Theoretically...

Staff at the Royal Greenwich Observatory are drawing up a business plan to enable them to retain their expertise in designing telescopes and providing technical support in a non-profit organisation. It would remain at the present Cambridge site. The RGO has been earmarked for closure by the Government, with astronomy work being consolidated at the Edinburgh observatory.

US researchers have worked out how the tuberculosis bacterium and leprosy, its biological cousin, invade cells - a finding that could open the way to new treatments. In Science, Washington University in St Louis reported that the bacteria hijack a protein left over from the natural breakdown of part of the immune system. They then use this to piggyback into macrophages - the "scavengers" of the immune system - where they eventually kill them. A vaccine or an antibiotic could introduce an antibody to block the connection between the complement breakdown protein, called C2a, and the bacteria. Tuberculosis currently infects one-third of the world's population, and kills 3 million a year. It is spreading once again in industrialised countries.

Among cancer researchers, the p53 tumour suppressor gene is a byword. But now they have found a close relation, p73. Reporting in Cell, a team led by Frank McKeon of Harvard Medical School report that p73 is found on the very tip of chromosome 1 - an area missing in many cancer cells. The discovery of p73, which also seems to be a tumour suppressor, could be significant in developing gene therapies.

New Labour, new House of Commons Select Committee on Science and Technology - and almost all have science or engineering qualifications. Included are five PhDs, a former ICI R&D manager, a food and biotechnology consultant and a former computer programmer - the Lib Dem Nigel Jones. In the past, the committee tended to include lawyers rather than scientists - reflecting the demographics of MPs rather than the population.

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