Science Why would anyone want to create diseased cells in the lab? Because that's the best way to learn how to cure those diseases. The ability to transform a patient's ordinary skin cells into virtually any kind of tissue – including the cells that caused the illness in the first place – ranks as this year's biggest breakthrough in the journal Science's annual roundup. The other stars of this year's scientific show include the gene-decoders who are figuring out the instructions for making a woolly mammoth, or even a Neanderthal. Then there are the astronomers who, for the first time, spotted what appear to be planets circling alien stars. And let's not forget the biggest science experiment on the planet, the Large Hadron Collider, which started up this year (and almost immediately broke down).

One of the year's biggest science stories is breaking too late for Science's annual list – but came to light today on the journal's ScienceInsider blog: Harvard physicist John Holdren, who is the director of the Woods Hole Research Center as well as an adviser to President-elect Barack Obama on science and environmental issues, is in line to be named the next White House science adviser, Science's Eli Kintisch quotes sources as saying. The report is spreading like wildfire through the blogosphere. It's worth noting that Holdren's name surfaced as one of the top prospects more than a year ago on Cosmic Log, in the midst of our discussion about future science czars.

More here.