking at particles in suspension as an air conditioner installed above the Amazon. This concept is valid for the probable effects of aerosols at ground level – but not a few kilometers above the forest, where these particles of pollution are to be found. If they cool down the surface of the land by blocking the passage of part of the sunlight that reaches the planet, aerosols produce precisely the opposite effect in the troposphere, the layer of the atmosphere that extends to roughly 15 kilometers above the surface of the Earth. A portion of this blocked solar radiation is absorbed by the aerosols themselves, which set about raising the temperature of the atmosphere by the emission of thermal radiation. n this case, the warmed up air transmits some heat to what is underneath, to the ground, as a fireplace warms a person not very far away from it. “By convection, a part of the extra heat in the atmosphere passes to the surface, and so it diminishes the cooling action of the aerosols on the ground”, says Carlos Nobre, from Inpe. In this case, instead of reducing the temperature on the surface by 2º C, aerosols, in practice, end up bringing the temperature down by only 0.5° C at the ground, according to Nobre. This is because the fall in the temperature produced by the aerosols at the surface is of a magnitude that is a little greater than the warming up brought about in the troposphere. Do you get it? Do you want more complexity in this picture? The scarcity of historical data on the climate in the northern region makes any more longterm comparison difficult of the current impact of aerosols on the temperatures. No one, for example, knows

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what the average temperature in Alta Floresta used to be in the 60s during the dry months, before the beginning of the projects for colonizing Amazonia. It is therefore impossible to compare data from the past, which does not exist, with those of today. Indeed, 40 years ago, the town had not even been founded and its current territory was no more than an untouched piece of jungle. One more complicating factor ? As the presence of aerosols is far from being the only factor that determines the real measured temperature in a place, the cooling action of the ashes may not be so intense . Other climatic variants may soften or even offset its effect. For example, in the years when the El Niño phenomenon occurs, bringing alterations to the pluviometric levels at several spots on the globe, it usually rains less in the north of Amazonia. “For all these conditioning factors, we still cannot see clearly the action that aerosols have on the surface temperature in the Amazon”, explains Artaxo, who coordinates one of FAPESP’s thematic projects within the LBA. Delayed rainfall - That poses the ques-

tion about rainfall. What is the impact of aerosols on the pluviometric levels in Amazonia? Nobody knows for sure, but, generally speaking, there is evidence that rainfall can be delayed or reduced by up to 30% as a result of the presence of aerosols in the atmosphere. Following a logical line of thought, the researchers believe that if the high concentrations of aerosols lower the surface temperatures, the rate of cloud formation in the region is also reduced. As there is less heat at ground level, less rising currents, the so-called thermals, are formed. On the basis of the fact that it is precisely these bubbles of heat that are responsible for carrying water vapor from the Earth’s surface to the skies – as everyone knows, hot air rises –, the quantity of raw material available for rainfall to

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occur in the atmosphere also becomes lower. The excess of aerosols may even influence the formation of clouds in the Amazon by means of another mechanism. About two thirds of the particles of smoke in suspension in the atmosphere are capable of retaining water and carrying out the role of cloud condensation nuclei (CCN). The water vapor builds up around these nuclei and form drops of cloud that grow to the point where the drops become big and heavy and fall in the form of rain. When there are few aerosol particles in the atmosphere of Amazonia, outside the period for forest clearing fires, the evaporated water is concentrated in a few CCNs, which are quicker to reach the size necessary to go back to the ground as rain. It is a very efficient mechanism for precipitation. There are times when just in one hour the drop, supported by a condensation nucleus, grows a million times in size and falls to the ground. In this case, the clouds, typical of an environment with clean air, are of the maritime kind,


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Eruption of Pinatubo: an impact on the climate of the planet during one year

for their low altitude, small number of CCNs and large size of the drops. They reach up to 5 kilometers in height and produce constant and regular rainfall. This is the predominant pattern in the natural cloud formation in the Amazon during the greater part of the year, when the number of condensation nuclei in the atmosphere oscillates between 300 and 800 particles per cubic centimeter. At the height of the forest clearing fires, the skies become so laden with aerosols that the peaks of CCN concentration can reach 30,000 particles per cubic centimeter. This high level of pollution changes the whole scenario of cloud formation and rainfall in the Amazon. “When there is an excess of aerosols, the water vapor is spread over more condensation nuclei and takes more time to turn into rain”, explains Maria Assunção, from the IAG-USP, the coordinator of another of FAPESP’s thematic projects within in the LBA. In this situation, the clouds are of the continental kind, commonly found in polluted places, and they can be as much as 15

kilometers in height. The growth of the drops is so slow that, in some cases, the water does not fall in the form of rain but evaporates once again into the atmosphere and is taken by the currents of wind to other regions. What happens then is a geographical displacement of pluviosity: the rain that ought to fall in one area is displaced to another. Storms - If the water from the continental clouds does not evaporate and this formation goes beyond 5 kilometers in height, it solidifies and turns into ice, since in this portion of the atmosphere the temperature is lower than 0º C. The result is a cumulo-nimbus, a storm cloud, which produces thunder and lightning. In this case, the rain takes longer to occur, but when it does happen, it is heavier and is concentrated in just one period. “During the campaign of the LBA last year in Rondônia, we were hoping for the rains to start in midOctober, but they only came in November”, recalls Maria Assunção. “There is no way of guaranteeing that this delay is due to the aerosols launched into

the atmosphere by the forest clearing fires, although this is what we suspect.” s it can be seen, the high levels of aerosols, as was observed in at least three months of the year in the Amazon, can make a mess of three major variants of climate: the levels of solar radiation, the temperature at the surface (and in the atmosphere) and the pattern of rainfall. Considering that the impact of these changes in the dynamics of the climate itself is still not well known, what is there to be said of its consequences in the ecosystem itself, in the forest and its inhabitants? At the first moment, the decrease of light in the forest strengthens the hypothesis that the photosynthesis of the plants should diminish in this dimmed environment created by the smoke from the forest clearing fires. But plant physiology does not respond in such a simple and direct manner. “It may even be that the effect of the aerosols is greater on ecology than on the physics of the atmosphere, but we still need to carry out studies along these lines”, comments Carlos Nobre, from Inpe. The disarray in the climate of the Amazon caused by the emission of aerosols is also of direct interest to other regions in Brazil and other countries. If it comes to be proved that the high concentrations of smoke lessens the rainfall in the northern region of Brazil, the becomes important for the international agenda. This is because the Amazonian rainforest is, after the oceans, the largest source of water vapor on the planet. If the rainfall in Amazonia changes, the rainfall in other regions of the globe is probably altered. In a study published last October in Journal of Geophysical Research, researchers from Duke University, in the US, simulated on a computer the climatic effects at a few points on the planet that could result from the deforestation of the Amazon. In this work, they observed significant reductions in the levels of rainfall and evaporation, above all during the wettest season, at spots on Earth as far away as South Dakota and North Dakota, states close to the border with Canada. •

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SCIENCE

ETHOLOGY

Monkeys

that almost

speak

Typical of the Atlantic Rain Forest, the woolly spider monkeys have a singular form of communication C ARLOS F IORAVANTI

Published in March 2003

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ouise is one of the most restless spider monkeys in the small reserve close to the city of Caratinga, in the north of Minas Gerais. With her pink face, small nose and prominent eyelashes, as if she were wearing make-up, she is the one who has most amorous encounters with all the adult males of the group. Until he died last year, Cutlip, recognized by the scar on his lip that earned him his name, was one of the centers of attention for the band and was frequently sought out by his fellows to be given hugs, in constant shows of affection. A few years ago, the special social organization of the wooly spider monkeys (Brachyteles arachnoides) surprised the researchers. Found for decades from


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PHOTOGRAPH BY MIGUEL BOYAYAN

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A representative of a society governed by friendship: no quarrels


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the south of Bahia to Paraná, but today marooned in remnants of the Atlantic Rain Forest in Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro, Espírito Santo and São Paulo, these about 1.5 meter tall monkeys, including the tail – also called mono-carvoeiros in Portuguese -charcoal monkeys, because of their all-black faces, like coal miners –, form communities that are run on the basis of fraternity and free love. Not only Louise, but any other female of the group, even Cher, the most discrete and isolated, mate with all the adult males they live with – normally one third of the groups, which have between 15 to 50 members. When they come on heat, they warble, something like a teeteetee, or then squeals and shrill whistles, like seeee, which they use to call the males, who remain nearby waiting for their turn. There are not quarrels or contests. The spider monkeys, the largest monkeys in the Americas, have managed to create a hierarchy that is governed by affection. At the center of the group are not the strongest, but the most liked, who stand out because it is they who are given most hugs by their companions, like Cutlip or Irv, recognized by the cross-shaped patches on his nose.

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ut the discoveries about the language of the spider monkeys are even more impressive. When they make their way through the forest, hidden by the foliage of the trees as they get further away from each other, these monkeys communicate in a way that has still not been found in any other species of primate. They recombine 14 elements of sound, which are like the vowels and consonants of human language, and produce a rich variety of calls – longer or shorter, higher or lower pitched –, in a process similar to the one we use to form words. Such is the reorganization of the sounds that one gets the impression that the spider monkeys even try to be inventive: when they strike up a conversation, they rarely repeat what the others have already said. A researcher for the Language Studies Institute (IEL) of the State University of Campinas (Unicamp), Eleonora Cavalcante Albano guarantees: these sounds from the woolly spider monkeys, described for the first time, form a natural language with a clear social sense, which helps to maintain the cohesion of the group. It only loses to ours, because it is possibly not symbolic. “It is a language that indicates the objects of the world, but it is not known if it represents them”, she says. In a hypothetical situation, a spider monkey manages to tell another spider monkey that a tree is laden with fruit only if it is in front of it, but it has no way of telling about the tree where it had been yesterday, nor to issue a specific sound for each kind of tree that it knows. In their vocabulary and in the recombinations of sounds, though, spider monkeys are unbeatable when compared with other Brazilian species of primates, amongst these the capuchins, the pygmy marmoset and the tamarins, which have a complex vocal communication. The spider monkeys’ ability for recombining sounds is also greater than two other species known for the noise

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they make: the African chimpanzee and the gibbon from the forests of Indonesia and Malaysia.

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t two different times, in July 1990 and August 1991, anthropologist Francisco Dyonísio Cardoso Mendes, a researcher at the Catholic University of Goiás, in Goiânia, covered the Caratinga Biological Station, a 9-square kilometer remnant of the Atlantic Rain Forest, and registered all the sounds he could in 138 hours of recordings. In an analysis of this material, concluded at the end of last year, Mendes put to good use the linkage he had established with Charles T. Snowden, at the University of Wisconsin, United States. He also worked with the supervisor for his MSE and PhD theses , psychologist César Ades, a researcher from the Psychology Institute (IP) of the University of São Paulo (USP) and one of the greatest Brazilian authorities in ethology, the science that studies animal behavior. Together, Mendes and Ades transformed the recordings into sonograms, a sort of graph that shows the frequency, intensity and duration of the sounds, and they discovered that the spider monkeys’ vocabulary is made up of 38 basic vocal calls. Twenty four of these are used in specific situations: there are sounds for play, at the moment of an hug, or as a warning in a situation of danger; there is also the crying of the babies that feel they have been abandoned, the mothers’ calls to their straying offspring, or the grunts of satisfaction after they have stuffed themselves full of fruit. But up to this point, nothing distinguishes spider monkeys from other animals. “These sounds are born more or less ready, like the barks of dogs, and they are used in specific contexts”, says Mendes. It was the calls of the spider monkeys as they leap from one tree to another that were completely foreign to reports previously made by other scientists. Made up of 14 elements of sound, this form of communication, which is the most common among them, was called sequential interchange, for a simple reason: one monkey calls and another answers, one at a time, less than 10 seconds later, almost like a conversation in which one waits for the other to finish before expressing himself. As the researchers discovered, there are two basic kinds of call within this category. The first is made up of whinnies, quite similar to the sounds from mares on heat or of male horses wanting to announce themselves. What identifies a whinny are the long, low-pitched and hoarse elements of sound, like an oh-ohhh (with the h standing for a harsh, guttural sound). This set includes short, high-pitched sounds which are mixed with low pitched sounds and result in contrasting compositions, something like how-(as in owl) eehhoo as in (hood) uhh. Uttered by animals who are further away, over 50 meters from the center of the group, this whinnying has a tone of anger or protest, meaning something like: “I’m far behind, wait for me, you hasty lot!.” The second group of basic sounds is the staccatos, made up only of short and sharp sounds, like ee-ee-ih. Produced by monkeys that are close to the center of the group, the staccatos

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One woolly spider monkey tells another where it is: language helps to maintain the cohesion of the group

can be translated as something like: I’m here, it’s all right”. But in both cases, the interpretations are still frail. “The search for the meanings of the sounds is like the work of anthropologists when they find a new culture”, Ades likens.

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he sonorous inventiveness of the spider monkeys leapt before the eyes with an examination of the way that organize the 14 units of sounds that make up the whinnying and the staccatos. In the 648 calls recorded by Mendes, there were 534 different sequences, still taking into consideration repetitions of the ttptrrrtArZ kind – each letter corresponds to a sound, now in a graphic representation of the spider monkeys’ communication (the lower case letters stand for short sounds and the upper case letters, long sounds). Once the redundancies were eliminated, 320 original sequences were left, without any repetition of phonemes, and 231 orders in which the different kinds of sounds would be combined, in longer or shorter calls. The spider monkeys’ vocal production is very rich in information, at the same time as it shows a certain reproductibility, which is a result of a clear set of rules for sequential organization”, Ades comments. “As in human language, there are elements of sound used mainly at the beginning of calls, others mainly in the middle, and others only at the end”, says he. At the beginning, it seemed as if the hue and cry had a very clear function: helping the members of the group to locate themselves in relation to the others, and so preventing them from getting lost – something fatal when one is dealing with a species that only knows how to live in a community. There is a certain logic: covered by foliage and 10, 20 or 50 meters away from each other, monkeys cannot see each other. Shouting out from time to time indicates where they are, in a sort of call. But the whinnies and the staccatos do other jobs. “The spider monkeys let loose these calls not only when they are in movement, but also when they are resting or eating, as if they were talking all the time”, says Mendes. Used more by adult monkeys, the whinnies and staccatos are more frequent in the morning, before the group starts looking for food, at the end of the afternoon, at the time they settle in the tree tops before sleeping, or when meeting other groups, and they contest for a place to rest or to feed themselves.

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The Don Juans and their harems In a line of research started ten years ago, César Ades has been analyzing the differences in behavior between two groups of animals with a probable common origin, but which today have quite different life styles. One is the cavy (Cavia aperea), an animal of 25 centimeters in length at the most, that lives freely, scattered over South America. The other is the guinea pig (Cavia porcellus), domesticated some 6,000 years ago in the Peruvian Andes, in a process in which it may have gained or lost skills, in a way that is similar to dogs, from the moment that their ancestors, the wolves, got close to a settlement some 15,000 years ago and discovered that they could win their food instead of hunting it. Patrícia Ferreira Monticelli, who is studying for a doctorate under César Ades, found that the mating of guinea pigs is a much longer and more lively ritual than it is with cavies. Drawing close to the female, the male guinea pig starts a dance, the “rumba”, in which he wags the rear of his body and utters a long prooo-oooorr sound– this is the courting call, which he uses to try to at-

tract the female. Afterwards, the male runs after the female, which responds to his approach by running and crying out eeec. The cavy, though, seems to be in a hurry: he dances a rumba that is broken up by warning gestures, and his call is lower, something like a prooor-prooor. “The cavy is courting and looking around him at the same time”, Patrícia says. “He reacts instantly to any strange noise that he may hear while he is with the female, and he even produces a special warning call, which sounds like derrrr.” Domestication may have liberated reproductive behavior.“The male guinea pig frequently courts the female cavy, but a male cavy rarely courts a female guinea pig”, says Ades. “The guinea pig’s obsession with reproduction is much greater. The male courts the female all the time, even when she is outside the period for reproduction.” Both the male guinea pig and the male cavy participate very little in taking care of their offspring. There may even be rivalry between father and son. At the age of one month, the young male guinea pigs start to take a beating from their fathers, if they venture to

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court the females, which includes their mothers and sisters, even though they are not yet able to copulate. When they are adult, the males form harems with six or seven females – and they have their favorites. The domesticated species is more flexible than the other in its social organization.“With the guinea pigs, when the population density increases, the animals split into subgroups, each male with his females, and each respecting the other’s territory”, the researcher comments. “The cavies are much less tolerant and do not form subgroups.” Amongst the rodents, the guinea pigs and the cavies have one of the richest vocal repertoires, with 12 different calls, including cries of pain and of defense, alarms in the face of danger and the shoot-shoot-shoot that they make all the time when they are in a group. The offspring that gets separated from their mothers utter a very high-pitched and repetitive whistle, like ooeec, ooeec, ooeec, thanks to which they manage to return to the group. César Ades’ team discovered that this whistle contains what they call a vocal signature, with charac-

It can no longer be said that we humans have a f we had shown that there are specific sounds marvelous form of communication, which is speech, for each situation and for each kind of social inand other animals just a simple communication”, teraction, it would be demonstrated that spider says the researcher from Goiânia. Until recently, the monkeys can speak”, comments Ades. The recomsounds of the primates were seen merely as insbination of sounds that these monkeys avail tinctive responses to situations of fear, pain or joy, themselves of is precisely the mechanism by which for example. No one would even cogitate this of the human beings produce language and meanings – of enigmatic hullaballoo of the spider monkeys, which, course, with a far wider repertoire, with 33 elements of to give a free run to the imagination, recalls the prisound or phonemes. For example, the words ‘gruesome’ mitive pleasure of uttering sounds that we still and ‘some grew’ are made of the same phonemes, but the experience, when turning a meaning changes in accordance yawn or a sneeze into a public with the order in which they are scandal. A strictly evolutionist used. “Could it be that there are THE PROJECT approach can also be adopted. common rules for recombining “If there is no danger, it is possounds for both monkeys and Vocal Communication sible to display oneself and to humans?”, Ades wonders. A poin Neotropical Mammals show individuality”, Ades says. sitive reply could bring the two MODALITY “For other animals, producing universes closer together. ImmeRegular research benefit line sounds is to expose oneself to diately, the knowledge built up predators.” could be of assistance in the proCOORDINATOR Mendes has been intrigued jects for breeding or maintaining CÉSAR ADES – Psychology Institute-USP with the sounds of spider monthis species that is threatened keys even since he first heard with extinction, of which there INVESTMENT them, in 1985. That was when he must be less than a thousand inR$ 37,954.34 began to study the social strucdividuals left.

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Contrasts: a domesticated species, the female guinea pig takes care of offspring of another mother, while the cavy (near left) remains aloof

teristics that distinguish one offspring from another, to make it possible to be recognized by their mothers. “Recognition of one’s offspring is a crucial biological necessity”, the researcher comments. “In nature, if a mother fails to recognize her own children, she is subject to waste time protecting the offspring of others and feeding them, to the detriment of her own.” In her doctorate, concluded last year, Rosana Suemi Tokumaru, who was recently hired by the Federal University of Espírito Santo (UFES), proved in experiments that female guinea pigs recognize their offspring according to the smell of each one of them, and they

spend more time close to them than to the offspring of other mothers. Suemi wanted to see whether they would recognize their offspring at a distance, just by means of their whistles on separation. First, she created a learning situation, in which the mothers would hear repeatedly the whistle of one of their offspring, which would come in contact with her after the call. Afterwards, in another situation, a mother would have to choose between the whistle of one of her own offspring and one of an offspring of someone else. But the mothers did not distinguish between the calls, and would turn both to one and to the other.“The offspring’s whistle of se-

ture of these animals, under the joint supervision of Ades and primatologist Karen Strier, from the University of Wisconsin, United States. A pioneer in the study of this species, which she has been accompanying since 1982, it was Karen who gave the names to the animals and taught Mendes to identify each one of them by the color of their fur, by their shape and by the marks on their faces. From observing them so much, he also learned to distinguish each monkey according to its temperament – there are those that are quieter or more restless, those that are more sociable or more isolated.

