Science  20 Jan 2006:
Vol. 311, Issue 5759, pp. 317

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  1. A Dash for Hare Eggs

    Researchers in the United Kingdom have ruffled some feathers by saying they will apply for a license to use rabbit egg cells in nuclear transfer experiments designed to produce human embryonic stem (ES) cells. Chris Shaw of King's College London says his team had been considering attempting the technique. But recent retractions by Korean scientists have provided “an impetus” for using animal eggs instead of hard-to-obtain human eggs.

    The scientists plan to remove the DNA from a rabbit egg and then fuse the cytoplasm with a human cell, hoping to reprogram the human DNA to express embryonic genes. In 2003, a group led by Hui Zhen Sheng of Shanghai Second Medical University published a paper in the Chinese journal Cell Research claiming to have coaxed such hybrids into becoming embryos, from which ES cells were harvested, but many scientists remain unconvinced. Shaw's trial balloon has prompted several groups to question the ethics of creating such chimeric embryos. A spokesperson for the U.K.'s Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority has said that “the resulting embryo would be almost indistinguishable from a human embryo,” so Shaw and his colleagues would need a new license to start their rabbit research

  2. Like Physics? Pony Up

    Research patrons bailed out a particle collider at the Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) after Congress slashed its budget. A group led by mathematician and hedge-fund billionaire James Simons is donating $13 million to the Department of Energy laboratory in Upton, New York, to run the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider a full 20 weeks in 2006 instead of, at most, 6 weeks (Science, 18 November 2005, p. 1105). BNL director Praveen Chaudhari says he was “stunned” when Simons made the offer last month.

    As long as donors work with funding agencies, such philanthropy is welcome, says presidential science adviser and former Brookhaven director John Marburger. “It will help us get more out of our facilities,” he says. But American Physical Society public affairs director Michael Lubell fears that the donation could set a troubling precedent if the federal government uses it as an excuse to further shrink public funding of basic research.

  3. Bush Aide Fan of Research

    Reading the tea leaves, science advocates are hoping that White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card's endorsement of a high-profile National Academies report on U.S. science presages a surprise funding bonus in the 31 January State of the Union address or subsequent 2007 budget. Recommendations from the October report, entitled Rising Above the Gathering Storm, include an annual extra $10 billion to fund physical sciences and expansive new science education and training efforts (Science, 21 October 2005, p. 423).

    Speaking to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce last week, Card called the report “compelling.” He said the report had many “appropriate suggestions, but we have to put them in the context of [White House Budget Director] Josh Bolten's budget.”

  4. Pact Seeks Climate Volunteerism

    Nations representing half the world's greenhouse emissions cemented a voluntary technology-sharing pact last week in Sydney, Australia. The Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate, which includes the United States, China, India, Korea, Japan, and Australia, agreed to examine technologies to allow cleaner cement production and coal burning. U.S. President George W. Bush plans to ask Congress for $52 million to promote and deploy technologies “off the shelf” through voluntary exchanges among companies, says Energy Department official Karen Harbert. Critics say mandatory emissions caps better stimulate technologies.

  5. Toxics List Scrutinized

    The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is planning to loosen reporting rules for chemicals on its Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) list. An advocacy group thinks that's a bad idea.

    Under EPA regulations, companies must tell the agency every year how much of 666 chemicals on the TRI they release to the environment. Under a revised rule, EPA will increase the reporting thresholds and only require reports every 2 years. Those changes will make it harder for the public to track dangerous chemicals, argues the Environmental Working Group in Washington, D.C., including five chemicals EWG says, by EPA's own rules, should be subject to even stricter reporting thresholds. “They're chemicals that we ought to track, because they're so hazardous,” says Richard Wiles of EWG. EPA expects to finalize the rule by the end of the year.