Science  14 Sep 2007:
Vol. 317, Issue 5844, pp. 1483

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  1. Still Waiting for Cybrids

    Despite a provisional okay from British regulators, scientists who want to use animal eggs as part of a process to produce patient-specific embryonic stem (ES) cells will have to wait a bit longer for the expected green light. Two U.K. groups have applied to that country's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) to try nuclear transfer techniques that would combine human cell nuclei and animal oocytes to create so-called cybrids. The technique, which U.S. and Chinese scientists have tried with limited success, might allow researchers to make patient-specific ES cells without using human oocytes, which are difficult to obtain.

    After a yearlong review, HFEA said last week that it saw no fundamental reason to prohibit the technique but that it plans to make a decision in November after additional study. Stephen Minger of King's College London, who submitted his application in November 2006, says he is satisfied with the British regulatory process. “I like the fact that this [research] is tightly regulated. I think we've come out the other end with a huge amount of support” from the public.

  2. Stem Cell Funding Plans

    German scientists hoping for a relaxation of the strict laws governing human embryonic stem (ES) cells won't be getting any help from education and research minister Annette Schavan. This fall, the German parliament is expected to debate the country's current stem cell regulations, which make it a crime to work with human ES cells derived after 1 January 2002. This week, Schavan said she would not support lifting the cutoff date, although she did not rule out shifting it to allow work with more recently derived cells. At the same time, Schavan announced $6.85 million in new funding for research into methods that would produce pluripotent cells—cells that can become nearly all the body's cell types—without using human embryos. She says her goal is to make ES cells “superfluous.”

    As Germany continues to tread cautiously, California is speeding toward its goal of becoming the world's stem cell mecca. On 10 September, the Eli and Edythe L. Broad Foundation announced a $20 million donation to the University of California, Los Angeles, for faculty development, equipment, and facilities at its stem cell institute, now renamed after the donors. Last year, the foundation gave $25 million to the University of Southern California in Los Angeles for the same purpose.

  3. The Full Taleyarkhan

    It looks as though bubble fusion researcher Rusi Taleyarkhan of Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, will go under the microscope after all. Last week, Purdue officials announced that an internal panel has concluded that allegations of research misconduct warrant a full investigation.

    The latest inquiry was prompted by a request from the Office of Naval Research (ONR), which helped fund some of Taleyarkhan's work, and follows congressional criticism of Purdue's handling of the alleged misconduct. The decision reverses a previous inquiry by the university that recommended against a full investigation (Science, 16 February, p. 921). Purdue expects to begin the investigation once it hears back from ONR officials.

  4. Show Me the Data

    Many gene hunters who trawl the entire human genome for disease genes will soon be asked to share their data. Starting 25 January, recipients of grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for “genomewide association studies” will be “strongly encouraged” to submit their data sets stripped of identifiers to a central database. The sharing will allow findings to be validated in many populations (Science, 11 May, p. 820).

    NIH will give researchers who submit data sets a year to publish before others can use the data in their own publications. Privacy protections would prevent nonresearchers from using the Freedom of Information Act to obtain genetic and clinical data on an individual, NIH concluded. One academic says she hopes NIH will spell out how institutional review boards should comply with the policy.

  5. Florida Bound?

    Germany's Max Planck Institute (MPI) is a big step closer to opening its first research center in the United States. This week, county commissioners in Palm Beach, Florida, unanimously supported the idea of selling $86.9 million in bonds as part of a $181.8 million incentive package to lure the institute. If the state kicks in its share, MPI will build a 9000-m2 bioimaging research facility on the campus of Florida Atlantic University in Jupiter, next door to newly arrived Scripps Florida. “I've spent about 10 seconds considering this,” says Commissioner Jeff Koons. “[Then] I said, 'Go do it.' “MPI officials called the vote “an important steppingstone.”