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endes quickly discovered that he was looking at one of the most peaceful species of primates ever studied. The woolly spider monkeys do not bother about sharing trees to eat or to rest with members of the same band. “The groups are organized by friendly contact, not by power”, says the researcher, based on his more than 990 hours of observation in this stage of the work. The peaceful behavior can be explained, at least in part, by the fact that the males are usually related to each other, since they have remained in the same group since they

paration did not develop because of recognition by the mother”, Ades observes. “The call of the offspring works, because the mother is usually near by, and also because adults in the group are benevolent with regard to the youngsters, and even act as safety points.” Something like a child that has gotten lost in a shopping center and already feels comforted when someone pays attention to him or her, even if it is not the mother. The benevolence is so great, as Adriana Toyoda Tokamatsu proved in a work that is under way, that it is common for breastfeeding mothers to allow the offspring of others to have access to their milk. It may be another trait of domestication.

were born. It is only very rarely that they quarrel, even though one of the favorite pastimes of the youngsters is to provoke each other: they pester each other all the time, tickling or pulling their arms or legs. Even when adult, the spider monkey hugs each other frequently, with an embrace lasting up to several minutes every two and a half hours. Sometimes, five or six monkeys hug each other, using only their tails to hang from the branches. Differently from what happens with other species of primates, the males seem not to contend for the females, which, when on heat, give attention to all of them. Scientists ponder that there may be, though, competition for sperm: the greater the quantity of sperm produced, the greater the probability of fecundating the female. This hypothesis gains strength in the light of the huge size of the spider monkeys’ testicles, about 20 centimeters in length, and of their abundant ejaculation, to the point of running down trees of up to 15 meters in height, after copulation, until reaching the ground. The fact that the females mate with so many partners means that no male spider monkey knows which are really its children. Nor do the children, in turn, know who their father is. They do not seem to mind. • PESQUISA FAPESP

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rals – made up basically by a mouth with tentacles and a single cavity, responsible for gas exchanges, digestion and excretion. On the Coral Coast, the surface of the reefs still inhabited by marine invertebrates varies from 5% to 25% - otherwise, three quarters of the surface of the limestone hills are bare or covered by algae, traditional rivals of the corals. The exuberance of the scenery may, however, be deceptive, because in the shallower water of this region there still live colonies of massive starlet corals (Siderastrea stellata), a globe of up to 1 meter in diameter, and of branching fire coral (Millepora alcicornis), which are reminiscent of mustardcolored bushes, so called because they cause burns in those who dare to touch their branches. In the deeper waters, colonies are to be found of the large star coral (Montastrea cavernosa), the species shown on the following page, whose brown and velvety surface recalls some strange planet full of volcanoes.

indanger

Unique species - Even in the better

preserved places like the Abrolhos Bank, a region where the archipelago of the same name is to be found, in the south of Bahia, coral cover does not exceed 35% at some few spots – Biologists plan the repopulation levels similar to those in regions with larger areas of reefs, like the Caribbeof the coral reefs, one of the richest an and Australia. Although only 15 environments in the world, of the 650 known species of corals grow off the Brazilian shore, the prothreatened by excessive fishing portion of species that are exclusive to the country is high: seven of them are only found over here, concentraR ICARD O Z ORZET TO ted in a restricted area that corresAND V ERÔNICA F ALCÃO , FROM R ECIFE ponds to 0.4% of the world’s reefs, according to recently concluded research by Rodrigo Leão de Moura, a Published in January 2004 biologist from Conservation International Brazil’s unit in Caravelas, Bahia. Studies published in the Science blend tones of green, red, blue, white and brown, in the formagazine of August 15, 2003, details the seriousness of the mat of a brain, a fan, a globe or a bush, the reefs are the international situation of coral reefs, protected since 1975 ecosystem with the second greatest diversity of species in by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered the world, behind only the tropical forests. Environments Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, of which Brazil is a signaof extraordinary importance to life on land and at sea, they tory. In one of the articles, marine biologist Terence Hugare under threat all over the world. hes, from James Cook University, in Australia, estimates The first national survey showed that the state of conthat 30% of the reefs are already seriously damaged, and servation of the coastal reefs in Brazil – the only ones in the another 60% should be lost by 2030, because of a process South Atlantic – is worrying, even in protected areas like of alteration to the delicate balance of these marine envithe Coral Coast, a long sequence of beaches with white ronments, intensified last century by excessive fishing, polsands bordered by coconut trees and a swimming pool blue lution, agriculture, devastation of coastal forests and the sea. In front of these beaches there is the most extensive climatic changes of the planet. formation of reefs in Brazil, which extends for 130 kilomeOne of the signs that caught the attention of internatiters, from the municipality of Tamandaré, in the south of onal groups of researchers to the state of conservation of the state of Pernambuco, to Paripueira, in the north of Alathe corals was a phenomenon called bleaching, easily idengoas. The reefs are limestone hills covered by millions or tified for making the corals lose color. Observed in reefs billions of extremely simple invertebrate animals – the cofrom regions thousands of kilometers distant from each

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t worked in the laboratory, and the hope is that it will also work in the open sea. A group of researchers from Rio de Janeiro, Pernambuco and Bahia should start in April the reproduction in tanks of three of the 15 species of corals found in the shallow and warm waters of the Brazilian Northeast. By the end of the year, according to the time schedule of the Living Coral project, the first colonies of corals created in the laboratory should be implanted in the region of Porto Seguro, in the south of Bahia. This repopulation is the newest prospect for recovering coral reefs, the richest and most fragile environment of the planet, which are spread along 3,000 kilometers of the Brazilian coast, from the north of Maranhão to the south of Bahia. Veritable submerged gardens, which


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Between one clean-up and another: the neon goby cleaning fish swimming over the large star coral

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other, such as off the coast of Australia and in the Indian Ocean, bleaching is an indication of the influence of the changes in the climate and of the increase in the temperature of the oceans on the corals. There is evidence that, in some cases, a rise of just 1 degree in the temperature of the water already causes the death or expulsion of microscopic algae (zooxanthellae) that live in the inside of the corals in a system of interaction with reciprocal benefits: the corals shelter the zooxanthellae, and, in exchange, these algae provide them with nutrients and oxygen and assist in the formation of the limestone skeleton. But when the environment is altered beyond a limit, the substances produced by the zooxanthellae become toxic for the corals, which then eliminate the algae responsible for their typical colors. As a consequence, Reefs suffer they lose color with small and may die, depending on the variations in quantity of altemperature gae they lose. The specialists warn of the risk of the corals disappearing in the next few decades, should nothing be done to contain the increase in the temperature of the planet, deriving, in good measure, to the emission of carbon dioxide and other pollutants in the atmosphere. On the Brazilian coast, bleaching has now been identified at spots on the coast distant up to 2,000 kilometers from each other. The most serious situation occurred in Maracajaú, Rio Grande do Norte, where 12% of the colonies showed white patches, according to this first national survey, coordinated by Beatrice Padovani Ferreira, an oceanographer from the Federal University of Pernambuco (UFPE), with funding from the Ministry of the Environment’s Conservation and Sustainable Use of Brazilian Biological Diversity Project (Probio). Coral bleaching has also arisen, to a lesser degree, in Abrolhos, on Atol das Rocas, in Fernando de Noronha and on the Coral Coast – a strong indication that it really is part of a phenomenon on a world-wide scale, according to Beatrice. In spite of this suspicion, the cause of the problem in 60

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Brazil is still not known for sure. “The coral bleaching observed in Abrolhos in 2003 may be linked to the excess of sunlight”, ponders Clovis Barreira e Castro, a specialist in corals from the National Museum of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) and one of those taking part in this study, presented in September to the Ministry of the Environment. Castro raises this suspicion, because it rained little and the waters were very clear the major part of the time during the year in which this episode of coral bleaching was observed. Fish disappeared - The effects of the

damages to the reefs do not appear just in the eyes of the specialists. They also arise in daily life, particularly of those who live on the coast or enjoy their seaside holidays there. Even in the most refined restaurants on Boa Viagem beach, the most feted in Recife, it is almost impossible to find the tasty steaks of grouper (Epinephelus spp or Mycteroperca spp). Traditional inhabitants of the Brazilian reefs, these fish, and the itajara (jewfish or Epinephelus itajara) as well – a big brown fish with black patches, up to 3 meters long and 400 kilos in weight, which it is forbidden to fish in Brazil – may indicate how the health of the corals is faring. When these carnivorous fish like the groupers began to get scarce, the fishermen started to catch smaller varieties and, more recently, herbivorous fish like the parrotfish (Scarus trispinosus), which weigh no more than 20 kilos. Voracious eaters of algae, parrotfishes are beginning to replace both groupers and itajaras on the menus of Brazilian restaurants, as well as being exported to Europe and the United States. With parrotfish being fished, the algae that they used to feed on have started to proliferate freely on the reefs and to occupy the space of the corals. “This change in preferential species for fishing began five years ago on the coast off Bahia and has been disseminated over the whole of the Northeast”, explains Beatrice, a specialist in fish population dynamics. She has managed to mobilize ten biological and oceanographic researchers from four states – Pernambuco, Rio de Janeiro, Bahia and Ceará – who saved time and energy by relying on the voluntary work of 30 fishermen and di-

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vers, trained to assist in the collection of the data, following the methodology for analysis of Reef Check, an international organization that monitors the health of the reefs in 150 countries. This was how, in a relatively short time – from March 2002 to March 2003 –, they assessed five of the seven largest Brazilian reef formations, all in the region of the Northeast, the only one in the country with shallow warm waters, suitable for the growth of corals. In groups of two or three divers, armed with pencils and boards for writing underwater, they took note of the species of corals, fish and other marine animals that live in the 52 sample areas of 400 square meters in Abrolhos, in Bahia; on the Coral Coast, between Alagoas and Pernambuco; on Fernando de Noronha, Pernambuco; on Atol das Rocas and Maracajaú, both in Rio Grande do Norte.

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he most serious situation is of the reefs located at less than 1 kilometer from the coast, as in the region of Porto de Galinhas, in the south of Pernambuco. “There, the state of the corals in the reefs closest to the beach is terrible”, notes oceanographer Jacques Laborel, from the University of Marseille, in France, the author of one of the most complete descriptions of the Brazilian reefs, done at the end of the 1960s. In October 2002, Laborel returned to Brazil to take part in the commemorations for the 50th anniversary of the Oceanography Department, which he helped to create at the UFPE. He couldn’t resist and, at the age of 68, dived into the sea that he had known almost four decades back. Laborel estimated that, close to the beaches, there has been a reduction of 80% in the coral cover of the reefs, compared with what he had observed 40 years before. “When the damage is great, the reefs are not capable of recovering themselves without assistance”, Castro comments. It is he who is coordinating the project for repopulating the coral reefs, in partnership with Débora Pires, also from the National Museum, Mauro Maida and Beatrice Ferreira, both from UFPE, as well as people taking part in the Friendly Turtle Project and Tamar (Maritime Turtle), intended to preserve turtles and Brazilian marine environ-


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Bleaching of the large star: with warmer waters, coral expels algae, loses color and dies From predator to prey: a coney, which is beginning to disappear from the reefs


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ments. In the initial stage of this project, which has R$ 350,000 in funding from the National Environment Fund (FNMA), the researchers will be working with the main species responsible for the formation of the reefs, such as the brain corals of the Mussismilia genus, found only in Brazil, the large star coral and the small brain coral (Favia gravida), a globe of some 10 centimeters whose appearance is reminiscent of a human brain. Both the brain corals and the large stars are fecundated externally at a given time of the year, when they release male and female gametes into the water, where fecundation takes place. The eggs develop into microscopic larvae – called planulae – which swim for some time before fixing themselves on the rocks on the bottom of the sea and giving rise to new colonies. The small brain Fish recover coral, though, is rapidly in a species with internal fecunfishing-free dation. Once a areas month, the males discharge into the water their reproductive cells, which penetrate into the body of the females and fertilize them. Next, the female corals release the larvae, which swim for two or three days before fixing themselves on rocks and forming new colonies. Recruits into the sea - At the same

time, Castro and Débora, who since 1996 have been publishing together scientific articles describing the reproduction of the species of the Brazilian coast, intend to develop, in a laboratory in Porto Seguro, Bahia, a technique for artificial fecundation. The intention is to reproduce in captivity corals with external fecundation, like the Mussismilia braziliensis, which forms colonies with the aspect of a giant mushroom, of up to 1 meter, found only at Abrolhos. “In one year, we intend to take the first recruits, the individual colony formers, to the reefs of Porto Seguro”, Débora reckons. If it works in Porto Seguro, where the reefs are more preserved, the researchers should set off to repopulate the more damaged reefs, such as those of the Coral Coast. “Taking care of the 62

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health of the corals is a task for governments, as provided for in the Convention on Biodiversity, signed at the Rio92”, Castro comments. “As we know that the government has its limitations, we will try to meet part of this need in another way.”

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ut this is not the only way to prevent the reefs from disappearing. Measures that are apparently simpler, such as the creation of prohibited zones for fishing, tourism and the extraction of other living beings contribute, albeit in an indirect fashion, to the recovery of the reefs. This is what is revealed by studies from the Coastal Reefs Project, a program for preserving the reefs of the Coral Coast, coordinated by Mauro Maida, from UFPE. In the experimental branch of this project, which enjoys the participation of Ibama, of the state environmental bodies of Pernambuco and Alagoas, and US$ 1.75 million in finance from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Maida’s team is assessing the evolution of two areas of 5 square kilometers each – one in Tamandaré and the other in Paripueira –, classified by an Ibama regulation as zones forbidden for fishing and tourism. In the course of one year, the researchers carried out 43 counts of the spe-

THE PROJECTS Monitoring Brazil’s Coral Reef COORDINATOR

BEATRICE PADOVANI FERREIRA – UFPE INVESTMENT

R$ 99,907.00 (Probio)

Living Coral Project COORDINATOR

CLOVIS BARREIRA

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CASTRO – UFRJ

INVESTMENT

R$ 348,167.00 (FNMA)

Coastal Reefs Project COORDINATOR

MAURO MAIDA – UFPE INVESTMENT

US$ 1.75 million (IDB)

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cies of marine animals and of the number of individuals found in the areas of restricted access and compared them with the results of 52 surveys carried out in two areas of reefs where fishing was permitted. The density of fishes, octopuses and lobsters in the demarcated sector has become four times greater than that observed in the open area, reveals the analysis done by Maida, Beatrice and oceanographer Fabiana Cava. The concentration of fishes, for example, was one individual per square meter in the forbidden zones, while in the open zones there was one fish in each 4 square meters. Even species rarely seen in Tamandaré, like itajaras, started to frequent the area free of fishermen. “We also noticed a modification in the behavior of the fish, which in this sector became less aloof to our presence”, says Fabiana. The Brazilian researchers are not the only ones to advocate this alternative to prevent the corals from being destroyed. The need for establishing forbidden zones for fishing and extraction of living beings appears to be an international consensus, since fishing at levels higher than those supported by nature is the main cause of the loss of reefs – the estimate is that 3.5 tons of fish a year are extracted from each square kilometer of reef in Brazil.“In spite of the seriousness of the growing threat of pollution, of diseases and of coral bleaching”, comments John Pandolfi, in August’s Science, “our results show that the ecosystems of the coral reefs will not survive more than a few decades if they are not immediately protected from human exploitation.” In the same issue of the magazine, Terence Hughes, from Australia, did a forecast for the next 50 years of the increase in the temperature of the oceans and of the rise in the rate of carbon dioxide dissolved in seawater, which makes the structure of the corals fragile. He concluded that if these problems continue to proceed at the current rate, the coral reefs are going to face, in the next five decades, a change in the marine environment so swift as the one they have passed through in the last 500,000 years. Accordingly, they may really even disappear, should the rate of environmental change exceed the capacity of the corals for adapting to the new environment. •


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PHOTOGRAPH BY LEO FRANCINI

PHOTOGRAPH BY BEATRICE PADOVANI FERREIRA/UFPE

Pioneer study: voluntary divers assess the health of the reefs

PHOTOGRAPH BY BEATRICE PADOVANI FERREIRA/UFPE

Burning beauty: specimens of the branching fire coral, with branches that cause burns PHOTOGRAPH BY LEO FRANCINI

The itajara, a fish that weighs up to 400 kilos, and the Mussismilia, brain coral, below, to be created in the laboratory


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FOR DOING CALCULATIONS Brazilian physicists in the worldwide race in search of the quantum computer R ICARD O Z ORZET TO Published in April 2003

t least in the heads of physicists, a new kind of computer is starting to be assembled, capable of carrying out in minutes calculations that the most rapid existing supercomputers would take billions of years to do. It is the quantum computer, so-called for working in a way that is completely different from common computers, following the laws of quantum mechanics, the part of physics that explains the phenomena that occur in the world of the atoms, and often defy common sense. Although nobody knows for sure what the appearance of this computer will be like, it will possibly have a monitor, keyboard and a mouse, like today’s equipment. The most noteworthy modification should take place in the processor: instead of having silicon chips (integrated circuits) with millions of transistors, it should rely on a few dozen atoms. To start with, the interest in producing a quantum computer was merely academic: physicists wanted to verify the possibility of carrying out logical operations based on properties of atoms and to prove the forecasts of quantum mechanics. But the capacity for calculating of these computers – theoretically infinite, because it doubles with every atom that is added to the processor – opened up the prospect for strategic applications: the quantum computer could break security codes that protect banking transactions and even the defense systems of nations. It is to avoid disasters with the discovery of these codes that in countries like the United States, even the Department of Defense is funding studies to develop equipment of

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Pyramids of germanium atoms, equivalent to the transistors in present-day computers: an alternative for controlling the spin of the electron and storing information (electron microscope image)

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this kind. Today, the quest for controlling the intrinsic properties of atoms and molecules is not restricted to the universities. Information technology giants, such as IBM, Microsoft and Hewlett Packard, are investing heavily in research in the area, with an eye on the market for microprocessors and memories, which has a turnover of US$ 100 billion a year. Years or even decades are likely to pass by until a computer that works on the basis of properties of atomic particles reaches the stores. The current stage of development of quantum computing would be equivalent to choosing the material to be used to build the foundations of a building. Physicists are trying to discover the most feasible alternative for using as a basis for a quantum computer: atoms caught in magnetic traps, atomic nuclei submitted to magnetic fields, electrons caught in small pyramids (quantum dots) or even corpuscles of light (photons). It is a stage comparable with the 50s, in the beginnings of computing, with the invention of the transistor, which was to replace electronic valves. Although it is probable that the first quantum computer will come out of some American laboratory, in view of the heavy investments that researchers there receive, Brazil is not out of the contest. Since studies in this area started, there have been important contributions. Even before talking about a quantum computer, at the beginning of the 80s, Amir Caldeira, from the State University of Campinas (Unicamp), was already showing that some quantum systems on an atomic scale – or even behaving like giant atoms – would lose energy to the environment that surrounds them. This phenomenon, quantum dissipation, is associated with another, decoherence, which leads to an undesirable effect: the loss of quantum information before it can be interpreted. Now it is physicists from Minas Gerais and Rio de Janeiro that are working together, studying a third kind of computer, the semiquantum, which brings together characteristics of the classical and quantum ones, and should get round a few technical difficulties. “We believe that it will be faster than the common computer and slower than the quantum one”, says Carlos Monken, a physicist from the Federal Uni66

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versity of Minas Gerais (UFMG) and the coordinator of the team. There was a leap forward in research in this area in the country, with the creation of the Millennium Institute of Quantum Information in 2001. Maintained by the Ministry of Science and Technology, it has a budget of R$ 5.2 million and gathers together teams from Rio de Janeiro, Alagoas, Minas Gerais, São Paulo and Pernambuco. Its coordinator, Luiz Davidovich, of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), is investigating properties of atoms and photons caught in cavities made up of mirrors and produced in an entangled form, interconnected by a species of telepathic property: everything that happens with one particle affects the other. ased on twin particles, the group from UFRJ proposed the first experiment for transferring the state of one particle to another distant one, called quantum teleportation, which was popularized with the science fiction series Star Trek. In an article published in 2001 in Physical Review Letters, which merited a comment in Nature, the physicists from Rio de Janeiro showed that it is possible to protect from decoherence the quantum state of an atom in a magnetic trap, one of the options thought up for the prototypes of quantum computers. The secret of the performance of this kind of computer is the way it handles the unit of information, the bit. In the common – or classical – computer, the bits are registered by transistors, tiny devices in an electronic circuit that allow an electrical signal to pass or not, and are parts of the processor and the memory chips.

