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Radhika Gupta verified badge
Electronics Engineer | Editor at The Surg
December 27, 2017 · 1,499 Reads

Top 20 Science Stories of 2017

In a year when the world seemed uncertain, grim, and illogical, science delivered the beauty and wonder we sorely needed. In 2017, science literally healed people, it brought people together, and it inspired us to explore and to ask, “What else is out there?”. Here are twenty stories that helped us feel good about 2017.

Scientists used CRISPR to correct mutations in human embryo for the first time

Genome editing has potential for the targeted correction of germline mutations. Scientists describe the correction of the heterozygous MYBPC3 mutation in human preimplantation embryos with precise CRISPR–Cas9-based targeting accuracy and high homology-directed repair efficiency by activating an endogenous, germline-specific DNA repair response.

Reference: Nature

 

Scientists have created the world’s first human-pig hybrid

Human/animal chimeras can offer insights into early human development and disease onset and provide a realistic drug-testing platform. They may also someday provide a means of growing human cells, tissues, and organs for regenerative medicine.

Reference: Cell

Researchers used zika virus to infect and kill cancerous brain tumors in mice

Research on human brain tissue samples showed that the virus was able to kill certain cells that traditional brain cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and surgery, struggle to reach. Human trials are expected within 18 months.The Zika virus affects brain stem cells in particular, which are involved with creating new cells, the study notes.

Reference: Journal of Experimental Medicine

Study showed artificially sweetened beverages increases the risk of stroke and dementia

Sugar- and artificially-sweetened beverage intake have been linked to cardiometabolic risk factors, which increase the risk of cerebrovascular disease and dementia. Scientists examined whether sugar- or artificially sweetened beverage consumption was associated with the prospective risks of incident stroke or dementia in the community-based Framingham Heart Study Offspring cohort.

Reference: Stroke

Scientists created an artificial womb

Creating an artificial womb would be a feat of monumental proportions, as premature birth is the leading cause of death for newborns. While the new development isn’t exactly an artificial womb tank, physicians have created a uterus-like “biobag” that is capable of sustaining premature fetal lambs very soon after they begin development.

Reference: Nature Communications

Astrophysicists discovered another exoplanet that may support life- TRAPPIST-1a

Scientists reported that a nearby star, called TRAPPIST-1A, is orbited by seven planets similar in size and mass to Earth. All seven planets are temperate, meaning that under the right atmospheric and geologic conditions, they could sustain liquid water. Three of the planets show particular potential for habitability, receiving about as much energy from their star as the Earth receives from the Sun.

Reference: Nature

Scientists say 66% of cancer mutations can be attributed to unavoidable DNA replication errors

The vast majority of cancers are just a mistake, an error in DNA replication, researchers say. In this way, developing cancer in many cases is unavoidable. To reproduce, cells divide. Every time one does, little mistakes in the copies of its DNA form. Usually, they don’t cause any trouble. But if it happens more than once in a gene that causes cancer, the disease can take root and the cell turns cancerous.

Reference: Science

Scientists showed that pregnancy leads to long-lasting changes in human brain structure

Pregnancy involves radical hormone surges and biological adaptations, but the effects on the brain are still unknown. In this study a team of researchers compared the structure of the brain of women before and after their first pregnancy. This is the first research to show that pregnancy involves long-lasting changes – at least for two years post-partum – in the morphology of a woman’s brain.

Reference: Nature Neuroscience

Cassini spacecraft ends its historic exploration of Saturn

A thrilling epoch in the exploration of our solar system came to a close, as NASA’s Cassini spacecraft made a fateful plunge into the atmosphere of Saturn, ending its 13-year tour of the ringed planet.

Reference: NASA

Scientists have engineered a silicon heart that beats like a real one

It looks like a real heart. And this is the goal of the first entirely soft artificial heart: to mimic its natural model as closely as possible. The silicone heart has been developed by Nicholas Cohrs, a doctoral student in the group led by Wendelin Stark, Professor of Functional Materials Engineering at ETH Zurich. The reasoning why nature should be used as a model is clear. Currently used blood pumps have many disadvantages: their mechanical parts are susceptible to complications while the patient lacks a physiological pulse, which is assumed to have some consequences for the patient.

