The biggest scientific developments of 2018

Scientific developments and research breakthroughs happen across the globe every year, as the world’s top researchers make innovations and discoveries which can have a direct impact on the way we live or can pave the way for further ground-breaking work.

2018 has been no exception to many previous years and although it is sometimes difficult to claim a specific date in a specific year as the moment a development comes to fruition, the following study discoveries, scientific developments, and research breakthroughs make it a notable one for scientific endeavour. Here are five of the biggest.

Gene-Editing allows  same-sex mice to bear offspring

In October 2018, same-sex mice couples gave birth to pups with the help of gene editing and stem cells. The pups, from two female mice, were born healthy. However, pups from male mice were not, as only two of the 12 survived more than 48 hours.

The Chinese research group noted that although this kind of treatment will not be feasible for humans in the near term, it is a major step forward. Debate about the ethical issues which this development raises will more than fill the time until it does become feasible.

The Italian space agency detects liquid water on Mars using a ground-penetrating radar

For several years, the discovery of evidence of water in its liquid state on Mars has been the holy grail for scientists working in that field. Together with topographical characteristics, the previous discovery of subterranean ice deposits suggested at least the existence of water. However, scientists were finally able to confirm their discovery in July. The implications for the possibility of sustaining life on the red planet are clear and further investigation will surely confirm whether this is a pipe-dream or not.

Scientists manage to eliminate damage in human brain cell caused by Alzheimer’s

A major medical research breakthrough was achieved in 2018 at the Gladstone Institute in San Francisco. Researchers were able to isolate the protein which promotes Alzheimer’s and work out a method allowing them to change its structure. By doing so, they erased any traces of the disease’s impact. This study signifies a major breakthrough in terms of understanding the root cause of Alzheimer’s disease.

Scientists Harvest vegetables in Antarctica

In April 2018, German researchers at the Neumayer Station III in Antarctica announced that they had managed to harvest salad greens, cucumbers, and radishes in a high tech greenhouse. While temperatures outside plummeted, the researchers created an environment inside compatible with plant growth. The long-term aim is to help astronauts grow food while stationed on planets like Mars.

Researchers reverse the ageing process in mice

A team of Boston researchers found a way to reverse ageing in mice. Ageing in mammals is partly caused by a molecule called NAD. Its levels drop naturally over a human lifetime, leading to age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s. The researchers found a way to increase NAD levels using a dietary supplement, causing cell rejuvenation in older mice. If the results are the same for people, there is a chance of minimising the incidence of age-related diseases. This could hugely impact conditions such as Alzheimer’s or cancer.

To end with, a rather more sinister achievement;

Researchers at Arizona State University made further advances last year in developing a military helmet equipped with technology to regulate soldiers’ brains while on the battlefield.

Scientific progress comes in many shades and hues.

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