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When carrying out a command, the classical computer associates with each bit just one of two values: either 0 or 1. As each transistor interprets just one bit at a time and the number of transistors in a chip is limited – a Pentium 4 processor, for example, has 40 million transistors –, the calculating capacity of today’s computers is becoming restricted, warns Iuri Pêpe, from the Optical Properties Laboratories of the Federal University of Bahia (UFBA). In the world of atomic particles – some hundred thousand times smaller than a transistor –, this ratio is not one of exclusion, but of superposition. However strange it may seem, instead of assuming only one value or another (0 or 1), the quantum bit, or qubit, as it is abbreviated, can represent the infinite value existing between 0 and 1, including 0 and 1. All at the same time. It is a property of atomic particles known as superposition of quantum states that should govern the functioning of the new machines. It is this superposition of states that allows each qubit to handle infinite bits of information simultaneously, as if they were countless common computers acting at the same time on


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one calculation and guaranteeing the quantum computer a matchless superiority in processing. Well, at least in theory, because the superposition of states also generates a difficulty. Another rule of quantum mechanics – the uncertainty principle, according to which it is impossible to know the position and the velocity of a particle at the same time – prevents one from knowing all the values that the qubits may take on at a single time when doing some calculation. The theory indicates that the computer should behave like a quantum one while processing the information and as a classical one when providing the results of the operations. Could there then be an advantage in building a computer of this kind? The answer is yes, provided that one knows how to take advantage of the superposition of quantum states. To do so, the physicists are dealing with the probability of getting a specific result. One example: there are at least two ways of discovering how many people in a group of ten like chocolate ice cream. In both of them, each interviewee can only answer yes or no. The first manner, adopted by today’s computer,

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is to ask each person if they like chocolate ice cream. Afterwards, add up the replies and get the final result in a total of ten consecutive operations (ten questions and the final totting up). The quantum computer manages to give the answer in a single operation, provided that one wants to know not the individual replies, but what percentage of them answers yes to the query. The secret lies in putting to the computer different questions, in an intelligent way”, explains physicist Reinaldo Oliveira Vianna, from UFMG. Prototypes - The closest one gets to a

quantum computer is today in the experimental physics laboratories of universities in America, Europe and even in Brazil – like at UFMG, UFRJ and the University of São Paulo (USP). Even so, the pieces of equipment that have been built are only primitive prototypes, which carry out very simple operations, such as the calculation of the divisors of the number 15, or a search in a database with only eight items. But this is only the beginning, of course. There is no physical barrier to carrying out quantum computing on a large scale”, avers Ivan Oliveira, a researcher from the Brazilian Center for Physical Researches (CBPF), in Rio.“The computer will be made. It is a question of time and investment.” With physicists from USP and from the Federal University of Espírito Santo (UFES), Oliveira uses nuclear magnetic resonance, the same technique that produces images of the human body, to carry out basic logical operations (sums, divisions and multiplications) with atomic nuclei. PHOTOGRAPH BY EDUARDO CESAR

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Rows of atoms: possible basis for the quantum computer

Even the physicists doubted this idea of using atoms and molecules to deal with information. In 1959, American Richard Feynman (1918-1988, Nobel Prize in 1965) felt in the flesh the skepticism of his colleagues when he put forward this possibility. The disbelief persisted until 1973, when chemist Charles Bennett, from IBM, showed the possibility of carrying out reversible logical operations – precisely the opposite to what happens in today’s computers, in which the bits used for a given calculation are undone. Almost ten years later, Paul Benioff, of the Argonne National Laboratory, in the United States, put forward the first model of a quantum computer, capable of carrying out these reversible operations. nly in 1994 did this subject acquire strategic importance. It was when Peter Shor, a scientist from AT&T, presented a process for calculating that would allow a quantum computer to reveal the components of numbers with thousands of digits in less steps and more quickly than the classical computer (the number 15, for example, can be broken down into 3 and 5). His juggling with numbers is the basis of the data protection systems adopted by Brazilian banks, which have a turnover of from R$ 2.5 trillion to R$ 6 trillion per month, in 50,000 to 80,000 encoded transactions. “A quantum computer could perhaps have a processing power that would make it possible to break this code in the course of one day and not over one year”, comments Maurício Ghetler, the technology director of Banco Santos. “But this is not the system’s only protection, and, the moment a piece of equipment of this kind is available, the financial system will use other forms of protection.” Later on, physicist Lov Grover, from the Bell Laboratories, proposed a mathematical procedure that would make it possible for a quantum computer to carry out searches in a database in a way that would make it more efficient as the size of the database increases. According to this method of calculating, known as Grover’s algorithm, while a common computer has to carry out an average of two operations to do one search in a database with four records, the quantum computer needs

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THE PROJECTS ■

MINAS GERAIS

Development of Quantum Algorithms COORDINATOR

CARLOS HENRIQUE MONKEN – UFMG INVESTMENT

R$ 631,245.00 (CNPq/MCT) ■

RIO DE JANEIRO

Quantum Computing by Nuclear Magnetic Resonance COORDINATOR

ALBERTO GUIMARÃES PASSOS FILHO – CBPF INVESTMENT

R$ 7,200.00 (CNPq/MCT) COORDINATOR

IVAN DOS SANTOS OLIVEIRA JÚNIOR -– CBPF INVESTMENT

R$ 7,200.00 (CNPq/MCT)

Quantum Information Institute COORDINATOR

LUIZ DAVIDOVICH – UFRJ

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only one step. For a query in a file with 16 records, a classical computer would do, on average, eight searches, and the quantum computer, four. The discoveries by Shor and Grover gave a thrust to studies in the area – the number of publications on the theme went up, even in more general scientific magazines. It was in an article in Nature, for example, that Daniel Gottesman, from Los Alamos National Laboratory, and Isaac Chuang, from IBM, demonstrated that another property of quantum mechanics, teleportation, would make it possible to build a quantum computer with today’s technology. Chuang had already revealed that it would be feasible to manipulate the alignment of atomic nuclei in relation to a magnetic field. Just like the needle of a compass, some atomic nuclei show magnetism – it would be enough for them to be controlled by means of nuclear magnetic resonance. In January this year, in Nature, Chuang corroborated another calculating process, which indicates whether a coin is genuine (one side is heads, the other, tails) or false (it has two heads or two tails), looking at just one of the sides. Any person needs to observe both sides of the coin before giving a minimally reliable reply.

INVESTMENT

R$ 2,144,000.00 (CNPq/MCT) ■

SÃO PAULO

Non-Perturbative Methods in Correlated Electronic Systems COORDINATOR

AMIR ORDACGI CALDEIRA – Unicamp INVESTMENT

R$ 80,657.74 (FAPESP)

Nanostructured Materials Investigated by Tunneling and Atomic Force Microscopy COORDINATOR

GILBERTO MEDEIROS RIBEIRO – LNLS INVESTMENT

R$ 501,136.62 (FAPESP)

A Study of Slow Dynamics in Polymers Through NMR COORDINATOR

TITO JOSÉ BONAGAMBA – IFSC/USP INVESTMENT

R$ 93,704.14 (FAPESP)

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ne question still bothers researchers: in practice, would the processing of calculations carried out by a quantum computer really be quicker than the classical one? To find out, you would have to build a piece of equipment with several dozens of qubits, which would then be close to a real quantum computer. It doesn’t even have to be very big. A computer of this kind with some 300 qubits would be capable of handling more quantum states than atoms on the Universe, which is equivalent to number 1 followed by 80 zeroes. For Reinaldo Oliveira Vianna, from UFMG, the experiments carried out to date, with about 7 qubits, are not sufficient to show that the quantum method of carrying our calculations is quicker. “The preparation of the data in the form of qubits may take time, as it is still complicated to produce hundreds of qubits”, the physicist explains. “It is only going to be possible to discover if the quantum computer really is more agile if one is constructed.”

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Version from Minas - As no one has

managed to surpass the barrier of a dozen qubits in the quantum computer, Vianna, Carlos Monken and Sebastião Pádua, from UFMG, alongside Paulo Henrique Souto Ribeiro, from UFRJ, all connected with the Millennium Insitute, are examining an alternative that seems to be simpler. This is the semiquantum computer, inspired on a model proposed by Jeffrey Yepez, of the Air Force Research Laboratory, of the United States. This hybrid equipment carries out the processing of information in the quantum way, by means of photons, and stores the results on a classical memory chip. It should be quicker than the classical computer, for needing less qubits for processing the same quantity of information, as the calculation of the team from Minas show. Monken’s group also made some more progress, in the way of storing the information in the quantum computer. Usually, the unit of information is associated with the direction of vibration (polarization) of the photons, corpuscles of light that behave like electromagnetic waves vibrating in space, like cords being shaken. The team from UFMG managed to associate another characteristic to the polarization of light, horizontal or vertical: the spatial form of the photon. By making the corpuscle of light pass through a special crystal, the physicists succeed in splitting it into two parts, which are propagated in parallel, aligned horizontally or vertically. They thereby encoded in a single photon not one qubit, but two: one in the direction of polarization, and another in the spatial alignment, as shown in an article to be published in Physical Review Letters. In USP’s São Carlos Physics Institute, a team led by Tito Bonagamba is looking for a way of overcoming the loss of quantum information (decoherence) during the processing of the data with nuclear magnetic resonance. In experiments with liquid crystal, carried out with Ivan Oliveira, Roberto Sarthour and Alberto Passos Guimarães Filho, from the CBPF, and Jair Checon de Freitas, from UFES, Bonagamba described with precision the decoherence time of quantum information: one qubit is capable of storing it for up to 15 thousandths of a second. The team is now proposing new ways of carrying


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PHOTOGRAPH BY RODRIGO QUEIROZ

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out quicker experiments or preserving the information for longer, guaranteeing the possibility of doing complex calculations. Antonio Vidiella-Barranco and José Antonio Roversi, from Unicamp, are working in a different way: they are manipulating the information with photons and ions (atoms with an electrical charge) trapped in cavities formed by mirrors. In Physics Letters A of July 2001, they showed that it is possible to perform logical operations with this system. “We proposed an alternative that involves a more robust system for storing the information (the vibration of ions), associated with light, which is good for transmitting data”, says Barranco. In another work, they indicated that it is possible to recover the original information, even after it has been lost through decoherence. By throwing a beam of light on top of another, trapped in the cavity, they developed a scheme where everything hap-

CARLOS MONKEN/UFMG

The half quantum, half classical computer: on an optic table like the one above, researchers from Minas and Rio associate the direction of the vibration of light (white stripes) with the spatial form of the photons (vertical or horizontal ellipses). Accordingly, they add one more piece of information per qubit.

pens as if the operations could take place with time frozen. Pyramids - Because of the difficulty of controlling a sufficient number of qubits that a quantum computer must have, to be able to work in systems that use photons or nuclear magnetic resonance, some physicists are betting that the most promising alternative is the imprisoned ions. But electronic engineer Gilberto Medeiros Ribeiro, from the National Laboratory of Synchrotron Light (LNLS), in Campinas, disagrees. For him, the final form of a quantum processor will be some kind of semicondutor, as happened with present-day computers. “Today’s computer started with valves and afterwards migrated to semicondutors”, says Ribeiro, who is producing structures that are hundreds of times smaller than transistors, quantum dots, pyramids with a base of 20 nanometers and 3 nanometers high – a nanometer is one millionth part of a

millimeter. Inside of them, a single electron is trapped, with the objective of controlling the direction of its rotation, or spin, in order to carry out logical operations. Ribeiro has now shown it to be possible to control the number of electrons trapped in quantum dots of indium arsenide, a semiconducting material that forms islets on gallium arsenide. In an article to be published in Physical Review Letters, he indicates how to foresee the distribution and the size of quantum dots in another semiconducting material, germanium deposited on silicon. At the moment, Ribeiro and Harry Westfahl, from the LNLS, and Amir Caldeira, from Unicamp, are studying the decoherence time of the information stored in the spin of the electrons in the quantum dots, with the support of HP Brazil. It will not be easy to arrive at the quantum computer, but what is going to be learnt in search of it should compensate for the effort. •

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ILLUSTRATION BY NEGREIROS

TECHNOLOGY

SOFTWARE

The computer’s voice Linguists and engineers from Unicamp formulate a speech system with a Brazilian accent T ÂNIA M ARQUES Published in May 2003

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f a good number of machines now “speaks” sufficiently well for carrying out simple tasks, and many people have for some years been “talking” to automated telephone answering systems and automatic teller machines, the synthetic voice resources in commercial use still show some difficulties in reproducing human speech with naturality. And their vocabulary is very limited. But there are indications that computers will soon be losing their digital accent and expand their linguistic universe. Big companies are starting to get results that are more natural and agreeable to the ears. This quest for perfection in sounds from computers began early at the State University of Campinas (Unicamp).

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A joint project, started in 1991, between the linguistic and electrical engineering areas produced software that today is capable of reading aloud any text written in Portuguese, without the characteristic English accent of the systems produced outside Brazil. The Brazilian program bears the name of Aiuruetê, which means “true parrot”in the Tupy (the most common Brazilian indigenous language). Right from the beginning, the development of the system has been subordinated to scientific ends, but the project has also produced some technological results. “We wanted to create a speech synthesis system in Brazilian Portuguese, starting with basic research and focused on it”, recalls Professor Eleonora Cavalcante Al-


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bano, from the Phonetics and Psycholinguistic Laboratory of the Language Studies Institute (Lafape/IEL), who is coordinating the work. Maintaining the original target and with a broad vision of the phonetic-acoustic description of language, the venture included studies of problems of articulatory development and disturbances, phonological theory, phonostylistics and the analysis and synthesis of speech. Swift evolution - In 1992, Professor Fábio Violaro, the coordinator of the Digital Speech Processing Laboratory of the Faculty of Electrical Engineering (LPDF/ Feec) and his group of researchers embraced Lafape’s project.“We were already working with speech synthesis, but the results of our efforts were limited, precisely for the lack of linguistic knowledge”, says Violaro. At the time, personal computers were evolving apace, and their resources for processing and memory were already making it possible to develop voice synthesis programs. Today, Aiuruetê runs on any computer with a Windows operating system. Speech synthesis programs, which can make a big contribution to distance learning and to the education of the visually impaired, besides a series of commercial applications, are usually based on the conversion from text to speech. Like similar foreign software, Aiuruetê works with textual information, which, in the preprocessing stage, is submitted to an analysis, to include the grammatical characteristics (acronyms, abbreviations and graphic symbols) and rewritten in full in the way it is read. Afterwards, it undergoes a phonetic transcription. Then the software looks in its database for utterances compatible with the transcribed material and takes care of stringing together the phonetic elements that make up the words, also giving them information on the intonation and rhythm of Brazilian Portuguese. Does it seem easy? Well, it isn’t – so much so that since the beginning of the so-called digital ages speech synthesis has been a challenge to researchers from all over the world, who have attained a level that is no more than reasonable. Several factors contribute towards the complexity of the process, in any language. In the first place, systems written for different languages have varied degrees of phoneticity – only up to a cer-

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tain point does the spelling of words determine their pronunciation. English, for example, has an orthography that is far from being phonetic. Words spelt in a different way, such as rite, write, right and wright are pronounced exactly the same way and have, therefore, the same phonetic transcription: RIT. The orthography of Portuguese has medium phoneticity, but even so does not offer fewer difficulties. To stay with just one example, suffice it to remember that the letter “x” may have the sound of “sh”, “s”, “ks” or “z”.“Portuguese is nice, but Spanish is much better”, Eleonora jokes.

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ddressing the question, a layman can imagine that the construction of a database with all the words of the language is the solution. But an enterprise of this kind, besides being monumental, would be fated to failure: language is dynamic, and new words arise every day. Furthermore, the pronunciation of one and the same word varies in accordance with the context, which would imply the need for recording the same word several times – there simply could not be any dictionary of such a size.Even words that are widely used may not be in any dictionary, as well as the verbal inflections and the diminutive and superlative forms. What software chiefly needs is parameters to guide the pronunciation by the machine. “We opted for limiting ourselves to some 2,500 excerpts from recordings”, says Eleonora. The number is not a very high one, but the excerpts were submitted to a strict selection. In it, the researchers did not work with a

THE PROJECT Processing Text and Acoustic Signals in Brazilian Portuguese: A Linguistic – Engineering Interface for the Science and Technology of Speech MODALITY

Thematic project COORDINATOR

ELEONORA CAVALCANTE ALBANO – Language Studies Institute at Unicamp INVESTMENT

R$ 9,528.00 and US$ 58,672.00

traditional concept in linguistics that defines the phoneme as the smallest mental unit corresponding to sound. Since the start of the work, the team has maintained the theoretical position according to which the phoneme is an abstraction influenced by alphabetical writing. One of the points of the study was of the various phonemes that undergo an influence from those that precede them and from those that follow them. “Many factors are combined in the articulation of sounds, and a ‘p’ followed by an ‘a’ is pronounced differently from ‘p’ followed by an ‘i’ or a ‘u’”, Eleonora observes. Another problem in developing a speech system is the differences between the graphic representations of the text and the way they are expressed in speech. Abbreviations, for example, can be read differently, even when they have the same number of characters and are equally pronounceable. In this regard, it is worth comparing USA with NASA, for example. Reading a telephone number is different from a numerical expression – nobody would read 32220000 as 32 million, two hundred and twenty thousand. In Portuguese, measurements of length are written in the same way in the singular and in the plural: 1 meter and 100 m. All this calls for complex algorithms. Emotion and subtleties - “Although it

can already be used in a series of applications, Aiuruetê is still under development”, explains Violaro. Among the improvements, there is the assimilation of the subtleties of the rhythms of Brazilian speech. “In future, we want Aiuruetê to express even the tonal differentials of emotion”, says Eleonora. According to Violaro, the program is beginning to arouse the interest of some companies that are specialized in information technology. One of them was to use Aiuruetê in a self-service system aimed at medical clinics, with the booking of appointments and other functional features. Furthermore, the work will also result in building up a public database of knowledge of the phonic aspects of the Portuguese spoken in Brazil. The software is therefore getting closer to one of the most appreciated properties of true parrots: being the most talkative of the Psittacidae family. •

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Test samples of ceramic materials developed at the UFSCar and Unesp laboratories

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TECHNOLOGY

STEEL MAKING

Lucrative Marriage

A fourteen-year partnership between the university and the company CSN has brought in some US$ 85 million for the company M ARILI R IBEIRO Published in June 2003

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he greatest difficulty in very successful partnerships between a university and business, when working together in search of technological innovation, is to quantify the gains. By the calculations of the gigantic company Companhia Siderúrgica Nacional (CSN), the improvement in the productivity of their steel mill at Volta Redonda, in the state of Rio de Janeiro, added to the increase in the quality of the steels obtained there, has resulted in gains in the order of US$ 85 million during the fourteen year period of marriage with the Federal University of São Carlos (UFSCar) and the São Paulo State University (Unesp) of Araraquara. Profits coming from the application of forty one projects for the implementation of new methodologies and processes after research carried out by the Interdisciplinary Electrochemical and Ceramic Laboratory (Liec), which exists in the two universities, along with CSN’s own Research Center. For the past three years, this laboratory has made up part of the Multidisciplinary Center for the Development of Ceramic Materials (CMDMC), one of the ten Research, Innovation and Diffusion Centers (Cepids) that make up part of a special program established by FAPESP. The gains by the CSN through the innovations represent a considerable volume of money for a country with little tradition in giving incentive towards research development. This value is even greater if we consider that a good part of this resulted from evolution in refractory ceramics, an input which less than ten years ago weighed heavily on Brazilian imports. The gains and the reversal of this point in the trade balance were attained thanks to the standards conquered by the Liec and CSN’s researchers, who

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spread their knowledge all the way through the productivity chain, which stretches from the raw material producers for refractory material manufacture to the steel companies. Currently, many national companies, as is the case with the company Magnesita from the state of Minas Gerais, have turned into exporters of technology on refractory ceramics using magnesium-carbon and magnesium-carbon-aluminum mixtures. The story of the CSN-Liec partnership started with a well-defined national flavor, following the publicity of an electronic goods firm that had a lot of success and had produced a popular motto, something along the lines of: “Our Japanese are better than their Japanese”. Everything started with operational difficulties at the blast furnaces, the heart of the business of a steel mill, where pig iron, the stage before steel, is produced. CSN hired a team of consultants from a Japanese company, who diagnosed a problem of thermal shock in the ceramic burner of the regenerators. Responsible for the supply of hot air for the blast furnace, the paralysis of the operating of this equipment for repairs, scheduled to last for a minimum of six months according to the Japanese technical team, would have created a drama in the production of the mill. Frightened when faced by such a prognosis and probable losses – in the end, the estimation for the repair of the burner was around US$ 15 million –, the managers at CSN decided to turn to Liec before making a final decision.

