Stem Cell Results Questioned
- Constance Holden
The University of Minnesota (UMN), Twin Cities, is looking into a report of an irregularity in the work of researcher Catherine Verfaillie, a stem cell expert whose work has come under previous scrutiny. Fifteen months ago, New Scientist reported it had found data plots duplicated in two different Verfaillie publications, as well as confusing data relating to cell types cultivated in her lab from multipotent adult progenitor (MAP) cells. Although the duplication was ascertained to be an honest error, UMN got inconsistent answers from experts it consulted on the other data (Science, 2 March, p. 1207).
Earlier this month, New Scientist notified the school of a separate problem: The same Western blot image appears twice in a 2001 Blood paper—once as a control, then, with the image reversed, representing collagen. A U.S. patent application also contains the same image, this time signifying a bone protein. Verfaillie did not respond to a request for comment, although a Minnesota official says she has been cooperative. UMN is mulling the creation of an inquiry panel, which could recommend a “full investigation.”
The Hunt to Capture Carbon Is On
- Daniel Clery,
- Eli Kintisch
CAMBRIDGE, U.K.—The British government has committed itself to funding a full-scale demonstration of carbon capture and storage. Last year, the Labour government created the $200-million-a-year public-private Energy Technologies Institute, which will be up and running in 2008. In his 2007–08 budget statement delivered last week, Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown went a step further, promising to hold a competition for a carbon-capture demonstration plant. “We need to understand how the technology works in large, integrated projects so that we can develop it for deployment worldwide,” says Hannah Chalmers of Imperial College London. Details will be released in May; the plant is expected to be operational early next decade.
Meanwhile, in the U.S. last week, a powerful group of Democratic and Republican senators proposed legislation to expand coal-sequestration research projects, including $300 million for “large-scale testing of carbon-sequestration systems.” The government now runs a smaller-scale injection research program. The legislation (S. 962) incorporates many of the recommendations in a recent Massachusetts Institute of Technology report on coal research (Science, 16 March, p. 1481).
Sharing the Flu (Data)
- Matthew Busse
Nations on both sides of the Pacific have established a distributed computing grid to improve research collaborations on avian influenza. The flu project, announced last week in Bangkok, will be managed by the 5-year-old Pacific Rim Applications and Grid Middleware Assembly (PRAGMA) project, based at the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC). Scientists in the United States, Japan, China, South Korea, and Malaysia will be able to remotely operate lab equipment and share access to databases. The grid will have applications for other infectious diseases as well, says Peter Arzberger of SDSC. The project has $350,000 in start-up funding from the U.S. Army.
Stem Cell Work Restarted
- D. Yvette Wong
SEOUL—South Korea's National Bioethics Committee has decided to allow scientists to resume studies on human embryonic stem cells, removing a ban imposed in March last year after the Woo Suk Hwang scandal. Last week's decision barred transfers of human cells into animal eggs and egg donations solely for research purposes, allowing donations only of unused eggs collected originally for in vitro fertilization. South Korea's National Assembly will review the rules, which include a 3-year research ban for violators, before incorporating them in an expected bioethics bill later this year.
Change of FACE?
- Eli Kintisch
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is rethinking a move to stop funding long-running studies of the impacts of elevated carbon dioxide levels on various ecosystems. Forest ecologists Ram Oren of Duke University and Richard Norby of Oak Ridge National Laboratory say that DOE told them in January that five of the six sites in the $7-million-a-year Free Air CO2 Enrichment (FACE) effort—which include forests, a desert, and a farm—could be phased out as soon as 2008. Last year, a DOE panel had suggested that the department allow some projects to continue until 2010, and scientists have been lobbying DOE for a reprieve. This week, DOE official Jerry Elwood told Science the department is weighing the 2010 date for some projects but that he wants to make room for new research on what happens when elevated CO2 levels are combined with other factors such as nutrients or temperature.