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Briefs (left)

Firm Reports Stem Cell
Advance For Diabetes

By Andrew Pollack

Scientists at a small California biotechnology company reported Thursday that they had developed a process to turn human embryonic stem cells into pancreatic cells that can produce insulin and other hormones.

The work by the company, Novocell, based in San Diego, is a step toward using embryonic stem cells to replace the insulin-producing cells that are destroyed by the body’s immune system in people with Type 1, or juvenile, diabetes. Years of research remain, however, before a therapy developed from this approach can be put to use.

Embryonic stem cells can potentially be turned into any type of tissue in the body, and scientists are trying to figure out how to form various types.

Other researchers have previously reported turning various types of human or animal stem cells into cells that produce insulin. But the new work, published online Thursday by the journal Nature Biotechnology, represents a significant advance, some experts said.

“It provides some very strong evidence that it will be possible to make insulin producing pancreatic beta cells from human E.S. cells in a culture dish,” said Dr. Mark A. Magnuson, a professor at Vanderbilt University, in an e-mail message. He said the scientists at Novocell had achieved an efficiency of cell conversion and insulin production in “orders of magnitude higher than anything previously accomplished.”

Two Big Deals Make Hong Kong
No. 1 in 2006 IPOs

By Keith Bradsher

In a reflection of China’s growing prominence in international finance, Hong Kong is set for a banner year in global markets: More money will be raised by companies selling shares to the public here than on the biggest exchanges in New York and London.

And on Friday, pricing will be set for the world’s largest offering ever, that of China’s biggest bank, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China.

This week, long lines of individual investors showed up at downtown stalls to grab prospectuses for the bank’s initial public offering, while institutional investors have swamped the underwriters with orders.

The offering, scheduled Oct. 27, is expected to raise $16 billion in Hong Kong. And in a twist from conventional offerings, the company will also raise about $6 billion in Shanghai that day.

Fearing Losses, GOP
Leaders Spread Blame

By David Kirkpatrick

Tax-cutters are calling evangelicals bullies. Christian conservatives say Republicans in Congress have let them down. Hawks fault President Bush for bungling the war in Iraq. And many conservatives blame Rep. Mark Foley’s sexual messages to teenage pages.

With polls showing Republican control of Congress in jeopardy, conservative leaders are pointing fingers at one other in an increasingly testy circle of blame for potential Republican losses this fall.

“It is one of those rare defeats that will have many fathers,” said David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union, expressing the gloomy view of many conservatives about the outcome on Election Day. “And they will all be somebody else.”

Whether the election will bear out their pessimism remains to be seen, and the factors that contribute to an electoral defeat are often complex and even contradictory.