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wo days of incessant discussions sealed the year 1989 as one of the start of a marriage capable of producing fine fruit. At that time, after the evaluation of the UFSCar researchers, it was seen that the Japanese consultants had precipitated their analysis. There was no problem of thermal shock in the refractory material of the ceramic burner, but there was strong corrosion, which could be counteracted by the installation of filters to remove particles of iron oxide coming from the gas of the blast furnace. The solution presented by the Liec and CSN’s engineers ended up extending the life of the ceramic burner by three years, sufficient time to plan and to carry out repairs without hurting production on equipment that,

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in later treatment, gained a further four years of life. Everything was done without ever stopping work. As he likes to remember, while emphasizing each word with the diction typical of a school teacher, Professor Elson Longo, the director of the CMDMC in São Carlos, underlines: “When we arrived at CSN, they were producing 4 million tons of steel per year. Today they are producing 5.5 million tons practically with the same equipment. And this is taking into account that the nominal capacity of the steel mill was only 4.6 million”. The gain of 1.5 million tons is due to a complete change in the concept of the refractory material during the fourteen years of mutually living together. The excellence in the mastery of these ceramic materials was made possible by a combination of investments at the Liec in São Carlos. It was established with resources to the tune of US$ 400,000, sponsored by FAPESP, the Financier of Studies and Projects (Finep), the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq), the Bank of Brazil, and the Companhia Brasileira de Metalurgia e Metais (CBMM).And, even attending to the demands of various large industrial groups present in their portfolio of clients, it annually receives only R$ 180,000 of private incentive for its maintenance, which costs around R$ 1.3 million per year. The bulk of the necessary resources comes from financing agencies. As well as FAPESP and the CNPq, there is collaboration from the Coordination for the Training of Personnel at Tertiary Level (Capes). Accumulation of knowledge - In the specific case of the steel mill, the steels gained enormous competitiveness abroad after the incorporation of the technological conquests.“National steel reaches the United States cheaper that the one produced by them”, informs Longo. The gains calculated by CSN of US$ 85 million through the partnership are

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considered to be a conservative estimate. “This is a number a long way away from reality because only the result obtained during the first year in which the innovation is implemented is considered, without taking into consideration later gains”, the Professor explains.“Nevertheless, the most important thing is not the number in itself, in spite of it demonstrating that to invest in research gives excellent economic results, but it is necessary to highlight the accumulation of knowledge with the experiments, done in loco, that has been brought to the university and in the formation of new professionals”. Although during the first two years the partnership with CSN had been established on the basis of emergency situations in order to put out fires, afterwards there was a gradual definition of priority and the setting up of a number of projects, together with the engineers Sidiney Nascimento Silva and Oscar Rosa Marques from CSN, which allowed for a deepening of the research in search of solutions to improve the quality of the steel and to give a reduction in production costs, as Professor Carlos Alberto Paskocimas, the coordinator of technological innovation at Liec explained. Today, in a clear sign of the importance of the partnership, CSN keeps


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PHOTOGRAPH BY JUCA MARTINS/PULSAR

Through the application of innovative refractory material, the useful life of the blast furnace increased by 100%

an apartment to house the university researchers who spend periods working at the Volta Redonda mill. They rotate doing research within the mill itself. Currently there are six doctorate professors, three students researching their doctorate degrees, two on their master’s degree and a further three undergraduates, all involved with projects concerning the mill. “The contribution in knowledge and ideas by the university is a notable point in our area of research and development”, explains Sidiney Silva from CSN. “For example, in the steel mill the researchers find instruments and conditions to carry out experiments with pig iron and liquid steel. We now have a series of simulation plants where they can finalize their studies initiated within the laboratory.” After starting off by saving the ceramic burner, the Liec researchers, together with those at CSN, introduced various alterations that have guaranteed the performance and the useful life of these blast furnaces, from the change in the refractory material to the manner of manufacturing them. “Only in the improvement of the conditions of the blast furnaces there were twelve projects linked to operational questions, being that, with just the techniques of the addition of titanium into the melting pot or cru-

cible, the lower region of the furnace where continuously the liquid pig iron that is produced accumulates, they have managed an economy valued around US$ 13 million for the company”, Longo explains. “The crucible is the heart of the blast furnace. It is surrounded with refractory blocks made of carbon and its performance is vital for the production of the mill”, says Silva from CSN. The innovations applied to the crucible after laboratory research resulted, among other advantages, in a reduction of thermal loses during the process, with a consequent saving economy in the reducing agent (coal that will be turned into coke), imported raw materi-

THE PROJECT Multidisciplinary Center for the Development of Ceramic Materials (CMDMC) MODALITY

Research, Innovation and Diffusion Centers (Cepid) COORDINATOR

ELSON LONGO – Federal University of São Carlos INVESTMENT

R$ 1,032,071.98 - during 2002

als, used in prolonging the useful life of the equipment. “The life of a blast furnace, which was on average ten years, is now programmed for twenty”, highlights Longo. One of the aspects studied in depth was the corrosion present in the coating surrounding the crucible. “We sought to evaluate the effects of titanium, which, in contact with the carbon and nitrogen of the pig iron and with the calcium oxide of the slag of the blast furnace, brings about the formation of a protective layer on the refractory coating,” Silva explains. Torpedo carriage - The next material step of introducing technological innovations into the routine of CSN involved the torpedo carriage, given the job of transporting the liquid pig iron of the blast furnaces to the converters where it will be transformed into steel. One of the problems in the management of this equipment resides in a loss of energy during the filling of the carriage in the blast furnaces and afterwards transporting to the steel plant. The suggestion by the researchers was the installation of a layer of micro porous silica on the refractory cover of the torpedo carriage. Immediately there was a decrease of on average 25° C in the temperature during the transportation of the liquid pig iron to the steel plant. With the new coating on the torpedo carriage, the quantity of pig iron transported rose by 250,000 to 450,000 tons. The success of each innovation can be quantified by the economy of energy in each phase of the process, in the reduction of inputs, increase in productivity and an improvement in safety conditions. The infinity of details of this type of technological marathon by obtaining improved steels has prospered more than just CSN. Professor José Arana Varela from Unesp, the innovation coordinator at the Ceramic-Cepid informed that the Liec now maintains conventions just as old as that with CSN an example being with the CBMM. There are other partnerships of long standing, with White Martins for some eight years, and with the Brazilian Industry of Refractory Articles (Ibar), for almost ten years. •

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TECHNOLOGY

MATERIALS ENGINEERING

Extra toughness in the air

Unprecedented product gives more resistance to the wingtip lights of Embraer’s aircraft Y URI VASCONCELOS Published in March 2003

Legacy: innovation being tested on the wingtips

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technological innovation developed by a group of researchers from the University of São Paulo (USP) should assist Embraer in its project for nationalizing the parts and components used in the making of its regional and executive jets. This is a thin film of silicon nitride, that applied to the protective case of an aircraft’s navigation lights, makes the part much tougher and resistant to wear and tear. These lights, located on the wingtips (red on the left wing and green on the right one) serve as visual orientation for other pilots, as to the aircraft’s flight path – whether it is moving away or coming closer to the observer. The outer coating makes the lenses - usually made of polycarbonate, a kind of plastic very close to acrylic - support the strong attrition to which they are subjected during flight. The microabrasion generated by the friction of particles in suspension with the lenses jeopardizes their efficiency in illuminating. Embraer currently imports this part from a manufacturer in France. 76

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The development of the product is the result of years of research by Professor Luiz Gonçalves Neto, from USP’s São Carlos Engineering School, Professor Ronaldo Mansano and researcher Luís da Silva Zambom, both from the Electronic Systems Engineering Department, of USP’s Polytechnic School in São Paulo. The three of them, plus colleagues Patrick Verdonck and Giuseppe Antônio Cirino, also from the Polytechnic School, had already developed and patented, with assistance from FAPESP, a carbon film known by the acronym DLC (for Diamond-Like Carbon), also used for the external coating of surfaces. The great advantage of the lenses covered with the silicon nitride film is its toughness. “In the tests carried out in the laboratory, in which the surface of the parts is scratched with a diamond bit, we found that the lens covered with silicon nitride is about twice as tough as the lights that equip the company’s jets today. We believe that the working life of the lenses will be far longer than that of the conventional

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lights, which is about two years”, Professor Mansano explains. One benefit arising from the increased durability is a reduction in the aircraft’s maintenance time. Another advantage, the researchers claim, is the low cost of the product. “We do not yet have the final amount, but we believe that it will be far lower than that of the part that is being used by Embraer”, he says. “Not to mention that, with our film, Embraer will no longer depend on importing the light from France”. Ample cover - According to the resear-

chers, the two main problems that arose in the course of the development of the process – the adherence of the film to the polymeric material and the uniformity of deposition – have now been solved.“We carried out mechanical and optical tests that proved that the adherence of the silicon nitride film to the surface is in accordance with the parameters of the aeronautical industry”, Luiz Gonçalves Neto explains. The scientists believe that the film may be used to cover other components of the air-


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craft, besides the wingtip lenses, such as the windows, windscreen and external lights. It may also have a military application, covering the optic windows of missiles. “We are very optimistic”, says Professor Luiz Gonçalves. “We intend to get the patenting process under way before the end of the year.” Tests in flight - A model of the lens

coated with silicon nitride has been under test since January, in a prototype of the Legacy executive jet, Embraer’s newest aircraft, launched last year. The tests are run by the company’s technological development management. “It is still too soon to say anything about the results of these tests. We hope to conclude them by the end of the first half of this year,” explains materials engineer Ricardo Bou Reslan Calumby, who is responsible for the tests with USP’s lens. Embraer’s interest in the technological innovation was due to the fact that some of the French lenses that currently equip the Legacy have proved to turn opaque prematurely. We have had complaints and we saw that some of

these lenses showed a certain wear and tear during the flight or certification tests”, explains Embraer’s materials engineer Isabella Emmerick, who participates in the test team. The Legacy is a medium sized executive jet, inspired on the platform for the ERJ 135/140/145 regional aircraft, which has over 600 units flying. It is available in two versions: Executive and Shuttle, with a capacity for up to 19 passengers. The jet is capable of flying some 5,700 kilometers without needed to refuel – the distance between London and New York, for example. The jet was launched in 2001 and certified to fly by the American and European aeronautical authorities at the end of last year. Embraer has now delivered 15 units and received 164 orders for the plane from customers from several countries. The demand from the aircraft manufacturer in São José dos Campos for the Legacy’s wing tip navigation lights is small, a mere 50 units a year. To cater for Embraer, assuming the part is approved in the tests currently under way, the researchers plan to set up a small

company in a technology-based incubator. “Besides equipping the Legacy, we are going to offer the product for the company’s other jets and to Brazilian airlines, which need to have the part in their workshops for the maintenance of the aircraft”, says Gonçalves Neto. Other applications - To allow silicon nitride film to be produced on a large scale, the scientists are thinking of other applications outside the aeronautical sector. One alternative is covering car headlights with the product. “In the future, we can hand over this technology to the automobile industry”, explains Mansano. The product can also be used to coat polycarbonate lenses in glasses, which are much lighter than glass lenses, but have the disadvantage of scratching very easily. “We are now in contact with some manufacturers, who have shown interest in the product”. Besides protecting the lenses against scratching, the film works like an optic filter and esthetic covering, as their color can vary in accordance with the thickness of the film. •

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TECHNOLOGY

CHEMISTRY

Cachaca without any mystery Compared to whiskies, the Brazilian drink has fewer aldehydes, substances that are responsible for hangovers

Y URI VASCONCELOS Published in May 2003

A

genuine Brazilian drink, cachaça is the spirit most consumed in the country and the third in the world. The caipirinha drink (cachaça, sugar, lime and ice) is on the menu of bars and restaurants of several countries. In Brazil, over the last ten years, this spirit made from sugarcane juice has ceased to be just a drink only for the bars of the poorer classes and has started to be consumed in sophisticated environments. In spite of its longevity in the nation’s culture and its recent commercial success, cachaça has spent a long time as a great unknown to science, which has, for example, prevented one from knowing that the concentration of aldehydes in this spirit is, on average, lower than in some imported whiskies. Fruit of recent research, this is an important result, as aldehydes are regarded as substances partly responsible for hangovers.

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Carried out at the Cane Spirit Chemistry Development Laboratory (LDQA) of the São Carlos Chemistry Institute (IQSC) of the University of São Paulo (USP) – the studies have resulted in a considerable advance in the chemical characterization of this drink. This is going to serve not only to bring more quality to the cachaça produced – 1.5 billion liters and US$ 500 million dollars a year – but also to open up the market of the greatest economy in the world, the United States. This is due to the misunderstanding that the American customs authorities have between rum and cachaça. To enter the country, Brazilian cane spirit must have written on the label that cachaça is a kind of Brazilian rum. “The differences between the two spirits start with the manufacturing process. While cachaça is a product of the distillation of fermented sugarcane juice, rum is distilled from the product of the fermentation of cooked

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sugarcane juice or of molasses, a byproduct of the production of sugar”, explains Professor Douglas Franco, the coordinator of the laboratory and director of the IQSC. The work started ten years ago focused first on the chemical characterization of Brazilian cachaça. “Our studies show an average quantitative and qualitative chemical profile of the cane spirit manufactured in the country. This is a pioneer and landmark research project that contributes towards knowing the composition and the chemical reactions that take place in sugarcane spirit. Besides water and ethanol, which correspond to over 98% of the composition of the drink, we have identified a large number of secondary chemical compounds. These are the substances, found in a lower concentration, that give cane spirit its organoleptic properties (connected with the sense organs), like color, flavor and


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Over 150 samples of cachaça collected for analysis in all the producing regions of the country

has to be controlled with chemical tests. With regard to the sulphurated compounds, in particular dimethylsulphide, that can give cachaça a disagreeable odor, the solution to reducing the problem lies in the adoption of metallic copper in the construction of the still. Aromatic hydrocarbons (in particular, benzopyrene), found in 13% of the samples, may be the fruit of contamination by the residue from lubricant oils used in the mills or by the burning of the cane.

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I smell”, explains Franco.“We tried to understand the chemistry of the cachaça with a view to protecting the health of the consumer, to adding value to the product, to improving the training of the manufacturers and to stimulating agribusiness.” Over 150 samples of cachaça from the main producing regions in the country were studied. The purpose was to draw up a diagnosis of the presence of various substances, such as alcohols, carboxylic acids, esters, ketones, aldehydes, phenols, polyphenols, amino acids, dextrans, carbamates, aromatic polycyclical hydrocarbons (benzene derivatives) and sulphurated compounds in cachaça, among others. “We investigated the presence of over 300 different substances, and have now identified over 100 secondary compounds that go into Brazilian cachaça”, Franco says. Following this detailed study, it was possible to enumerate the main defects

in some samples of the national spirit, such as sulphurated compounds, flakes, aromatic hydrocarbons and carbamates. The study revealed the cause of the defects and what can be done to avoid them. The flakes, for example, are nonpoisonous deposits made up of substances added to the cachaça – like the sugar that masks the acidity – which are joined together, originating a solid and insoluble material. “The sugar may be contaminated with a substance called dextran (an impurity formed by the Leuconostoc mesenteroides bacterium when the cane is cut and stored) that, when associated with amino acids and polyphenols present in the drink, form deposits on the bottom of the bottle. Metallic copper - The cachaça, which used to be transparent, now comes to show an undesirable visual pollution”, says the researcher. To avoid the formation of flakes, the action of these vectors

n the first case, the solution is to control the production process better. In the second, all that is needed is not to burn the sugarcane before harvesting. Another substance that is harmful for cachaça, ethyl carbamate, regarded as a carcinogenic agent, has various sources of origin. It can either be formed during the process of fermentation, in a distillation that is badly managed, or by chemical reactions during the storage of the beverage. “We found that ions of copper, iron and cyanide present in the final product have a much more important role in the formation of carbamates in cachaça than in other spirits”, Franco explains. To avoid contaminating the cachaça with carbamates, there has to be a more rigid control over the concentrations of these ions. In the samples studied at the IQSC, only 21% showed a concentration equal to or lower than what is established by Canadian law for distilled drinks. This parameter was taken into consideration because Brazilian legislation is remiss in not setting maximum limits for concentrations of impurities. According to Franco, a proviso has to be made with regard to the flaws found in the Brazilian spirit. “These defects are common in all the drinks in the world. The problem is regulating and controlling the concentration of the unwanted substances”. The researcher also advises that, besides the defects already mentioned, many Brazilian producers do not carry out a proper control over the distilling process, which jeopardizes the final quality of the pro-

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From the slave quarters to the national drink Danadinha [meanie], garapa-doida [crazy juice], esquenta-aqui-dentro [warms you up inside], dengosa [coy], ximbira, venenosa [poisonous], limpa-goela [throat clearer], bafo-de-tigre [tiger’s breath], lindinha [pretty], tome-juízo [use your head], desmancha-samba [break up the samba] and zuninga [humdinger]. These are just 12 of the names by which cachaça is known in the four corners of Brazil. In the Novo Dicionário Aurélio da Língua Portuguesa [New Aurélio Dictionary of the Portuguese Language] some 150 denominations are to be found, but it is estimated that there are many others that have not been cataloged and that, in total “água ardenduct. “In spite of the existence of good professionals in this area, the process of distilling is still very faulty, because the producers do not follow the specifications recommended by the makers of the equipment”, says Franco. One of the discoveries at the LDQA, which is also made up of Professors Benedito dos Santos Lima Neto and Ubirajara Pereira Rodrigues Filho, in collaboration with researchers from the Faculty of Food Engineering (FEA) of the State University of Campinas (Unicamp) and the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences (FCF) of the São Paulo State University (Unesp), concerns the use of woods alternative to oak in the making of barrels for aging the drink. “The traditional oak is not part of the Brazilian flora. Our research showed that viraro (Pterogyne nitens), found in several regions of the country, is highly recommended for replacing it in barrel making”, explains Franco. Besides the project for the chemical characterization of Brazilian cachaça, financed by FAPESP, the LDQA’s coordinator has another project with the Foundation, which is included under the heading of public policies, in partnership with the Municipal Secretariat for Science, Technology and Economic Development of São Carlos. The objective is to do a survey of the qualities and defects of the cachaça produced by 80

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te”, or burning water, may have 500 different names. The Dicionário Houaiss [Houaiss Dictionary], in turn, clarifies that the beverage has been present in Brazilian life ever since the days of Colonial Brazil. In the definition under this heading, the dictionary explains that it is “a fermented beverage made from lees of sugarcane juice or from raw molasses served to the animals and the slaves of the old sugar mills”. According to the history books, cachaça arose in the sugarcane mills of the captaincy of São Vicente around 1540. The drink was produced using waste from the manufacture of sugar candy and was given the name of sour juice. Regarded as a secondary product of the small producers from São Paulo (up to 200,000 liters a year) and to propose measures for the improvement of the product. “We are analyzing 104 samples of cachaça coming from distilleries and stills in the state of São Paulo. In the first stage, we collected the samples. We are now carrying out a chemical analysis of the drinks. Besides identifying defects and qualities, we want to use this data to define chemical discriminators (substances that permit differentiation between two or more products) that associate cachaça with the region of origin. Accordingly, São Paulo cachaça, and later, from the rest of Brazil, will be able to have a regional deno-

sugar industry, it did not have, in its primordial days, any alcoholic content, and it used to be served as a food supplement for sheep and goats. In the sugar mills of the northeast, the juice was also given to slaves with their first meal of the day, for them to bear up to the hard work in the sugarcane plantations. In the second half of the 16th century, the beverage started to be produced in clay stills and, later, in copper stills, and was given the name of ‘aguardente’ [firewater]. In those days, it was even used as a currency for the purchase of slaves in Africa. The techniques for making it went on improving, and its improved quality made consumption grow rapidly. With time, the drink left the mination, in a similar way to French and Italian wines. Millionaire market - The effort to understand the chemistry of cachaça has its raison d’être. The product drives a millionaire market. According to data from the Brazilian Institute of Cachaça from the Still (IBCA), of the 1.5 billion liters a year of cachaça produced in the country, 1,050 billion is industrial cane spirit, produced in distilleries, and 450 million is homemade cachaça, made in small stills. The sector covers some 30,000 producers, who pour onto the market 5,000 brands. There are roughly 400,000 direct jobs.

THE PROJECTS On the Presence of Hydrocarbons, Flakes and Carbamates in Cane Spirit, their Quantification, Genesis and Prevention

Improving the Quality of Cachaça and Proposal of a Standard of Quality MODALITY

MODALITY

Regular line of research grants COORDINATOR

DOUGLAS WAGNER FRANCO – São Carlos Institute of Chemistry of USP INVESTMENT

R$ 62,084.85 and US$ 149,445.57

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Research in Public Policies Program COORDINATOR

DOUGLAS WAGNER FRANCO – São Carlos Chemistry Institute of USP INVESTMENT

R$ 60,000.00 and R$ 17,100.00 (partnership)


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slave quarters and established itself on the table of the lords of the mills and of the Portuguese families who missed their ‘bagaceira’, the spirit made from grape bagasse. It did not take long for “sour juice” to begin to compete in the market with Portuguese wines and with ‘bagaceira’ itself. The colonial authorities decided, then, to prohibit the production and marketing of the drink in Brazil, claiming that it was responsible for tumults and commotion. As we know, all this was in vain. Firewater continued to be made and more and more consumed by the population.

