Thursday, 26 December 2013


Since its inception ,science has served mankind with its full strength . Continuing its Legacy of serving , science gave us some new methods and processes in 2013  as well.This annual list of groundbreaking scientific achievements, selected by and its international nonprofit publisher, AAAS, also includes major breakthroughs in solar cell technologies, genome-editing techniques and vaccine design strategies, to name a few.
“This year there was no mistaking the immense promise of cancer immunotherapy,” Tim Appenzeller, chief news editor of the journal saidin a press release by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). “So far, this strategy of harnessing the immune system to attack tumours works only for some cancers and a few patients, so it's important not to overstate the immediate benefits. But many cancer specialists are convinced that they are seeing the birth of an important new paradigm for cancer treatment.”
 There is still plenty of uncertainty regarding how many patients will benefit from these therapies, most of which remain experimental — and for which forms of cancer they will work best, the release noted. Scientists are busy trying to identify biomarkers that might offer answers, and thinking of ways to make treatments more potent. But a new chapter in cancer research and treatment has begun. The journal’s list of nine other groundbreaking scientific achievements from the past year follows.

CRISPR: Akin to the discovery of the microscope in the 1920 that “touched off a revolution in surgical procedures,” the discovery of a bacterial protein — Cas9 — gives “researchers the equivalent of a molecular surgery kit for routinely disabling, activating, or changing genes,” the paper notes.
Though CRISPR, the gene-editing technique was discovered in bacteria, researchers use it as a scalpel for surgery on individual genes. Its popularity soared this year — with over 50 publications in 10 months — as more than a dozen teams of researchers used it to manipulate the genomes of various plant, animal and human cells.
Cloning human embryos: After years of failure, researchers were able to derive stem cells from cloned human embryos this year. Scientists were able to clone sheep, mice, pigs, dogs and other animals, but human cells proved really tricky.
But in 2007, researchers at the Oregon National Primate Research Center in Beaverton succeeded in cloning monkey embryos and extract embryonic stem cells. In the process they realised that caffeine plays an important role in the process, stabilizing key molecules in delicate human egg cells.
CLARITY: This imaging technique, which renders brain tissue transparent by “by removing the fatty, light-scattering lipid molecules that form cellular membranes.” The lipids are replaced with molecules of “clear gel” but all neurons (as well as other brain cells) are left intact and on full display. This has changed the way researchers look at this intricate organ in 2013.
According to the paper, researchers say the “advance could speed up by 100-fold tasks such as counting all the neurons in a given brain region and could make traditional methods of imaging post-mortem brain tissue irrelevant.” Currently, the technique is limited to small amounts of tissue.
Mini-organs: Researchers made remarkable progress growing mini human-like “organoids” in vitro this year. These included liver buds, mini-kidneys and tiny brains. miniaturized human organs may prove to be much better models of human disease than animals.
If it is a challenge to “coax stem cells to grow into specific tissues” prodding pluripotent stem cells to develop into organized structures has been nearly impossible. Not any more. Researchers in spectacular style were able to grow a variety of “organoids” in the lab — liver buds, mini-kidneys, and, most remarkably, rudimentary human brains.
Cosmic rays traced to supernova remnants: Although originally detected 100 years ago, scientists have not been sure where the high-energy particles from outer space known as cosmic rays come from. This year, they finally tied the rays to debris clouds left by supernovae, or exploding stars.
Perovskite solar cells: A new generation of solar-cell materials, cheaper and easier to produce than those in traditional silicon cells, garnered plenty of attention this past year. Perovskite cells are not as efficient as commercial solar cells yet, but they are improving very quickly.
Structural biology guides vaccine design: This year, researchers used the structure of an antibody to design an immunogen — the main ingredient of a vaccine — for a childhood virus that hospitalizes millions each year. It was the first time that structural biology led to such a powerful tool for fighting disease.
Our microbes, our health: Research on the trillions of bacterial cells that call the human body home made it clear how much these microbes do for us. "Personalized" medicine will need to take these microbial tenants into account in order to be effective.
Why we sleep: Studies with mice showed that the brain cleans itself — by expanding channels between neurons and allowing more cerebrospinal fluid to flow through — much more efficiently during sleep. The finding suggests that restoration and repair are among the primary purposes of catching Z's.
Let's hope these processes make their targetted outcome in passage of time.

Shailesh kr Shukla

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