Each year, scientists make new discoveries with items as small as subatomic particles or as big as the universe. 2017 saw us enter a science-fiction future, from human cell regeneration for growing organs to recycling orbital rockets.
Research teams and scientists around the globe worked to bring about these advances. Tomorrow’s world is being reshaped while you read this. Let’s take a moment and recognize their efforts.
Here, in no particular order, are 10 of the most interesting scientific discoveries of 2017.
1. Scientists In The US Edited A Human Embryo For The First Time
(video source Broad Institute)
US scientists successfully edited the DNA of a viable human embryo for the first time using a gene-editing tool called CRISPR. “CRISPR” (pronounced “crisper”) stands for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats. This bacterial defense system forms the basis for CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing technology.
Scientists used the tool to correct a genetic mutation that causes a heart condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in embryos that were developed, but not implanted. Similar research in China was also successful a few years ago.
While scientists can go in and effectively “edit” a human baby, the discovery isn’t intended for every expectant mother. The National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine said they only want CRISPR to be used to eliminate serious diseases.
2. International Team of 32 Scientists Found a New Continent
The lost land of Zealandia sits on the ocean floor between New Zealand and New Caledonia. Also known as the New Zealand continent or Tasmantis, 94% submerged mass of continental crust sank after breaking away from Australia 60–85 million years ago, having separated from Antarctica between 85 and 130 million years ago.
Researchers found fossils suggesting novel kinds of plants and organisms once lived there. Some argue Zealandia should be our 7th geologic continent.
We learn that seven continents exist: Africa, Asia, Antarctica, Australia, Europe, North America and South America. But geologists look at the rocks and tend to ignore the humans. They group Europe and Asia into a supercontinent — Eurasia — making for a total of six currently recognized geologic continents.
3. Breakthroughs Will Grow Organs & Regenerate Human Tissue
(video source YouTube)
Major strides have been made in the field of regenerative medicine.
The Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine currently leads projects to speed the development of artificially grown human tissue and even organs in a lab. These new initiatives may one day repair nerve damage and even grow entire limbs or organs for transplantation.
Scientists at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, CA, said they’re one step closer to being able to grow human organs inside pigs. In their latest research, they grew human cells inside pig embryos. Scientists say it could help with studying disease and the development of different drugs. It could eventually lead to human organ donation.
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