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In the course of the last five centuries, the drink has been present at the most important moments in the history of Brazil. During the Inconfidência Mineira, at the end of the 18th century, cachaça was transformed into a symbol of “Brazilianness” and of resistance to the Portuguese domination. The same happened in the Pernambuco Revolution of 1817. The historians say the Father João Ribeiro Pessoa, one of the leaders of the movement, replaced the Port wine of the mass for genuine cachaça, as a way of showing to the faithful his support for the revolution that had separation

from Portugal as its objective. Years later, Dom Pedro I toasted the independence of Brazil with a glass of cachaça, a gesture that was repeated by former president Fernando Henrique Cardoso during the commemorations of the 500 years of the discovery of Brazil, in 2000. In the two years that followed, the federal government published two decrees (3062/01 and 3072/02) that establish the denomination “cachaça” as official and exclusive for sugarcane spirit produced in Brazil, in an effort to protect the brand and make it popular in the international market.

PHOTOGRAPH BY LALO DE ALMEIDA/FOLHA IMAGEM

The São Jorge dos Erasmos sugar mill, in Santos (SP): sugar in the first half of the 16th century

São Paulo is the leader in production, with 44%, followed by Pernambuco and Ceará, with 12% each. These states concentrate some of the major manufacturers of industrial cachaça – Pirassununga (SP), Velho Barreiro (SP), Pitú (PE), Ypióca (CE) and Colonial (CE). Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro, Goiás and Espírito Santo, each with 8% of the market, make up the list of industrial manufacturers. Analyzing just the figures for homemade cachaça, Minas Gerais is the main center of production. “The state has 8,466 stills that produce 230 million liters a year”, says José Lúcio Mendes, the IBCA’s director for Promotions. After its nation-wide success, cachaça is winning over appreciators in other countries. Last year, 14.8 million liters (about 1% of the production) were exported to 70 countries. Exports earn Brazil US$ 9 million a year, ac-

cording to data from 2001. The target for 2003 is to export 20 million liters, a growth of over 30%. Europe buys around 60% of the cachaça exported, with Germany, the largest importer, taking 30%. It now remains to win over the American market, still immersed in the confusion between cachaça and rum. “We do not accept this classification. Rum is rum, and cachaça is cachaça. To get over this impasse, we agreed with the American authorities that we would do a detailed chemical analysis showing the differences between the two beverages”, says Maria José Miranda, the national manager of the Brazilian Program for Developing Cachaça (PBDAC), created by the Brazilian Beverages Association (Abrabe), with the objective of promoting the product on a world-wide scale. USP’s laboratory in São Carlos was contracted to do this work.

To lay down the chemical foundations for the differences between the drinks, the team from the LDQA investigated the presence and concentration of 150 compounds in 31 certified samples of rum and cachaça. Chemometrical methods (for a statistical analysis of the results) were applied to the data collected, in which seven chemical discriminators were determined, to allow for an unequivocal distinction between rum and cachaça. These results are going to serve to eliminate the confusion that has arisen in the United States. In its ten years of activity, the LDQA has established itself as an important center for the production of knowledge on Brazilian cane spirit. In the period, seven masters and five doctors have been trained up until now. Twelve complete articles have been published in international scientific periodicals, eight in specialized Brazilian magazines and another 13 in national promotional magazines. The interchange with foreign institutions has also been important. “We are working in collaboration with several institutions in Denmark, Italy and Belgium. With our researches, we want to take cachaça to the same level of quality as the other distilled beverages marketed all over the world, such as whisky, vodka and rum”, says Franco. •

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TECHNOLOGY

BIOTECHNOLOGY

Hormone

on the market Small company teams up with Brazilian pharmaceutical industry to produce a medicine against dwarfism Published in December 2002

B

y the end of next year, Brazil will be joining a very select club: the makers of growth hormones using genetic engineering techniques. The entrance doors to this club will be opened by Hormogen Biotecnologia and by Genosys Biotecnologia, which have developed separately and on a pilot scale their first batches of hGH, the acronym for Human Growth Hormone. The medicine will get to the market thanks to two partnerships. Hormogen recently sold 75% of its shares to the Brazilian company Biolab-Sanus, one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the country, which is going to invest US$ 2 million from 2003 on to launch the product commercially. Genosys signed an agreement for production and distribution with another large pharmaceutical company, Braskap, which also has Brazilian capital (see issue 65 of Pesquisa FAPESP). At the moment, Brazil imports about one million doses of growth hormone a year, spending an estimated US$ 15 million, but with these partnerships, it will start exporting the medicine. Hormogen’s original path was the same as followed by Genosys and other small companies that received funding under the FAPESP’s Small Business Innovation Research program (PIPE)

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and started their business activities at the Incubator Center for Technological Companies (Cietec), in São Paulo. Hormogen is going to carry on doing research as a sort of subsidiary of Biolab. These are new products and processes that have earned an important financial incentive for carrying on research inside the company. There is no lack of other promising technological innovations. Komlux, a company from Campinas, has now put onto the market a blanket woven with optical fibers, called Blanket Lux, to treat jaundice in newborn children. Clorovale, from São José dos Campos, recently launched dentists’ drills with synthetic diamond tips, far more resistant than the metal ones. The company is also getting ready to launch a version of this drill that is coupled to an ultrasound apparatus, which provides for a treatment without the awful noise of conventional drills and without any pain for the patients. In the telecommunications area, Asga, a company set up in Paulínea (SP), has developed a line of multiplexers and modems used in transmissions via optical fibers in telephone networks, the Internet and data processing. Their commercial success is already considerable. Asga sales leaped from R$ 16 million in 1999 to R$ 90 million in 2001, in the wake of

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the expansion of telecommunications in the country. The same successful path seems to be the destiny of companies using PIPE, which in five years has clocked up investments of R$ 25.6 million and US$ 3.9 million. The importance does not lie merely in the economic value that will come from it, but the social value as well, as in the case of the growth hormone, which may have prices up to 30% lower than the imported product. Fifth country - Prescribed above all for

children with short stature, or dwarfism, in medical jargon – a disease that today effects around 10,000 Brazilians –, hGH has been employed in an increasingly wide range of clinical treatments (see table). For the time being, it is produced in only four countries: in Sweden, by Pharmacia (recently acquired by Pfizer); in Denmark, by Novo Nordisk; in the United States, by Genentech and Eli Lilly; and in Italy, by Serono. “We have already filed our patent with the National Institute for Industrial Property (INPI)”, explains Paolo BartoBioreactor: bacteria secreting the hormone at Hormogen’s factory


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PHOTOGRAPH BY EDUARDO CESAR

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PHOTOGRAPH BY VICENTE GRECO/BIOLAB

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Biolab’s factory: hormone compactor

lini, one of three partners in Hormogen. He is also head of the Molecular Biology Center of the Nuclear and Energy Research Institute (Ipen). The experience of transferring knowledge developed in a research institute to the market is also part of Genosys’s story. The technique for obtaining hGH was carried out at the Chemistry Institute of the University of São Paulo (USP) by Professor Hamza Fahmi Ali El Dorry, who invited biochemist Jaime Francisco Leyton to set up Genosys. It was the company’s first product. hGH, says Bartolini, was also the first product developed by Hormogen. At the moment, the company is getting ready to leave the incubator and to move to Itapecerica da Serra, in the metropolitan region of São Paulo, where it will occupy part of the installations of one of the four Biolab-Sanus factories and will carry on with the already begun research into new medicines based on hormones. For Bartolini, the greatest appeal of the Biolab-Sanus deal – concluded in Fe-

bruary, after one year of negotiations – was the commitment taken on by the industrial concern to continue to invest funds in research. For the shares that ensured its control of Hormogen, Biolab-Sanus paid US$ 100,000, a symbolic amount, according to Cleiton Castro Marques, vice-president of the Castro Marques

group, which the company belongs to. “But, in compensation, we took on 100% of the new investments”, he explains. This year, the new parent company is setting aside R$ 100,000 for Hormogen, besides ensuring the pay of the partner-researchers (all from Ipen), who kept a 25% stake, until hGH, their firstborn product, starts to be marketed. “In the following years, we will invest whatever it takes for the company to become operational”, explains Castro Marques. To arrive at its pilot production and to attract the interest of potential investors, Hormogen turned to FAPESP, which between 1998 and 2001, has released to the incubated company some R$ 350,000, through the Small Business Innovation Research program (PIPE). The funds were spent mainly in reagents and equipment – on its own, the bioreactor, for example where the hGH secreting bacteria multiply, soaked up US$ 113,000. With the pilot production assured, Hormogen has started to test the medicine, which has now been through the biological laboratory tests (using dwarf mice) and

Far beyond dwarfism The most common indication for growth hormone (hGH) is dwarfism, a disease that affects some 10,000 Brazilian children, according to researcher Paolo Bartolini. But, he explains, it can also be transmitted by the genes and propagated through consanguineous marriages, as happens in the small town of Itabaianinha in Sergipe, 115 kilometers from Aracaju; it has in its records some 100 bearers of short stature, the largest concentration of these cases in the country.

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Besides fighting dwarfism, hGH can be administered to adults with a hormone deficiency, patients who have undergone a kidney transplant, girls with Turner’s syndrome – which causes short stature and infertility or Aids victims at an advanced stage (when there is a loss of muscular mass). But the range of applications of this medicine continues to grow. There is a movement of doctors in the United States that is proposing the assistance of this hormone in fighting osteoporosis and the reduction of muscular mass in the elderly, be-

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sides contributing towards reducing localized fat. There are also several advanced studies, including in Brazil, according to Bartolini, that demonstrate the benefits of hGH for women in the menopause. But the use of the hormone by adepts of physical activities, in search of muscular development, is dangerous. It may, for example, result in diabetes and in other diseases deriving from hormones being out of balance”, says Bartolini. Approved by the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA), the American agency that controls the quality of food


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nes, a segment that acthat the whole group recounts for 55% of its saceives the two products. les. These should add up “It is a complex proceto between R$ 170 millidure, which needs the hion and R$ 180 million ring of a pharmacologist, this year, a 50% increase and the volunteers have over 2001. Together, the to be taken into hospital”, sales of Biolab and União Bartolini explains. “These Química should come to tests should take about about R$ 340 million in US$ 200,000”, Castro Mar2002, a performance that ques estimates. he next stage is the clinical, justifies its position, in The company is hoor bioequivalence, tests, 12th place, on the list of ping to get a high return which should be conclufrom the investments ded in six months at the the largest pharmaceuticarried out. According to most. In this stage, Horcal companies in the Batches from Castro Marques, hGH is mogen’s medicine and another similar country, according to the Hormogen: pilot scale fifth in volume of sales imported product, available on the Gazeta Mercantil newsamongst genetic enginemarket, will be applied on 24 healthy paper, and also fifth place ered medicines. Hormopersons. First, 12 volunteers will be giin the Exame magazine’s gen’s product, he believes, should win ven the product already available, and ranking of the most profitable in the over 20% of the Brazilian market in the others, the Hormogen product. sector. “These results are a reflection of one year, a period in which they may Next, the procedure will be repeated, our focus in 2002 on products that do also start supplying some of the 17 exchanging the medicine, in such a way not have, nor will have, similar generic countries in Latin America in which Biproducts in the next few years”, exolab-Sanus has partnerships with displains Castro Marques. THE PROJECT tributors. This year, the first in which it is working in the foreign market, this New culture - What Biolab-Sanus Optimization of the Yield of executive says, the company exported wants now is to add technology, maBacterial Expression, Fermentation the equivalent of US$ 800,000 to these king more and more exclusive proand Purification of the Recombinant Human Growth Hormone countries, an amount that in five years ducts. Actually, this strategy started may reach US$ 30 million, including sathree years ago, with the launch of LoMODALITY les of hGH. velle, the only vaginal contraceptive Small Business Innovation Research Created only five years ago, to ocmarketed in Brazil. Besides Hormogen, Program (PIPE) cupy more specialized niches in the they acquired another incubated commarket for drugs – the other laborapany, Dalmatia, which makes cosmetics COORDINATOR tory of the group, União Química, bawith a therapeutic action; it used to be PAOLO BARTOLINI – Hormogen-Ipen sically makes generic and hospital prohoused in the Bio-Rio incubator, and it ducts Biolab-Sanus had a swift is currently associated with 18 projects INVESTMENT ascent. It is now the third company in from research institutions like the UniR$ 72,800.00 and US$ 154,000.00 prescriptions for cardiological mediciversity of São Paulo (USP), Ipen and the Butantan Institute. With the purchase of Hormogen, Biolab-Sanus is planting its roots in the most prestiand medicines, in 1985, hGH is ob- rapidly: in about ten hours, a single gious and promising segment of meditained using the recombinant DNA bacterium can generate billions of cines in the world, the genetic engineetechnique. With the use of this techni- them, all producing the hormone. ring segment. “We want to create in the que, scientists clone the genes that coThe next step is the centrifugation company the culture of biotechnology, dify the molecule of the hormone pro- of the bacteria, from which a raw prowhich is the future”, says Castro Marduced by the pituitary gland, located at tein extract is obtained. This is the ques. A future that should start as soon the base of the skull. This sequence of start of a long stage of the purification as next year, with the beginning of proDNA is modified so that it adapts to of this extract, a sequence of chromoduction and the commercial launch of the needs of its new maker, usually the tographies and precipitations that lead the growth hormone. Escherichia coli bacterium. Afterwards, to the hormone being obtained and Oddly enough, the Biolab-Horthe sequence is inserted into a mole- the contaminants (the proteins of the mogen partnership is going to join a cule of the bacterial DNA, the plasmid, bacterium) being separated. race with another partnership, GeAccording to researcher Paolo Barwhich is finally introduced into the nosys-Braskap – which is building its bacterium, which there upon starts tolini, the process used by Hormogen industrial plant –, to see who will be producing hGH. Next, the bacterium makes it possible to obtain a hormone first to put hGH onto the market, goes to the bioreactor for fermentati- that is “identical” to the one made nawith the phrase “Made in Brazil” on on, in the course of which it multiplies turally by the human organism. its packaging. • PHOTOGRAPH BY EDUARDO CESAR

through the two modalities of the physicochemical and toxicological tests (with dogs), and immunological tests, to prove the hormone’s potency and purity; it cannot contain more than ten parts a million of the protein of the original bacterium, which are the main contaminants of the future medicine.

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TECHNOLOGY

MATERIALS SCIENCE

Rubber

Medicine

Material made from the latex of the rubber tree closes ulcers and rebuilds the esophagus and the eardrum D INORAH E RENO Published in June 2003

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he latex extracted from the rubber tree, the raw material, which during the 19th century placed Brazil as the major world exporter of rubber, is the basis of an innovative biomaterial with excellent results for the healing of chronic ulcers and in the reconstruction of perforated esophagi and eardrums. Developed at the School of Medicine in the town of Ribeirão Preto (FMRP), part of the University of São Paulo (USP), the biopolymer should initially be produced by the company Pele Nova Biotecnologia, in a pilot plant installed in the city of Campo Grande, in the state of Mato Grosso. The company was founded by the Brazilian Academy for Advanced Studies, a non-government organization (ONG) maintained by the company Avamax Biotecnologia, which has amongst its members the ex-president of Embraer and Varig, Ozires Silva. “We make the connection between scientists and investors by showing products with a potential for fighting for a place in the market”, Ozires explained, who has already promoted various meetings between the project’s coordinator, Joaquim Coutinho Netto from the Biochemistry and Immunology Department of FMRP, and parties interested in knowing details of the new product. The objective of these meetings, at which investors from Germany and Italy have already participated, is to raise the capital necessary to set up the pilot plant and later on an industrial plant. The pilot plant, scheduled to begin working this coming month of July in an old factory used for the industrialization of heart of palm, and belonging to Avamax, was projected according to the criteria demanded by the National Agency for Sanitary Vigilance (Anvisa in the Portuguese acronym). The plant will be installed in the industrial district of Ribeirão Preto, previously projected by the now Minister of the Treasury Department, Antônio Palocci, when he was the mayor of the town.

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Dressings using a biopolymer based on vegetal latex show results on average within twelve days


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Multinational competition - The bio-

However, on being mixed with sipolymer, which will initially be launched licone, there was no way of making the to treat chronic ulcers of the feet and legs, two materials combine together. “We is going to compete with other products couldn’t reproduce the Japanese prosfrom large multinational companies such thesis”, Coutinho recalls.“Takimoto didas Johnson & Johnson and Novartis. Acn’t explain his patent what to do to fix cording to Coutinho, the formulae are the collagen in the prosthesis”, Fátima different, but the results identical.“This even got in contact with the Japanese is without saying that the treatment with doctor to ask for help, but he did not our product will cost, at least, ten times reveal his well-kept secret. less”, he says. “One imported 15 gram tube of a healing ointment based on gel Inspiration in the past - “It was then with human hormone costs US$ 350 that I had the idea of making prostheand lasts for only a few days”, Coutinho sis from the latex of the rubber tree”, recompares. calls the doctor, probably inspired in The story that led to this biomemmemories of the large rubber tree planbrane had its beginning in 1994 when the tations of the small town in the interior at that time master’s deof the state of São Paulo gree student in the surwhere he was born, Guagery area of FMRP, Fátipiaçu. He thought that it ma Mrué, from the state The polymer would be much easier to of Goiás who spent two mix the collagen in the years in Tokyo, Japan, and was obtained milk from the rubber tree. followed surgery patients under special Fátima didn’t place much with cancer, decided to faith in the proposed sowork on her thesis with conditions lution, but decided to resthe prosthesis of Takipect it. As they were going moto, which carried the which has led to need someone who name of the medical in- to a patent would make the experiventor, a compound of mental prosthesis, they silicon and collagen and found in the region of São used to reconstruct the José do Rio Preto the esophagus. Fátima got in touch with chemist Antônio César Zabrowski, from Coutinho in order to know how to obthe company Globbor, that sells rubber tain collagen from pigskin, a technique to Goodyear. Zabrowski offered to madescribed in an article published dunufacture the prosthesis and built them ring the decade of the 60s and which making use of a ribbed glass mold, comwas to be used in the make up of the arposed of vegetal latex and 0.1% collatificial substitute. gen or polylysine. Today, Coutinho states that he had The experimental prosthesis, a tube never imagined that that simple questiof 8 centimeters in length by 2 cention concerning collagen would lead him meters in diameter was implanted in to weekly meetings with people interesthe esophagus of eight dogs. However, ted in investing in the biopolymer. In an uncommon occurrence caught the the end, in order to get rid of the student attention of the researchers. Ten days afon that occasion – today Fátima Mrué ter the implant, the prostheses were exis a surgeon at the Oncology Center pelled together with the feces of the of the Clinical Hospital of Goiânia –, animal. They found this strange and Coutinho said to her that if she found decided to carry out an endoscopy in orthe paper he could help her in the job der to know what had happened, since of making a substitute material similar none of the dogs appeared to be ill. By to Takimoto’s.“A very difficult and painthe end of the examination both Fátima staking taking task for that time since and Coutinho were surprised with the there was no Internet”, as she herself rerevelation that, in such a short period calls. Two days later, much to his surof time, a new esophagus had formed in prise, Fátima returned with the paper the separated fragment. In the histoloin her hands. Coutinho, resigned to the gical analysis (an evaluation of the tisfact, decided to help the persistent stusue under the microscope), it showed dent in the preparation of collagen itself to be practically equal to the norfrom pigskin. mal esophagus, with all the layers.“The88

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re was practically no scarring and also there was not the formation of fibrosis at the repaired location, showing a process of structural neoformation”, says Coutinho. “The results were surprising and we decided to investigate the phenomenon in depth”, he explains. As the histological cut of the material showed the presence of a large quantity of blood vessels at the locality where the prosthesis had been placed, this could explain the process of the accelerated repair (healing). However, this property of latex to stimulate angiogenesis (the formation of new blood vessels) was only discovered because the polymer was not obtained by the traditional method, known as vulcanization, using a temperature of between 110º C to 125º C. Zabrowski had made use of a technique of polymerization under special conditions, developed and patented by him, and later purchased by Avamax. The proof that the method of obtaining the biopolymer was fundamental to the process of angiogenesis was done when the researchers carried ut tests using surgical gloves and contraceptives that have the same raw material, namely latex, to see how they would behave in the process of healing. “But these materials didn’t show any angiogenesis activity”, Coutinho says. Tests were even done using embryonated chickens eggs to evaluate the formation of veins, and with rabbits’ ears, to verify the speed with which the process of healing occurred. “The application of the biomaterial sped up a structural neoformation process, highly organized and without leaving a scar”, the doctor concludes. Quick healing - After completing the cy-

cle of tests on animals, the moment arrived to begin an evaluation of the biomaterial based on vegetal latex on human patients. In 1997, Coutinho and Fátima submitted to the Medical Ethical Commission of the Clinical Hospital of FMRP a request to begin experiments on humans.“This authorization was only granted one year later, allowing the student Paulo César Grisotto, who was copleting his doctorate degree at that time in Ribeirão Preto, to widen and to advance his studies, dealing with patients with chronic ulcers of difficult healing at the hospital in Itajobi (SP), a town in the region of São José do Rio Preto”, Coutinho