Reference: Artificial Organs

A GIF was encoded into the DNA of a live bacteria for the first time

Researchers working to test the potential and limits of DNA storage have used CRISPR to insert an animated image or GIF into the genomes of live E. coli bacteria. They converted each individual pixel in the GIF into nucleotides, the components of the DNA molecule.The ability to convert bits of information into nucleotides would make it possible to save massive amounts of data in microscopic molecules and carry them with you — even embedded in your skin.

Reference: Nature

Researchers created an AI that can recognize skin cancer using a smartphone

Soon, artificial intelligence could help you spot skin cancer. A new algorithm can now classify some of the most common and fatal skin cancers by images alone, according to a new study. Researchers from Stanford University trained a machine learning network on more than 129,000 images of skin lesions representing more than 2000 skin diseases, resulting in a system that is about as accurate as human doctors in figuring out whether an off-looking stretch of skin might be cancerous.

Reference: Nature

Scientists 3D printed ovaries to allow infertile mice to give birth

By removing a female mouse’s ovary and replacing it with a bioprosthetic ovary, the mouse was able to not only ovulate but also give birth to healthy pups. The moms were even able to nurse their young.The bioprosthetic ovaries are constructed of 3-D printed scaffolds that house immature eggs, and have been successful in boosting hormone production and restoring fertility in mice, which was the ultimate goal of the research.

Reference: Nature Communications

Scientists created a dissolvable microneedle patch that offers pain-free alternative to flu injection

The patch is administered by simply placing it on the skin, pressing it down with a finger, and letting it sit for a few minutes. It is then peeled off and thrown away. In part, it works because there are tiny microneedles on the underside that remain in the skin and dissolve, releasing the vaccine into the body.

Reference: The Lancet

Magic Mushrooms relieve depression symptoms by ‘resetting’ brain

Patients taking psilocybin to treat depression show reduced symptoms weeks after treatment following a ‘reset’ of their brain activity. The researchers describe patient-reported benefits lasting up to five weeks after treatment and believe the psychedelic compound may effectively reset the activity of key brain circuits known to play a role in depression.

Reference: Scientific Reports

Researchers created a brain-computer interface that allows communication with locked-in patients

Researchers have developed a non-invasive brain-computer interface (BCI) for completely locked-in patients. This is the first time that these patients, with complete motor paralysis but an intact cognitive state, have been able to reliably communicate. A completely locked-in state involves the loss of all motor control, including that of the eye muscles, and until now some researchers suspected that such patients were unable to communicate.

Reference: PLOS Biology

Gene therapy proved to be effective in curing sickle cell patients

Sickle Cell Disease is a disorder of hemoglobin production secondary to an alteration in the hemoglobin gene on chromosome 11. Specifically, there is a single amino acid substitution in “adult” β A -globin (Glu6Val) stemming from a single base substitution (A→T) in the first exon of the human β A -globin gene. The abnormal nucleotide must be present in both chromosomes 11. If just one copy is abnormal, the subject has sickle cell trait rather than the disease. The trait is mostly benign.

Reference: The New England Journal of Medicine

Researchers decipher how faces are encoded in the brain

Researchers report that they have cracked the code for facial identity in the primate brain. The researchers studied the brains of monkeys and managed to reconstruct the faces of people the monkeys had seen based solely on the measurements from a few neurons.Their results are almost eerily perfect,

Reference: Cell

A scientific team identified signatures of Ebola virus that may aid in future treatment

Conducting a sweeping analysis of everything from enzymes to lipids to immune-system-associated molecules, the team found 11 biomarkers that distinguish fatal infections from nonfatal ones and two that, when screened for early symptom onset, accurately predict which patients are likely to die.

Reference: Cell Host and Microbe

Researchers were been able to halt breast cancer caused by obesity

Obesity leads to the release of cytokines into the bloodstream which impact the metabolism of breast cancer cells, making them more aggressive as a result. The research team has already been able to halt this mechanism with an antibody treatment.

Reference: Cell Metabolism

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Michael.Shaughnessy
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Fascinating stuff—-incredible work being done around the world

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