"The whole of science is nothing more than a refinement of everyday thinking," Albert Einstein once said. Indeed, just like the human mind and continuous thinking, science, too, doesn’t stop for a moment, and various scientific discoveries continue to be made every year. In 2018, too, many scientists and researchers worked hard to reveal new discoveries in a variety of fields, from innovative solutions and treatments to common and deadly diseases to archaeological discoveries, space discoveries, and unusual scandals; You are invited to hear and learn about 12 groundbreaking scientific discoveries that have taken place this year which can certainly affect our lives in the near future.
Sickle cell anemia is a severe and common blood disease which more than 4 million people worldwide are afflicted by. In April, a pair of scientists at the National Human Genome Research Institute announced that they had completely cured a 26-year-old man with sickle cell anemia and its complications, through the transplantation of healthy stem cells in the body, and hope and believe that similar results will also occur in future patients who receive similar treatment using stem cells.
Aging is a natural process in every living creature on earth, including humans - but will it soon be possible to stop it? According to a new study published in March 2018, a team of researchers from Boston found a way to stop and even reverse the aging process in mice. The process is based on a molecule called NAD, which is found naturally in mammals, but its level has dwindled over the years, a process that causes the development of age-related diseases. By increasing the NAD level in older mice with dietary supplements, the cells in their bodies returned to their youth and their general health improved. If the results are the same in humans as the researchers hope, it may indicate that in a few years' time, nutritional supplements will be able to stop aging in a scientifically proven way and to prevent diseases such as Alzheimer's and cancer.
If we thought we knew every organ in our bodies, 2018 came with a refreshing discovery of a new organ - the interstitium; A group of scientists at the University of New York found that this organ, once considered a dense layer of tissue, is actually a narrow channel used to transport lymphatic fluid.
Macular degeneration is a severe eye disease that develops over the years and is considered the number one cause of blindness around the world. In 2018 there was a breakthrough in the prevention and treatment of the disease when scientists were able to restore the vision of two people who had macular degeneration to a level where they could not read at all. The treatment was done by implanting stem cells over the damaged parts of the eye, after which both patients were able to recognize faces and read. These results, of course, are encouraging both for researchers and for patients with the disease, and if the trials continue to produce success, this treatment may soon be as common and achievable as cataract surgery.
Nanorobotics is a technological field that has been developing very well in recent years and deals with assembling and manufacturing miniature robots that don’t exceed minuscule nanometers. In 2018, a group of researchers in the field succeeded in designing nanoparticles that would be able to find and destroy cancerous cells in the human body. These novel nanobots, first tested on mice injected with cancer cells, were able to locate the diseased cells in the living body and cut blood flow to them - causing them to wither and die; At the same time, no harm was caused to other healthy cells in the mice’s body. These results certainly raise the level of optimism and indicate that nanobots may be used as a solution to the fatal disease.
The world's largest fast food chain, McDonald's, has been at the heart of public criticism for years, with many claiming that the food served in its branches around the world is unhealthy. But now it turns out that McDonald's uses at least one ingredient that has a certain cosmetic benefit: the company's fries are fried in oil and the chemical Polydimethylsiloxane, which was discovered this year by researchers from Japan's Yokohama University, to have the potential to create masses of hair follicles, encouraging increased hair growth. The scientists planted hair follicles that grew by adding the chemical to the back of a mouse, and new hair had already sprouted and grew shortly thereafter. However, don’t rush to your nearest McDonald's - because it turns out that adding the chemical to oil and cooking with it does not produce the same effect.
Loss of memory abilities and severe difficulties in orientation are just some of the severe symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, which affects many - especially the elderly - and is manifested in the continuous degeneration of nerve cells in the brain. For years, science has been looking for a solution to this problem, and this year it seems that a breakthrough has been made when scientists from a research center in San Francisco have found a method to help change the structure of the protein in a particular gene in our body that encourages the brain response that causes Alzheimer's. With this change, scientists were able to completely eliminate any evidence of Alzheimer's in the damaged brain cells, and the subjects became healthier and lived longer. This promising discovery still doesn’t suggest that a drug or prophylaxis for Alzheimer's is going to be immediately available to us, but it is certainly a good direction to be headed in for the future.
Historians and archaeologists have long believed that developed civilizations from the past have survived and thrived over the years because of their proximity to rivers or other water sources that made life possible. But now some of this assumption may change because, in March, archaeologists from the University of Exeter in England found the remains of whole villages, canals, and man-made pits, and pottery in areas of the Amazonas which experts believed were never inhabited. Archaeologists have not yet been able to analyze what life in these villages looked like, but it is clear that there were thriving communities that managed to grow many crops thanks to the fertile soil.
To this day, most forms of ingested contraceptives were made for women, but now there is also a new development in this field, namely, male birth control that will allow men to have sex without getting their partner pregnant. These pills include a combination of hormones that prevent the production of fertile sperm and is taken once a day. In addition to a blood test that has proven that the pill works effectively, a number of patients who’ve taken the pill also indicated that their side effects were very limited. However, at this stage taking the pill can cause minor cholesterol disorders, so it seems that it will take some more scientific work and research until it can be produced and marketed.
For years, scientists have been trying to find evidence that there is water on Mars - suggesting that life is possible. While the topography of the red star and the underground ice reservoirs indicate that the place was watery in the distant past, scientists have not been able to confirm the claim, but since April this has also changed. The Italian space agency has announced that an advanced radar it is operating has discovered a liquid water lake under the glacier at a depth of 1 km under the ground and 20 km wide, which is certainly encouraging among space explorers and those who hope that humans will one day be able to settle on Mars.
Both breast and ovarian cancers are considered to be two particularly deadly cancers among women. Early detection of cancerous tumors can save lives, so genetic testing that helps determine the risk of developing this disease can be a very important thing. This is an expensive test that usually isn’t covered by medical insurance, but now things are changing - since in March this year the Food and Drug Administration announced the approval of a new home test that could identify the risk level for 3 genetic mutations that cause these two types of cancer. This means that soon, these tests will probably be distributed outside the US and that their prices will be significantly reduced and accessible to every woman, without the need for a doctor's approval.
While the world of science has previously succeeded in cloning sheep, pigs, mice, dogs, cats and cows, the cloning of primates - the mammalian series of more than 200 species of monkeys and apes - has been a historic challenge for scientists which they’ve not yet managed to meet. But that too changed in January 2018 when a group of researchers from the Institute of Neuroscience in Shanghai, China, announced the successful cloning of two monkeys, named Zonghong and Wahwa. For cloning the monkeys, the scientists used the same method that was used when cloning Dolly the sheep in 1996, and they hope that this cloning of primates will be used in the future to study human diseases and their solution.