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Cut on the trunk of a rubber tree from which runs the latex, the raw material of the biopolymer

says. “On average, twelve days after starting to use dressings with the biopolymer on the patients, the chronic wounds, mainly with diabetes patients, began to show signs of evident granulation and epithelial formation, as against the six months necessary for traditional methods, that include interning in hospital”, the doctor states. According to an epidemiological survey carried out in the town of Juiz de Fora in the State of Minas Gerais, by Marco Andrey Cipriani Frade, around 2.7% of the population has chronic ulcers on their feet or legs, a percentage that reaches as high as 10% in diabetes patients. These wounds represent the second highest reason for work absenteeism in Brazil. Reconstructed eardrum - Six years after Dr. Grisotto had begun to carry out tests on humans, the number of patients stu-

died in the hospitals of Ribeirão, Itajobi, Juiz de Fora and others had reached 3,000 of whom 2,500 had ulcers and the remainder with a perforated eardrum by infection or trauma. All of the tests were carried out after approval by the Medical Ethics Commission of the respective institutions. The surgeries to reconstitute the eardrum using a biomembrane of latex were carried out at the Otolaryngology Sector of the Ophthalmology and Otolaryngology Department of FMRP. This surgery, named myringoplasty, has as its objective the reconstitution of the mechanism of sound transmission. Various materials are used for this objective, a favorite being the fascia (a layer of fibrous tissue that covers the body under the skin) of temporal muscle, cartilage, placental tissue, among others, but the results showed up to 30% of failu-

re from the anatomic point of view and 19% of re-perforation mainly caused by the lack of blood vessels in the graft. On the other hand, the use of a biomembrane from latex showed intense vascularization, as indicated in the work of the otolaryngologists José Antonio Apparecido de Oliveira and Miguel Angelo Hyppolito from USP at Ribeirão Preto named “Myringoplasty Making Use of a New Biosynthetic Material”, presented in 1998 during the 34th Brazilian Congress of Otolaryngology in Porto Alegre. The team won first place by describing the success of the grafts using the biopolymer. “We verified intense vascularization in 100% of the grafts, which is not usual when not using a membrane made from natural latex”, states one of the parts of the prize-winning paper. The report refers to only nineteen perforated eardrums that received the biomaterial as a transitory implant during myringoplasty. Today the number of successes has reached five hundred. Two doctorate theses, developed at the Surgery and Anatomy Department of FMRP, under the guidance of Professors Jesualdo Cherri and Carlos Eli Piccinato, and defended by the vascular surgeons Mário Augusto da Silva Freitas and Paulo Cesar Grisotto, respectively in August of 2001 and February of 2003, have pointed out, after tests done with animals, that it is possible to recover cardiovascular arteries by way of the use of latex prostheses. But as yet more experimental work is necessary before making tests on human patients, in order to evaluate the efficiency of this material that could substitute the current synthetic prosthesis or biological material of animal origin, such as the pericardium of the cow or pig. These pieces of research show that the biopolymer based on vegetal latex could still give origin to many other products, with diverse applications. The dressings are only the first step for the company Pele Nova Biotecnologia to enter into dispute for a national market estimated at around 4.5 million people, who, most probably, could not pay the very high cost for the imported medicine. •

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HUMANITIES POPULAR CULTURE

Villa Lobos’s backwoods trunk Researcher organizes collection of tunes, ballads, poems and parodies that were in the composer’s collection D ÉB ORA C RIVELLARO Published in February 2003

Sabiá trêis pote, siricóia miudinha sabiá trêis pote siricóia miúda. I know you take a long time, sir to come here to our place I stay here spinning around I hear here and there O, God , if that guy Won’t show up as early as Christmas. Chico Antônio

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his music is part of a genre of impromptu singing called coco, and it was improvised by a singer called Chico Antônio, in Natal (RN), at the farewell for Mário de Andrade, in 1929. Imagine the surprise of researcher Edilene Matos on hearing it, last year, in front of the Model Market, Salvador (BA), played to the sound of the tambourine and viola by three singers. Mysteries of the oral tradition, the appreciators of popular culture would say. Edilene is one of them. Her post-doctoral study, carried out at the Brazilian Studies Institute of the University of São Paulo (IEB/USP) and financed by FAPESP, is

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related to Mário de Andrade, Chico Antônio, Catulo da Paixão Cearense, Heitor Villa-Lobos, Leandro Gomes de Barros and so many other artists involved with valuing the art of the people. “Popular culture is no second fiddle to so-called erudite culture, it is creation in the same way, and it is the people that most renew, create and stir things up,” says the researcher. Edilene set out to put in order the so-called Villa-Lobos Fund, an abundance of documents – tunes, parodies, pamphlets, songs, musical duels and poems – that probably dates from 1905, and gathered together by artists in the role of researchers of the stature Pixinguinha and Donga, back in the 1920s. The commission originated from Arnaldo and Carlos Guinle, rich industrialists and patrons

This refrain is frequently used by the cantador (popular folk singer) Chico Antônio, from the State of Rio Grande do Norte, in the Northeast of Brazil. It is an invocation for inspiration to create the lyrics of a folk song. Such invocation, which was later incorporated by other folk singers, refers to the sabiá três pote – one of the many species of Brazilian song-thrushes – and to the sirigóia – a small reddish sea crab (the siricóia in the folk singer´s lyrics).


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of the arts from Rio de Janeiro, who intended to solicit themes and items of folklore throughout the north and northeast and to publish the production of the people in the four corners of the country. They brought back vast material, the fruit of a wide-ranging and disorderly investigation. To organize it all, they invited Villa-Lobos. The composer’s objective, according to an interview given to journalist and writer Alcântara Machado, in Mappin’s tea room, in 1925, was to publish three books: the first on music; the second and third on poetry and dance. In 1927, he started to turn the papers over, but did not manage to make any headway, given the vast amount of texts and to the busy life he was leading. Probably in 1929, he decided to pass them on to his friend Mário de Andrade, who had just undertaken his famous trips to the country’s hinterland, to study and to collect the art of the people. Mário read all the material, made notes and marks with pencil or in ink. There were question marks, exclamation marks, crossed lines, references to authors or poems. He went so far as to PESQUISA FAPESP

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Letter from Villa-Lobos to Mário, with a photograph and a dedication: study to yield a book and a CD-ROM with facsimiles of the documents, a precious source for revisiting the production of this writer from São Paulo

do a sort of classification, in spite of not believing in the pure genres, which he called “silly rhetorication”. He classified them into musical duels, narratives, historical and lyrical romances, epics, tunes, improvisations, ditties, slang and dialogs. The objective was to publish a major work on popular culture, the title of which would be Na Pancada do Ganzá [To the Beat of the Rattlebox] (in an allusion the instrument that had been offered him by Chico Antônio, of whom Mário used to say that he was worth a dozen Carusos). The wish was revealed in a letter to his friend Manuel Bandeira, in 1930. The researcher resolved to enter into “the fabulous realm built by Mário de Andrade’s foray into popular culture”, also inspired by the work carried out by researcher Ruth Terra, which culminated in her book A Literatura de Folhetos nos Fundos Villa-Lobos – The Pamphlet Literature of the Villa-Lobos Funds (IEB/Edusp, 1981). In it, the author did a survey of what she found in the collection. To start with, Edilene intended to work with seven files – in all, there are 22. But, as she read the texts, she thought it was better to carry out the organization, 92

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systematization and analysis of all the 22. They comprised 633 texts, some with over 60 pages. The greater part of them, some 300, were pamphleteering (cordel) , literature on the border between the oral and the written works, typographically set, but which keeps all the marks of the oral tradition, besides rousing other languages, like the visual language, present on the front and back covers of the leaflets. Another 300 cover several genres, including parodies, popularized texts, lyrics for music and dialogs. “I put them in order and did a classification that see-

THE PROJECT The Other Face of the Villa-Lobos Funds: Popular Poetry MODALITY

Post-doctoral grant SUPERVISION

TELÊ ANCONA LOPES – Brazilian Studies Institute/USP GRANT HOLDER

EDILENE DIAS MATOS – Brazilian Studies Institute/USP

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med to me suitable for the material I found, based on the dominant themes,” she says. (I recall the healthy time of my dear childhood when I, in the freshness of life, would play on the banks of the river admiring the beauty of the baroness’s bosom, which, let loose in the current, passed by like a ship) (a poem/parody, with no indication of authorship, which reminds the reader of Casimiro de Abreu and his anthological Meus Oito Anos [When I Was Eight]. Mário made the following annotation: “Admirable. Compare with Meus Oito Anos”)

Edilene Matos made copies of the texts, took care of digitalizing them, ordered them into new files, but she left the originals in Mário’s order, who had embarked on “a disorganized organization.” She managed, with this work, to detect the authorship of many pamphlets, such as one “To the Beat of the Rattlebox”, which she attributed to Chico Antônio. The researchers concluded the opening essay, in which she deals with such


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Mário de Andrade: heir to the musician’s collection

nor of Paraíba, of the authorship of Leandro Gomes de Barros. Mário noted in pencil: “Almost entirely excellent – taking out a few stanzas it looks very good”)

issues as the primordial days of popular culture, the origins of the Villa-Lobos Funds, intertextuality, Mário’s relationship with popular culture, as well as an analysis of the Villa-Lobos Funds. She also intends to launch the material in a book, which will come with a CDROM. An idea praised by Professor Telê Ancona Lopes, from USP, who is the coordinator of the Mário de Andrade Archives. “This CD-ROM, like the volume where the analysis of the documentation is to be found, including Mário’s marginal notes and the summary of each content, expands the dissemination of the funds in an extraordinary manner,” says Telê. (The wave of the people arose the general kept quiet the oligarchs thought that the state was the object that fathers left their sons and sons left for the grandchildren) (political pamphlet Antonio Silvino at the election of Rego Barros to be gover-

According to Telê, Mário worked with popular culture from 1922 onwards, in his study, but also by doing some fieldwork. In 1928, in the Revista de Antropofagia [Anthropophagy Magazine], he published his first study on folklore, with the title of O romance do Veludo [The Romance of Veludo]. “He used to correspond with practically all those who tarried with popular culture – Câmara Cascudo, Ademar Vidal, even with Lehmann Nitsche, who complied South American Amerindian myths,” she says. When he became director of the Culture Department of the Municipality of São Paulo in 1936, he created the Ethnology and Folklore Society, with an enormous network of informers. He contracted a photographer and a filmmaker to record the cateretê country dance, the frolic of the Magi, the São Paulo rural samba, and he founded the Folklore Research Mission. Villa-Lobos’s backwoods trunk could not have been in better hands. •

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HUMANITIES

ANTHROPOLOGY

The album of the

patriarchal family

Thesis brings together the conflicting visions of Nelson Rodrigues and Gilberto Freyre on the Brazilians’ household upbringing Published in March 2003

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Illustration by Cícero Dias for the 1933 edition of Casa Grande & Senzala (The Masters and the Slaves)

n just one thesis, Brazilian anthropology and theater won new interpretations at the end of last year. With the supervision of eminent anthropologist Gilberto Velho and defended by historian Adriana Facina, the doctoral thesis Saints and Scoundrels – An Anthropological Analysis of the Work of Nelson Rodrigues, which is to be turned into a book before the end of this year, does a reading of how the theater and journalistic production of Nelson Rodrigues portrays a vision of the world present in several portions of society in his days, and not just the work of the author. The challenge for the researcher was to develop an anthropological work without the possibility of using the classic methodologies of anthropology: field work and participative observation. Moreover, there had to be the conviction that a work not belonging to the tradition of nation al thinking could be analyzed under this prism. To overcome these impasses, Adriana opted to bring anthropology closer to history, taking out of the Rodriguean documents – his plays, chronicles and newspaper articles – the substrate for her research. Material published in the press on Nelson Rodrigues’ theater was also taken into account. The result is a text divided into four chapters that do a clear analysis of the work of Nelson Rodrigues, developed in several domains – from the public opinion of the polemical dramatist to the representations of family and of the city in his plays. Adriana goes so far as to draw up a parallel between the theatrical works by Nelson Rodrigues and the studies by Gilberto Freyre on colonial Brazil. At the end, she does an analysis of the conservatism that took hold of Nelson’s journalistic texts during the military dictatorship.“The central idea that orients this extensive set of sources is that there is, in the work of Nelson Rodrigues, a construction of a vision of human nature that oscillates between a profound pessimism and the search for possibilities of redemption”, Adriana explains. This ambiguity with which Rodrigues saw human nature, and which gave origin to the “saints and scoundrels” of the title, was accompanied by an oscillation of opinions about his work PESQUISA FAPESP

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PHOTOGRAPHS BY AGÊNCIA ESTADO

Gilberto Freyre’s men and women In the year that Casa Grande & Senzala [The Masters and the Slaves] completes 70 years, two unusual studies on the life and work of Gilberto Freyre are awaiting support from publishers to come out of the oven. The book A Festa do Sexo – O Masculino e o Feminino na Obra de Gilberto Freyre [The Festival of Sex – Female and Male in the Work of Gilberto Freyre], by Fátima Quintas, does an analysis of the description that Freyre makes of women in Colonial Brazil in Casa Grande & Senzala and in Sobrados e Mucamos [The Mansions and the Shanties]. Also under her coordination, a project still without a title gathers together 50 interviews with the anthropologist, published in newspapers and magazines. The executive secretary of the Nucleus of Freyrian Studies at the Joaquim Nabuco Foundation, in Recife, Fátima Quintas published Sexo e Marginalidade [Sex and Being on the Fringe of Society] (Vozes, 1987) and A Mulher e a Família no Final do Século [Woman and the Family at the End of the Century (Joaquim Nabuco Foundation, 2000). She soon noted that Freyre was the first anthroat the beginning of his career. Nelson Rodrigues wrote his first play for the theater, A Mulher sem Pecado [The Woman without Sin] in 1941, confessedly to make some money – he used to be a sports reporter with O Globo. While he was writing the second act, he discovered he had talent. And it was his second text, Vestido de Noiva [The Wedding Dress] (1943), regarded as a landmark in modern Brazilian dramaturgy that made Nelson fall into the good graces of the best theater critics, who came to regard him as a genius without precedent. However, with Álbum de Família [Family Album] (1946), Nelson Rodrigues was execrated by the public and the critics for showing, with all frankness, a story based on incestuous relations: parents who love their children and viceversa, a brother who desires his sister, sister-in-law in love with brother-in-law. He was turned into an accursed, degenerate author, who perturbed Brazilian 96

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Gilberto Freyre (above) and Nelson Rodrigues: according to the author, Freyre had a more optimistic vision that the carioca playwright

families with his treacherous, lascivious and ambiguous personages.

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ut, as Adriana’s thesis suggests, it is precisely these apparently perturbed personages that can draw Nelson Rodrigues closer to Gilberto Freyre. Besides both of them having come from Pernambuco and having held a mutual admiration for each other, Freyre and Rodrigues had the Brazilian family at the center of their works – one anthropological, the other theatrical. Accordingly, the representation of the Rodriguean family, which maintains incestuous relations and is also a victim of treachery and violence, could be the continuity of the patriarchal and endogamic family described by Freyre in works like Casa Grande & Senzala [The Masters and the Slaves] (read more above), but turned inside out. “Rodrigues was doing a criticism of the model shown by Freyre”, says Adria-

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na.“While Gilberto Freyre saw in the patriarchal family a civilizational system of the colonial period, Rodrigues, who was writing at another moment of history, captured the moment that this family was crumbling”, the researcher explains. A result of this crumbling, according to her, is the strong presence of the female element as something diabolical. The woman who betrays or who seduces her relative is a woman in search of an individuation that did not exist in the patriarchal family of an older rural Brazil. “The quest for individuation of the Rodriguean personages is also a reflection of the urban environment”, she says. “Gilberto Freyre had a much more optimistic vision than Nelson Rodrigues, as far as this patriarchal family is concerned”, in Adriana’s comparison. Nelson Rodrigues’ pessimism lay in the very reasons that led him to put into his dramaturgy the most frightening specters of human nature.“For him, the more horrors, the more the theater puts


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pologist to contextualize woman in the history of Brazil. “He showed how this woman was oppressed and subjugated to the patriarchal system”, the researcher comments. Oppression affected mainly the Portuguese vertex of the colonizing triangle. “Portuguese women were extremely oppressed sexually”, Fátima explains. Besides having attributed to her only the role of procreation, the Portuguese woman was prematurely introduced into a perverse endogamic system, in which cousins, uncles and aunts, and even brothers and sisters used to intermarry. “They had to marry, at the age of 12 or 13, with men they didn’t like. They were pregnant all the time, and often died early in one of the childbirths”, says the researcher. The situation was aggravated by the sugar-making system itself. Extremely sedentary, they women would stay most of the time at home, eating the sweets and tidbits produced in the Mansion. “They would become obese and often unattractive”, the researcher comments. It is not difficult to imagine that it was common

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for the lord of the mill to seek sexual pleasure more outside marriage than inside it. This was one of the gates of entry for black women to take on an important role in the day to day at the Mansion. “The Portuguese woman was obliged to live with the betrayal of her husband, who kept an intense relationship with the ‘mammies’”, Fátima went on. Added to the sexual attraction, there was affectivity, for the fact that the slave women wet-nursed the children born to the white women. “The Portuguese women didn’t have wet nurses because they wanted to, but because, always being pregnant, they were not able to breastfeed as well”, Fátima explains. The intimacy between the white and black women often made the ladies of the sugar mill give vent to their cruelty. “In a passage from Casa Grande & Senzala, a lady orders the mammy’s eyeballs to be pulled out and served on a platter to the patriarch”, says Fátima. Although Indian women did not have an obligatory presence in the internal architecture of the Mansion, Fátima did not leave them out of her

study. The contact between the Indian women and the Portuguese men was one of great ‘sexual intoxication’, according to Freyre”, she says. Several reasons facilitated the relations between the Portuguese men and the Indian women. First, the nomadic nature of the autochthonous culture, with the long absences of the Indian men. Next, the absence of the notion of betrayal at the heart of this culture. Besides being unprecedented for its times, the presentation that Gilberto Freyre made of the female universe in colonial Brazil denotes, in Fátima’s opinion, a personal characteristic that the anthropologist knew how to lend to his work. “Freyre would use all his senses to expand his knowledge”, says she. It was these personal characteristics that the researcher wanted to capture in the interviews selected for her other project. “Besides being autobiographical, the interviews contain the essence of Freyrian thinking”, Fátima reckons. Among the conversations, there is one famous one, from 1980, in which Freyre told Playboy magazine that, for him, you had to know all the angles of life. Accordingly, he had already tried out homosexuality – and, in the end, opted for heterosexuality. on stage this dimension of the dark side of human nature, the more theater can have a purifying function”, Adriana comments. “It’s as if human beings, when confronted with the more satanic aspect of their nature, could purge themselves of this, at least in part. For Nelson, this is the function of the theater”, the researcher concludes. In her thesis, Adriana analyzes Nelson Rodrigues’ journalistic production at two moments. At the first, in the 50s, with his daily column A Vida Como Ela É [Life as It Is], Nelson Rodrigues took advantage of this privileged space to give backing to his theatrical creation. “The tales were important to officialize the scoundrel image, and they also served as a laboratory for his plays”, Adriana explains. Then in the 60s and 70s, Rodrigues used journalism to show his radicalism with regard to left-wing notions, surprising many by his engagement with the military and with his attack on confrontationist intellectuality in general. •

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A study, now transformed into a book, shows how the Italian dramatist guarantees the perenniality of the political theater M ÁRIO V IANA Published in February 2003

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lone on stage, the man in dark clothes talks without stopping, gesticulates a lot, and draws in multitudes. At the age of 77, he holds as if hypnotized audiences of up to 8,000 persons at a single performance. Seductive as few, he transforms himself into each spectator’s best friend, to whom he tells, with a microphone, a story that seems to have happened yesterday. If someone in the audience coughs, sneezes or lets a mobile phone ring, the man takes advantage of the fact – and, without losing the gist of what he has been saying for a moment, as if were both naturally interconnected. The public laughs, applauds, and is delighted by Italian Daniel Fo, a master in the almost surgical precision of gestures and in the fabulous art of telling stories. Actor, director, dramatist and, since 1977, Nobel Prize for Literature, Dario Fo also became the subject of studies by Neyde Veneziano, a lecturer in Theater at the Communication Arts School of the University of São Paulo (ECA/USP). Published by Editora Códex, the thesis for a doctorate Dario Fo’s Scene – The Exercise of Imagination, which enjoyed support from FAPESP, is the first study in Portuguese on the Italian artist. The first achievement of Neyde Veneziano’s research is to throw some light on the work of a professional who is little accustomed to theories. A tireless researcher into the origins of popular comedy, Fo rescued for the contemporary stage some elements lost in the Middle Ages – like the buffoons, the story tellers (or raconteurs, as the professor prefers). He mixed these studies up with signs of more popular comedy, those done in the circus, and threw over everything a strong political seasoning – strong enough to mark his work and to link it to the thinking of the left. For some, this politicized posture could be the reason for a certain aging of the dramatist’s work: in Italy, a few universities wage veritable battles against Fo and his dra-

maturgy of engagement. Others accuse him of being a false revolutionary, as he advocates theses of the left, but does not dispense with the comfortable life, with a Mercedes in the garage, jewelry and other signs of “bourgeois luxury”. In Brazil, this kind of bickering did not catch on, and here he has several defenders. “Dario Fo is one of those artists that give new significance to tradition, in that they put it at a new level, bringing it up to date, but preserving its fundamental constituents,” explains Silvana Garcia, supervisory professor in the postgraduate studies program at ECA/USP. “He did this with commedia dell’arte, with the medieval comic tradition, with modern mimics, and to all these legacies he added critical political substance, which sends us back to the origins of comedy, Aristophanes.” For director Antonio Abujamra, responsible for the first stagings of Dario Fo in Brazil, the Italian author is indispensable.“He is an arsenal of popular theater,” he explains. “As an author, Fo realized the lack of space there was for those defeated in History and decided to give them a voice in his work.” Abujamra put his signature to two directions of Fo’s texts, both at the beginning of the 80s: Accidental Death of an Anarchist, starred by Antônio Fagundes and with a full house over seven years; and An Adult Orgasm Escapes from the Zoo, a spectacle that served as a springboard for the “essential theater” of actress Denise Stoklos. In both – just as in the whole of the Italian’s work – acid humor is a constant. “Dario Fo knows that without humor it is not possible to bear the planet,”Abujamra comments. “It is impressive, because he is no great actor, but he is a tremendously good story teller.” This quality, Fo learnt in his childhood, listening to the storytellers of Lago Maggiore. It was with him that the dramatist would learn to use dialects, to pay attention to movements in the audience, to use hyperbole and the surreal, and to pass from one perPESQUISA FAPESP

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sonage to another, even telling a story narrated in the first person. Perhaps it is there that lies the key to one of the secrets of Fo’s permanence. “He researched the history of gestures so deeply that, today, when he is on stage, he transforms the slightest movement into something enormous. He just moves his hand and the entire theater realizes what he is telling,” explains Roberto Birindelli, an actor from Rio Grande do Sul. For ten years, Birindelli has been visiting several cities – in Brazil and abroad – presenting the monologue Il Primo Miracolo, one of Fo’s funniest and most critical texts. In the play, he talks about how Jesus, accompanied by Joseph and Mary, felt out of place when went to play with the children from Egypt. “He talks of racial segregation, of isolation from what is foreign and it is possible to adapt this to any situation,” says the actor, who remains alone on stage and represents 21 personages.

