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The Christmas Deadline

It seems no one is happy with the US debt deal — especially the research community. Both scientists and lobbyists say that prospective cuts in government spending may compromise disease research and hamper the careers of young researchers, say Bloomberg's Elizabeth Lopatto and Brian Faler. If Congress doesn't approve $1.5 trillion in cuts by Christmas, automatic cuts will go into effect that will affect NIH, NSF, and the US Department of Energy. In the debt deal reached last week, it was agreed that a special committee would convene to agree on specific cuts. In the hope of forcing the bipartisan commission to work together on lowering the deficit, the deal includes a provision for deep cuts to many government agencies that will go into effect automatically should the committee fail to agree on specific cuts, Lopatto and Faler say. If a deal is not reached, non-defense government programs like NIH will automatically receive a 7.9 percent budget cut in 2013 — that would amount to $2.5 billion for NIH, the largest budget reduction in the agency's history, they add. Experts say that if that were to happen, new grant proposals would be slashed to a large degree, and researchers would most likely opt for more conservative, proven research in order to win more funding.

The Scan

Pig Organ Transplants Considered

The Wall Street Journal reports that the US Food and Drug Administration may soon allow clinical trials that involve transplanting pig organs into humans.

'Poo-Bank' Proposal

Harvard Medical School researchers suggest people should bank stool samples when they are young to transplant when they later develop age-related diseases.

Spurred to Develop Again

New Scientist reports that researchers may have uncovered why about 60 percent of in vitro fertilization embryos stop developing.

Science Papers Examine Breast Milk Cell Populations, Cerebral Cortex Cellular Diversity, Micronesia Population History

In Science this week: unique cell populations found within breast milk, 100 transcriptionally distinct cell populations uncovered in the cerebral cortex, and more.