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his is clearly a Fo method for presenting a spectacle. Although as a director, he knows very well how to use the resources offered by technology, when he goes to the stage Fo prefers a total cleanliness of elements. Except that, to arrive at this simplicity, he works – and he works a lot. “There isn’t any inspirational muse, that comes at night and whispers verses in the dramatist’s ear,” explains Neyde Veneziano. “It is all technique, a lot of technique, a lot of research.” The dramatist receives help from researchers, digests what he reads and assembles a text, which will serve only as a guide for the spectacle. In the process of rehearsals, gestures and voices keep being given life and receive additions at each presentation. “At no moment does Fo reassemble a spectacle the same way he did ten, 15 years ago. He changes it, adapts it, brings it up to date and perpetuates it.” To gestures, Dario Fo adds the refined use of the voice. Born in a country where each city seems to have an accent of its own, Fo realized that a good storyteller captures the voice of each personage in the midst of the people. “Few actors today understand that voice is body, that speaking has a poetic function, and that it only realizes itself with

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Roberto Birindelli in Fo’s play Il Primo Miracolo: alone on stage, he interprets 21 personages

the use of a concrete element, which is sound,” says Professor Sarah Lopes, who responds for the chair of Vocal Expression at the Scenic Arts Department of the Arts Institute at Campinas State University (Unicamp). “Dario Fo does this brilliantly. He is a master of the technique of anecdotes, and for that reason he knows how to adapt each spectacle to the region in which it is being presented. Fo is like a musician who masters his instrument and is capable of playing to any rhythm.” The capacity for prospecting the essence of popular comedy and discovering elements of the medieval in the

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THE PROJECT Dario Fo’s Scene – The Exercise of Imagination MODALITY

Postdoctoral grant SUPERVISION

EUGENIA CASINI ROPA – Dipartamento di Musica e Spetacolo from the University of Bologna (Italy) GRANT HOLDER

NEYDE VENEZIANO – Communications and Arts School at USP


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REPRODUCTION

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proof of this is that his plays continue to be staged, and under geographical and historical conditions in all senses very distant from the original ones of this production. “Those who think that resistance theater is out of fashion do not understand anything about Dario Fo,” Neyde warns. “His political theater is not aggressive, it’s provocative, which is something quite different.” For her, Fo the political man, as the years went by, came to arrive at the sensitive man. “He provokes, but he gives people a hug. It is as if it were a humanistic political theater,” she says. A confessed admirer of the Italian, author, actor and director Hugo Possolo, of the Parlapatões group, thinks that Fo’s political engagement is not something that limits his dramaturgy.“As he relies basically on popular culture, always telling stories from the point of view of the underdog, the work takes on a left-wing slant – but what really remains is its popular root presented with a tremendous poetic power,” says Possolo. Ariano Suassuna - According to Neyde

laughter of today has been, obviously, stimulated by the political slant of Dario Fo and Franca Rame, his wife, who also acts. The theater that they started doing in the 70s won a strong political coloring, with presentations in factories, trade unions, schools, bowling pitches and wherever else it was possible to put on spectacle. The organization of the company – which was connected to an arm of the Italian Communist Party – was communitarian – on the posters, the names of Franca and Dario did not head up the cast, but modestly in alphabetical order. Even so, at no time would Fo give up his conception of po-

pular theater. “He wasn’t concerned with doing party political theater, but just political theater,” is Sarah Lopes’s analysis. “Dario Fo knows how to stand up for an ideology without losing at any moment artistic quality.” “All theater with a political intent takes its sap from the historical moment, but it earns universality by employing allegorical and metaphorical constructions,” explains Silvana Garcia. “This theater accepts being updated, because it is willing to be an instrument that interprets reality, and is not a mere portrayal of that historical reality in particular.” In the case of Dario Fo, the

Veneziano and Sarah Lopes, the Parlapatões are the group in Brazil that does a job that is closest to the dramaturgy that Dario Fo produces in Italy – in literature, the work of Ariano Suassuna is what gets closest to the union of the popular and the erudite. “In the case of the theater, the difference lies very much on account of the technique, which Fo masters like nobody else,” claims Sarah. Something else that may be credited in favor of the Italian is Fo’s class, which avoids vulgarity at all costs. Possolo disagrees. “Just because he has won a Nobel prize, that doesn’t mean that he ought to be read like a sacrosanct author,” he claims. “There is a strong scatological side to his works, as in some stories of Mister Buffo, for example.” An artist with an impressive capacity for taking advantage of the moment of the audience and mixing it up with the story he is playing, Possolo – who seeks inspiration in the circus – does not hesitate to classify Dario Fo as a clown. “Just like another Italian, Léo Bassi, Fo reinstates the clown as a demolisher of ruling morals, capable of making profound criticisms while he makes people laugh. And that is something that never becomes outdated.” •

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HUMANITIES

HISTORY OF ART

The Gothic in the tropics

A pioneering study in Brazil analyzes the work of the German xylographer Dürer that is stored in Rio de Janeiro D ÉB ORA C RIVELLARO Published in January 2003

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hoever said that the dull magazines found in the dentist offices don’t have another purpose other than to entertain the next patient? The art historian Sandra Daige Antunes Hitner has excellent arguments to knock down this theory. It was while leafing through one of these examples that one of her friends came across an article about the unexplored engravings of Albrecht Dürer (14711528) in the archive of the National Library in Rio de Janeiro and commented on the fact to her. To examine the work of the artist influenced by the Renaissance that changed German esthetics was the mission tailored made for this researcher, in love with medieval Nordic culture. At that moment her doctorate project was born, carried out at the Communication and Arts School (ECA) of the University of São Paulo (USP) and financed through FAPESP. It consisted of a search for the authenticity and the antiquity of the work of the German artist, the greatest victim of plagiarism in the history of the arts and the most coveted xylographer in the world. In her masters thesis Sandra had already been the first researcher in the country to investigate artistic patrimony using laboratory methods used by restorers, such as X-rays, infrared, ultraviolet, tangential light and the chemical analysis of paint and wood. In order to have an idea of the importance of her research, only works examined in this manner by experts can figure in international catalogues, once they have gained a proven certificate. During her masters, she had carried out this study on a work of the primitive Flemish artist Hieronymus Bosch from the Museum of Art of São Paulo (Masp). When she chose Dürer, the researcher thought that she would be faced with an easy task. The major difficulties had already been overcome through the research of Bosch, in which everything was new – Sandra had training in Brussels, Belgium, in order to learn to interpret the results from the methods used

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IMAGES BY BIBLIOTECA NACIONAL

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The Angel who holds the Key to Hell, belonging to the series The Apocalypse of Saint John, the first book by Dürer, done when the artist was twenty five years old. The Rio de Janeiro example bearing a watermark dating from the 16th century, but has no text on the reverse side PESQUISA FAPESP

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The Circumcision from the series The Life of the Virgin, has an amorphous watermark and is without text behind

in the search for the authenticity of works of art. One can then fully understand her surprise when confronted with the Rio de Janeiro patrimony originating from the Portuguese Royal Library. The archive had passed through decades as the victim of the ignorance of its keepers. According to an explicit report in the researcher’s thesis, written by the director of the National Library of Rio in 1876, José Zephirino Brum, the works of Dürer had been in very poor state, deposited in drawers, eaten by bugs, in a non-acclimatized environment, worn down by salty air. “I had imagined that I was going to find something fine, after all it was the king’s archive”, Sandra says. His was definitely not what happened. Among the xylographs analyzed, there were many with low artistic quality. Sandra Hitner found in the library some one hundred and sixty seven works by Dürer, all mixed together – xylographs (paper prints coming from 104

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masters sculptured in wood), engravings and metal molds. Her first task was to separate out one from the other. Once this phase was completed, the researcher concentrated upon the ninety one xylographs that she had found. In order to begin the search for authenticity, it was necessary to study the material – in the case of the xylograph, the paper. However, she didn’t know how to do this since all of her knowledge was based on the investigating examinations of paints on wood.

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n order to familiarize herself with the material, the historian got in touch with the Dürer print archive of the Eugène Dutuit Collection, in the Petit Palais Museum in Paris. Afterwards she continued her studies in Nuremburg and Berlin in Germany, and in Vienna in Austria, at the Albertina Museum, locations that house the most important Dürer collections in the world. “I

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almost fainted when I compared what I saw there with the collection that was in Brazil”, Sandra explains. According to the researcher, even the color of the paper was totally different, since the quality of the medieval material was also variable. The most important characteristic for the definition of this quality, as well as the color, are the water mark designs, since, according to the design that the paper bears, one can define the age and the location where it was made. By observing the various certificates of the main archives, Sandra could verify that the Brazilian collection was not as noble as had previously been supposed. Xylographs are prints taken from a wooden master and can only be considered authentic when printed from the master. Hence their originality is not identified through autography. The analysis of a xylograph is very complicated because of the defects in the block printing. The older the mold,


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The Carrying of the Cross, from the series The Great Passion: cracks, gaps and rusty marks

the fewer the typical features that the print possesses. The pieces begin to show gaps, become worn, damaged or altered by the action of time and by inclemency such as heat and humidity. The wooden masters are attacked by dry rot, which leave marks on the surface in the form of routes taken or holes, and, on the prints, they show up as white circles or oval marks. The restorations carried out over the centuries have destroyed important indicators of authenticity. The more they have been repaired the greater has been the de-characterization of the print, which ends up spoiling the beauty of the xylograph, which lies exactly in the clear and constant traits. The “newer” the impression the more it is discontinuous and rubbed out. There are works of Albrecht Dürer that had been taken from the original master starting from the 16th century and going on into the 19th century. Having mastered the technique of recognition of the medieval paper,

Sandra moved towards the other laboratory tests. She made use of tangential light in order to analyze the constancy of the layers of ink. She placed them under the microscopic lens and ultraviolet light to observe the repairs and eventual repaired spots. She photographed using infrared film in order to capture the watermarks and the subjacent area, should there be any. In this manner she was able to produce a number of pieces of data sufficient for the organization of certificates. Apocalypse - The most well known xylographs of Dürer are those of the Christian series: The Apocalypse of Saint John, The Great Passion and the Life of the Virgin. On the back of each one of them there was a text written by a Benedictine monk. Dürer made only a few engravings on their own, which are rare, as a manner of testing and as gifts. However, all of them contained a manuscript on the back. This was one mo-

re reason for discarding a number of other engravings from the Portuguese royal collection. Many of them do not have any text on the reverse side. Another absence to be found was in the watermarks (filigree) – various prints do not have them. And to finish, when Sandra was in Berlin, researching dictionaries, she got to know that many of the Brazilian archive watermarks don’t match up with those recognized in Germany. In order to be certain that the “Brazilians” were amorphous she went to the Municipal Upper Archive of Stuttgart, currently the largest agglomerated center of filigrees. There she found the card catalogue of Gehard Piccard, the scientists who developed the painstaking work with the watermarks of the medieval German school. During a two week period the researcher examined more than eight thousand cards of possible watermarks. During the comparison she confirmed her skepticism: the Rio archive didn’t ma-

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Saint John Swallowing the Book that the Angel had Presented to him, from the Apocalypse: the engraving didn’t merit a certificate

tch up with a single example from the Piccard Center. Since 1999, Sandra has been journeying once per year in search of matching material. Amongst other specialists she has established contact with professor Matthias Mende from Nuremburg, one of the most knowledgeable persons concerning Dürer throughout the world, from whom she received facsimile books of engravings, fundamental material to give continuity to her research. In Berlin, where Dürer’s engravings are on display, she had authority from the guardians of the museum to photograph what she liked, even those not normally allowed. As well she could touch the works in order to assimilate the small details. Coming from the historian’s research project, twenty six of the ninety one engravings within the Brazilian archive have gained certificates of originality. Nevertheless, it is possible to note in some of them that, though 106

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within the standards of originality, or that is to say, having been printed from the original Dürer mold, the print is not of good quality. “Consequently we have in the archive various other original magnificent prints, some of them

THE PROJECT Historiographic Investigation of a Brazilian Patrimony: The Engravings of Albrecht Dürer – National Library Archive in Rio de Janeiro MODALITY

Doctorate grant SUPERVISOR

JOÃO EVANGELISTA B. R. DA SILVEIRA – Communications and Arts School of USP SCHOLAR

SANDRA DAIGE ANTUNES CORRÊA HITNER – Communications and Arts School of USP

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dated with precision”, Sandra says. The historian included in her doctorate thesis, under a separate heading, prints that do not demonstrate clarity under analysis, leaving out the certification – they were catalogued with respect to their inherent documental value. Those that were surprising for the variation in their watermarks will be sent to the Piccard Center in Stuttgart for cataloguing. In the end the question remains: how could a royal archive contain within its collection examples so unequal? There remains the possibility of some of the engravings having been exchanged after the Portuguese court had left for Brazil. Or, who knows, the king’s ambassadors incumbent with the task of gathering together precious articles in Europe for the Crown didn’t know much about art. The fact is that there is, within this field of history, a lot to be uncovered in the National Library. •


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Read in English and in Spanish

The site of Pesquisa FAPESP has English and Spanish versions of the content published in Portuguese. Just access www.revistapesquisa.fapesp.br and click on the button English or Spanish. The reports are samples of the diversity and dynamism of the Brazilian science. In 2002 the Brazilian researchers produced the equivalent of 44% of the indexed papers published by Latin Americans in the same period. Last year 11,285 papers were published which accounts for 1.55% of the world production. It is one the best rates in the developing countries.

b r a z i l i a n

s c i e n c e

a s

y o u

h a v e

Science and Technology

in Brazil

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HUMANITIES

INTERVIEW: ISMAIL XAVIER

Visions on stage The critic and professor analyzes the dialog between the Brazilian cinema and the Nelson Rodrigues theater M ARILUCE M OURA

AND

N ELDSON M ARCOLIN

Published in December 2003

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In 1982, he became a Ph.D. in studies of the cinema by New York University, where he also did postdoctoral studies. The author of several books and the coordinator of the collection Cinema, Teatro e Modernidade [Cinema, Theater and Modernity], by Cosac and Naify, Ismail Xavier seems to have taken the right decision by opting for studying the cinema, 30 years ago: today, he is one of the most respected thinkers on Brazilian cinema. Let’s begin by talking about your book: in it, there is a first, theoretical, part that addresses the development of the cinema in the course of the 20th century, the entry into melodrama, the relationships with the quests for social representation of that moment, and a little of the relationship of the cinema with the theater. How was this conception developed? — There are two sides to the coin that ended up combining well. This book is a collection of articles and essays, produced over a long period, from 1988 to 2003. I have brought together in it all the texts in which, whether in the case of an analysis of specific films, or in the case of more theoretical texts, there was a discussion about the problem of acting, understood as that notion of the look and the stage, as thought from the 18th century onwards. There is a moment in the history of the theater at which the idea arises of seeking greater vigor in the question of the fourth wall – that ■

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imaginary, invisible, wall between the public and the stage – and greater vigor in the relationship between the blocked and demarcated stage and the audience. What is fundamental in this notion is the idea of establishing a game in which the actor does everything for a given look that he knows to be there, but that at the same time he pretends to ignore. So he shows himself off, but at the same time has to pretend to be absolutely self-absorbed. This is a basic principle of what people call bourgeois acting, created in the 18th century. Is that where Diderot comes in (17131784). — Diderot is a key figure, because, in the first place, he did a criticism of the kind of staging that the French theater used to do of the classical tradition. He used to say: “That is not the stage, that is a recitation, nobody is worried about creating emotion, nobody is concerned with using the resources of the theater visually”. There was an excessive primacy of the text. It’s odd, because I myself was once in France watching plays at the Comédie Française, which is a very traditional theater, and up until today the staging is extremely timid. Even after two and a half centuries, and the whole enormous array of innovations of the modern theater, you go to the Comédie Française and note that the actors are very discrete. The interesting fact is that Diderot makes a criticism of this and ■

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iderot, D.W. Griffith and Alfred Hitchcock, Nelson Rodrigues, Glauber Rocha and Arnaldo Jabor. In crystal-clear essays, the professor and cinema critic Ismail Xavier, 56 years old, explains the contributions and the importance of each one of them for the cinema in his new book, O Olhar e a Cena [The Look and the Stage] (Cosac & Naify, 382 pages). Easy to cover, the texts written between 1988 and 2003 were stitched together to tell of the passage of the theater and of literature to the cinema “in a broad sense, which goes beyond a case of adaptation”, as the author himself says. The professor of the Cinema, Radio and Television Department of the Communications and Arts School of the University of São Paulo (ECA/ USP), at the beginning of his career Ismail Xavier wavered between mechanical engineering and the cinema. He did the two courses simultaneously at USP, the first at the Polytechnic School and the second at ECA. He graduated in 1970 and decided to study for a master’s degree at the Faculty of Philosophy, Literature and Human Sciences, under the supervision of Paulo Emílio Salles Gomes, an icon in the defense of the Brazilian cinema. For his doctorate, he received supervision from Antonio Candido, another icon, this time of Brazilian literature and culture in general.


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asks for illusionism, asks for there to be this game that I have called the guile of acting, which is pretending with the body, with gestures, with words, to give the appearance of a natural situation, to give the appearance that he is experiencing all those emotions of the personage. And, in this, Diderot formulated the famous paradox of the comedian, addressed explicitly to the actor. That is, he has to work with this game in which he gives the appearance of living the personage, when in actual fact he is merely simulating. There was a demand from the audiences who had accustomed themselves to the idea that if you have a scene in a personage’s office, there has to be a desk, the whole apparatus, the scenic space reproducing what would be the ambience of the personage, and this is a fact that began to appear then. Could the cinema be the crowning of this total expression of the nature of acting, or is it a break? — When the cinema appears, it has the most varied options for using the camera, for producing images. And there is a very interesting period, and the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th, which even historians call the cinema of attractions, because everything is possible. You could – not least because the films were short – film a horse race, a walk in the city, trips, a boxing match, a ballerina...

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■ Is this experimentation to be found up to 1920? — Before that. Drama gains ground and transformed itself into the main thing in a cinematographic spectacle from 1910 onwards. There was an inflection point, shall we say, in 1908, more or less, in which all that variety begins to disappear and this vein linked to drama consolidated itself as the great genre of the spectacle.

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■ This now happened with D.W. Griffith (1875-1948)? — I always refer to Griffith, because he is a symbolic figure, but he was not the only one. He was the main filmmaker of the United States, but there was also, in parallel, the same kind of development in France, in Italy. ■ And we have in history that goes in this

direction up to 1950. — Yes, practically. This remained as a conquest that is present up until today. The industrial cinema, the cinema that is the experience of the public at large, is the same. There are small changes of style, small alterations in content of things, but, in terms of basic principle, what was consolidated between 1908 and 1917 made up a system for acting, shall we call it, because there are certain rules and precautions that have to be taken. There are ways of establishing certain relationships that if you do not do it that way, you may confuse the public in terms of construction of space, construction of time and of characterization of personages. And the genre that made this process advance most was melodrama. ■ How do you outline melodrama, within

the experience of dramatic narrative in the cinema? — Within that principle of Diderot’s, “you have to be an illusionist, you have to give importance to the staging”, there is a very strong relationship between the melodrama genre and this idea that the visuality of the spectacle, the thing that is given to the gaze, is the major framework for the sought-after effects. A melodrama is generally characterized by giving a lot of importance to action, to the plot, to twists and turns. At the same time, it gives importance to the playing out of the emotions, it has all the brand of intensity. A genre created

Drama transformed itself into the main thing in a film from 1910 onwards

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around 1800, melodrama was a kind of play written to be spoken normally, like any other play. When there is this idea that what should be expressed in the theater are emotions, sentiments, and struggles between good and evil, the body takes on more importance than before. And the looks as well, because from then on it becomes very convenient to start constructing the plot itself through situations in which someone sees something, and this vision brings new revelations in respect of the situation of the personages. So the look does not just come to have greater importance in the relationship between the stage and the public, but also in the very way how the conflicts between the personages are drawn. The look comes to have a very important role, which is what happens with the cinema. ■ But

has this not become even more important in the cinema? — Obviously, in silent films this question of the look was got stronger, and the quest for the face on the screen and that which it is capable of expressing has two dimensions. One is the dimension of expressing inner feelings, emotion. But there is the other side, which is expressing a character’s intention and interest. All of us, up until today, when we go to the cinema, follow the development of the actions, and the look is one of the great indicators that the spectator is offered: the spatial references and that which a character invests in a relationship or fails to invest, that which demonstrates the interests, etc. In other words, the most normal thing until today in the cinema is a device that has been created since those days, which is the thing that you have a personage that puts on some sort of expression and looks at something, looks off the record, and next comes the response to the idealization of the spectator, because when you have an image like this one, the first question is: “What is it that he sees?” Then cinema gives the answer, the classic cinema does this a lot, this game of question and answer all the time. ■ Why the choice in your book particularly of Alfred Hitchcock (1899-1980) as one of the pillars of the cinema? — There are two poles. The first pole is the fact that, from the theoretical point

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of view, the book brings together a series of texts in which my interest lies in discussing this passing from the theater to the cinema. The people who defended the cinema as an art, who sought to convince the intellectuals and the public from the elite that it was worthwhile to watch films, and that here was a very rich new form of expression, started from the theory that their biggest task was to separate the cinema from the theater. It was to say: the cinema is not the theater on film. The most important axis of this passing is melodrama. Because cinema is the popular art of the 20th century, just as melodrama was of the 19th century. And melodrama continues to be a popular art today, because the television soap opera, a great spectacle with a great audience, is a new version of the melodrama. I do a theoretical discussion in which, in first place, there is Griffith as a key figure for the formation of the classic cinema, and there is Hitchcock, because he is the apogee. If we take the first half of the century, in particular, the great master capable of circulating at ease in this classic system and at the same time comment on it, within his own films, is Hitchcock. Watching his films, we have a first level of experience, which is to accompany the story normally. The second level of experience is to observe in what way that story is a great commentary about the cinema. And why is that? — In Hitchcock’s cinema, the question of the look comes into the center. Much of what happens with the personages themselves is bound up with the way they employ the look, and in what fashion, within the film itself, this relationship happens between the look and the stage. The whole question from Hitchcock is the following: look, what are you here in the cinema for? We are not going to be moralists, you are here because you want to see the crime. If you don’t see it, you are going to get frustrated. You are here because, in a certain way, you want to have an experience in which, identifying yourselves with the personages, or with the afflictions of the personages, you will be committing a crime by proxy. The cinema does not exist to give a lesson in morals to anyone, but to offer everyone the opportunity to channel the aggres■

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siveness that everyone has into a moment that could be something similar to catharsis. Hitchcock’s theory is the following: look, this moralism of criticizing violence in the cinema is nonsense, because the spectator does not go to the cinema to learn how to use this. The most important thing is that the spectator goes to the cinema to have, so to speak, that vicarious experience of living out the transgression incarnated in the personages and in the violence that is there on the screen, it’s precisely as a way of having a safety valve. ■ Didn’t Billy Wilder (1906-2002) do the

same thing? — When Billy Wilder works out the question of the cinema, the way he was ironic as far as the cinema industry was concerned went in the direction of working out mythologies: like people, actors and actresses etc. live a certain kind of experience as central figures of the star system, and what this can cause of the nature of a caricature. I can cite as an example Sunset Boulevard, or when he does the comedy The Seven Year Itch, with Marilyn Monroe. ■ Hitchcock did a more universal work in the look about what cinema is? — Hitchcock talks of language and does an interesting thing, because he identifies the filmmaker with the person who commits the perfect crime. That is interesting: what is it to commit the perfect crime? Instead of what happened, it’s creating, it’s simulating a fiction capable of convincing people that the true story was different. That is what Vertigo is: the crime is perfect. At the time, this was a bit strange, because the criminal really goes out in the middle of the film. He succeeded in what he wanted and goes away.

As if the film ended there. — In two thirds of the film, the criminal disappears from the scene. And what is it that Hitchcock did the whole time? He created a film. The genial thing is that it is not enough to create a film, you have to create the proper look for watching that film. So what does the criminal have to do to hide his gesture and put in its place another order of events? He has to simulate, and simulation has to be effective, because it is done for a given look. The cinema industry ■


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meida, a playwright who used to be a partner in Vera Cruz and a scriptwriter. Now, there is another aspect that I touch on in the book, which is the turnaround from the 1950s to the 1960s. There is a phenomenon, which is international, that is the potentializing of eroticism and a certain general freeing up of sexuality in the cinema, which has certain icons. The greatest of them was Brigitte Bardot.

For Hitchcock, nobody goes to the cinema interested in taking lessons in morality

■ An exception for the quantity of cinema productions based on his work? — Yes. We do not have a strong relationship between theater and cinema in Brazil. Of course, there have always been films that adapted plays. But although we had a theater that over a long time staged melodramas, our greatest strength has always been in comedy, with an enormous tradition that includes the vaudeville theater and musical comedy on the other. And it is curious to see the exceptions: O Ébrio [The Tipsy], by Gilda de Abreu, a film from 1946, is one of the few melodra-

does exactly the same as the criminal, that is, it creates the story and at the same time supposes an audience that has a certain constitution. Effective cinema, in terms of market, is cinema that is capable of doing precisely that: creating the scene, but not only the scene, knowing what kind of look has to be addressed to the scene, and knowing that the audience, which is the target, will have that look and will have that constitution that you suppose it to have. It is then that the game is made. Like the story of Vertigo: it is the relationship between the cinema and its public. Well, this is one side of the story, it is a discussion of mine of the melodrama and of this journey of the classic cinema since its formation up to this moment that I call the irony of Hitchcock and which reveals all the rules of the game. And the other side is that part, which is the second half of my book, that is the relationship between theater and cinema in Brazil, and there I took as its center the figure of Nelson Rodrigues for various reasons. The first is because he represents an exception.

mas of great success in the history of the Brazilian cinema. In the 1950s, the thing comes about in the same tone. That is to say, Vera Cruz, which had a strong industrial project, managed to get repercussions from dramas, like O Cangaceiro [The Brigand]. But in terms of a dialog between the cinema and playwrights, the first effective dialog, which today adds up to 20 films and has lasted 50 years – and a new film, Vestido de Noiva [The Wedding Dress] is now being announced –, is occurring with Nelson Rodrigues. ■ When structuring your essays about this

dialog between the theater and the cinema, Nelson Rodrigues and the filmmakers, you analyze various different moments. — They are various moments. There is a film, isolated back in the past, which is Meu Destino É Pecar [My Destiny is to Sin], from 1952, which does not come from the theater, it is an adaptation of a newspaper serial of great success that he wrote under the pseudonym of Suzana Flag, at the end of the 1940s. It was the first and only one of the 1950s. In spite of Nelson having started to write the so-called ‘carioca`( from the city of Rio de Janeiro) tragedies in 1951, there were already plays like A Falecida [The Deceased] and others. With the exception of this first film, there was a silence of the cinema in relation to Nelson Rodrigues in this decade. What were the reasons for this silence? — There was censorship. But also the fact that, for example, in the cinema of Rio de Janeiro, the lode was musical comedy. And in São Paulo, Vera Cruz and its successors had their playwrights on duty. For example: Abílio Pereira de Al■

And, in Brazil, Norma Bengell. — Yes. Who, oddly enough, in a musical comedy, imitated Brigitte. And afterwards we have in the European cinema an alteration in the acting standards of sexuality, the bedroom scenes began to be more elaborate, nudity, etc. In Brazil, we had a similar turnaround, because in this beginning of the 1960s an adaptation takes place of Boca de Ouro [Golden Mouth], by Nelson Pereira dos Santos, in which we had the famous contest of women’s breasts, and the film by Ruy Guerra, Os Cafajestes [The Vulgar People], in which Norma Bengell had a long sequence of frontal nude on the beach. At this moment, six films were made from Nelson Rodrigues: Boca de Ouro, A Falecida, O Beijo [The Kiss], Bonitinha mas Ordinária [Cute, but a Tramp] , Asfalto Selvagem [Savage Asphalt] and Engraçadinha depois dos 30 [Engaçadinha after 30]. ■

Is this not also the moment when the New Cinema begins? — That is interesting: the New Cinema, much mobilized by political debate, a cinema that had as one of its central dimensions the thematization of Brazilian social life, did not adapt the playwrights that could be considered in tune with it. Note the inversion there is: Dias Gomes, who was a playwright from the left, has a play called O Pagador de Promessas [The Payer of Vows], and who adapts it is Anselmo Duarte, who has nothing to do with the New Cinema, in ideological terms. ■

■ Why did the New Cinema not establish relations with the playwrights identified with it? — In the full-length films, this in fact did not occur. Let us take the case of the Arena, where Gianfrancesco Guarnieri and Roque Veiga Filho were. Guarnieri had written the play Eles não usam

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black-tie [They Don’t Wear Black Tie] in 1958 and staged it with success, hence an indication of a possible adaptation. It wasn’t. The play adapted was Gimba, by Flávio Rangel, who was also not of the New Cinema. We had Roque, who was to become an actor of New Cinema, and did not have his play adapted. Jorge Andrade himself, once again, who adapted him was Anselmo Duarte, in Vereda da salvação [Path of Salvation]. And Eles não usam blacktie was to come from Leon Hirszman in 1980. Nelson Rodrigues, seen as a playwright of great stature, but at the same time a conservative man, is who is going to be adapted by two filmmakers much committed to realism, Nelson Pereira, after his fashion, and Leon Hirszman. Was there an option for not adapting plays in the New Cinema? — One of the characteristics of the New Cinema was not to have this keynote. The adaptations that happened were a bit by force of the circumstances. Glauber Rocha, for example, would never adapt plays by others. Actually, the New Cinema was concerned with having a dialog with literature. ■

Did the lack of a dialog between the left-wing playwrights and the New Cinema have political reasons or merely aesthetic ones? — The New Cinema claimed for itself the right to the author’s freedom of expression and the right to a very marked subjectivity in its films, something that from the point of view of the Popular Center for Culture (CPC) – where the left-wing playwrights did part of their works – was not exactly the program. The New Cinema polemicized a lot with the CPC, and there was an estrangement. When we see the dialog with the playwright, it took place with Nelson Rodrigues. And this dialog is going to taken up again in the 70s, in another key then, by Arnaldo Jabor. As he even knew Nelson Rodrigues in person and had a more marked experience of the theater, he managed to synthesize in his two films, Toda nudez será castigada [All Nudity shall be Punished] and O casamento [The Wedding], the best dialog with the playwright. Toda nudez... is the most successful adaptation of Nelson’s work, because Jabor ■

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knew how to explore the tones of tragicomedy that best express the connections between what happens in the private world, in these family dramas, and the broader context of the history of Brazil at a given moment. So Jabor, and there he was following the tradition of the New Cinema that always wanted to represent the country, always wanted to discuss things on a much broader scale. ■ After the phase of the six films on plays by Nelson Rodrigues, from 1962 to 1966, what happened? — There was a period of silence, broken in 1972 with Toda Nudez... But in the middle there was a fundamental thing, which was Tropicalism. Several things happen there. The first of them is the use of strategies that we call anthropophagic, inspired on the work and ideas of Oswald de Andrade, in the sense of appropriating the discourse of the other, the parody, the irony, the idea that doing a criticism of a certain state of things in Brazil could happen not just through the dramas of the New Cinema.

This is the moment when Macunaíma was launched too. — It is the moment of a great dialog with literature. There is also Os deuses e os mortos, [The Gods and the Dead], by Ruy Guerra, which does a bit of a dialog with Jorge Amado. There is a kind of transformation in the Brazilian cinema in which there occurs and prepares, shall we say, the climate for which Jabor makes his intervention. At the end of the 1970, that is where there is a strongest side of the use of Nelson Rodrigues as a siren, because there was already this cliché of the plays that had a lot of sex, a lot of eroticism, in Bonitinha mas Ordinária, Os Sete Gatinhos [The Seven Kittens], Álbum de Família [Family Album], Perdoa-me por me Traíres [Forgive Me for Your Having Betrayed Me], Beijo no Asfalto [The Kiss on the Asphalt]. They are all naturalist films, in that sense of being very conventional as cinema. It is when the relationship between the cinema and Nelson Rodrigues was vulgarized. ■

■ Did this not also occur because of the political situation of the time? — In part. But there was plenty of good stuff done in the Brazilian cinema bet-

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ween 1972 and 1980, although we were under the military regime. Joaquim Pedro de Andrade made some great films, Os Inconfidentes [The Mistrustful], Guerra Conjugal [Connubial War], Leon Hirszman did São Bernardo, then he did ... They don’t wear black-tie, Nelson Pereira dos Santos made O Amuleto de Ogum [The Amulet of Ogum], Tenda dos Milagres [Stall of Miracles]. Jabor did the two by Nelson and also Tudo Bem [Everything’s Alright], which has no adaptation, but is Rodriguean. ■ When Jabor tried to do Jabor, he actually did Nelson Rodrigues. — Yes, because the affinity is very great, and it is going to be the same affinity of the chronicler. When Jabor goes to the newspapers, he brings all this imagery that is a mixture. He joins Glauber, on one side, the New Cinema, and Nelson Rodrigues, on the other. Jabor is an allegorist like Glauber, he likes making great diagnostics. The most dense and most interesting moment of the dialog with Nelson is what Jabor has offered us. And it is there that the relationships with acting as a whole, not by chance, are best resolved. In the moment I talk about Jabor in my book, the question I pose at the beginning, which is the tradition of the melodrama and the tradition of classic bourgeois acting, reappears forcibly, because we could draw an analogy, as I am going to do from Griffith to Hitchcock, in the world of adaptation of Nelson Rodrigues, I go from the gothic, melodramatic, quite downright film, which is Meu Destino é Pecar [My Destiny is to Sin], to Jabor. Jabor is the moment of conscience and of irony. ■ And

how about contemporary cinema? — The cinema today is living new realities that in part carry out a dialog with these other moments that I analyze. Today, we have a Brazilian cinema that, in part, in its dramaturgy, is collecting a gallery of frustrated masculine figures, who cannot manage to give a good account of things. One central problem in the Brazilian cinema and, in part, of the cinema worldwide, is using children as protagonists. They are the recurrent personages that enjoy the greatest success in the worldwide cinema today. This happens, first, because there is the question of a generation


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that has lost its paternal point of reference and, on the other hand, is totally disenchanted with history. It is very difficult today to watch a film and accept the figure of an adult hero. It is very difficult for the positive personages today to be truthful, there is a certain mistrust of the world. We realize that in serious dramas there is a situation in which it is very difficult to work out positive personages, who are shown as powerful heroes and with a capacity for deciding. We end up having a feeling that the personage that really can be treated with seriousness and liking, positively represented, a holder of values which people identify themselves with, is the child. Several films have won international festivals with children as protagonists in the last few years. Walter Salles himself, with Central do Brasil [Central Station]. This is also the strength of Cidade de Deus [City of God]: first, because the personages are children, and second, because the boys are extraordinary actors. ■ How do you see the relationship between the theater and the cinema in Brazil today? — If we take the nucleus of Guel Arraes in TV Globo, we see that he is working with plays by Ariano Suassuna, Auto da Compadecida [The Dog’s Will], and by Osman Lins, Lisbela e o prisioneiro [Lisbela and the Prisoner]. Guel has a clear project of incorporating a tradition of a theater aimed at popular culture and playing it both on the TV and in the cinema. It is a project that is drawing commercial television closer to the cinema, something unprecedented in Brazil.

But isn’t it also a risk? — It can be dangerous. This is being consolidated by all these current successes, Cidade de Deus, Deus é brasileiro [God is Brazilian], Carandiru, Lisbela e o prisioneiro, O Auto da Compadecida, Os Normais [Normal People]. Brazilian cinema is going to be divided between those who are in Globo’s scheme and those who are not. For the independents, it is a problem, because they are going to compete with a corporation that is economically strong, which has an enormous capacity for publicity. If things continue as they are, a little further on we shall have a watershed. My

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vision is optimist, from the strict point of view of production. The more creative Brazilian cinema from authors has always had difficulties in the market, since it fights for space with the Hollywoodian cinema. The fact of arising from the Brazilian production itself of a strong group that, associated with certain competent filmmakers, is going to create a vein of great success, and that may cause problems of room in the market for other Brazilian filmmakers, will cause a helluva shift. This makes the conflict internal, which is a good thing. I prefer the Brazilian cinema complaining about Globo than about someone who doesn’t hear us. Has technology improved Brazilian cinemas in recent years? — In the past, we had some very bad movie theaters, and this has improved. Today, there has been a substantial alteration in the way how what is called the post-production is carried out, everything that happens after the filming. On the one hand, the equipment and the infrastructure for this have become cheaper, on the other, nowadays much of this is done outside Brazil, something that did not use to be done before. The cinema, generally speaking, now has a better sound. So it would be unfair to say there hasn’t been a technical improvement. But, beyond all this, there is the following: the cinema of the 1990s created a kind of point of honor. We have a cinema that wants to legitimate itself in the eyes of society. ■

■ In the eyes of Brazilian society and for export as well. — All right, but I think that the first problem that the filmmaker has today

is the desire to have a good image in the eyes of the public at large, the same public that watches television. It is different from other times, when we had the art film or a very unsatisfactory commercial film. When did this concern of Brazilian filmmakers start? — It was in the 1990s. And just look how it’s a deliberate thing, because there was no need for it to be that way. The films are being produced under the tax benefit laws, that is, the government foregoes tax instead of receiving it, allows a company to channel the money, which is public, towards production. When the filmmaker receives the money, those who gave this money is not now calling for him to bring a return. So he could make any film he wanted to, without worrying about the public. But what is happening is the opposite: filmmakers today think that the best way of applying this money is in really commercial films, for the market. Because they believe that, without this alteration in the image of their own profession, they will have no political clout for calling on the government to continue with the laws. The way for the Brazilian cinema to legitimate itself and to continue to get support on the legislative plane is for it to have the support of society. Getting this support means that when you talk about Brazilian cinema, people are going to say: “Great, I watched such and such film, it’s good, Brazilian cinema has improved”. This is important for filmmaker to speak more and more to the Ministry of Culture, the president, or whoever. Or to Congress. • ■

Today, we have a cinema that wants to legitimate itself in the eyes of Brazilian society

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CARTOON C LAUDIUS

USP researchers break the language of the wooly spider monkeys?

( — DO YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE TALKING TO?! )

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— HEARD THAT HIGH EVOLUED BEHAVIOR


Special Issue 2002 - 2004  

Highlights of brazilian research

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