From gene editing to black holes and the Neanderthals, here’s the biggest advances in science over the past decade – inews

Posted: December 29, 2019 at 7:46 pm

NewsScienceThis was the decade designer babies went from concept to feasibility

Saturday, 28th December 2019, 7:02 am

Gene editing

This was the decade when designer babies went from science fiction to fact as a Chinese scientist, He Jiankui, made the shock announcement in December 2018 that the worlds first genetically modified children had been born. He was working illegally and he was widely condemned for not waiting until regulations had been put into place.

But the move showed just how rapidly the Crispr-Cas9 gene-editing technique likened to a find and replace command wasadvancing.

Embryonic and pluripotent Stem Cellresearch

This potentially revolutionary field of medicine has developed to the point where treatments are just around the corner.

Embryonic, or pluripotent, stem cells have extraordinary medical potential because they can develop into any one of the 220 or so mature, specialised cells of the body from insulin-making pancreatic cells to the nerve cells of the brain. In 2018, scientists restored the vision of two UK patients with age-related macular degeneration by inserting a patch of embryonic stem cells into their eyes. The research team hopes an affordable, off-the-shelf therapy could be available to NHS patients within five years.

Treatments for spinal cord injury, heart failure, diabetes, Parkinsons disease and lung cancer are also in advanced trials.

Higgs Boson

Gravitational waves

Scientific history was made in December 2016 as gravitational ripples in the fabric of spacetime, first predicted by Albert Einstein 100 years earlier, were detected, opening new vistas into the dark side of the universe. Physicists around the world confirmed they had detected unambiguous signals of gravitational waves emanating from the collision of two black holes 1.3 billion light years away.

The observations not only confirmed Einsteins general theory of relativity; they also provided the first direct detection of black holes colliding.

Black holes

Neanderthals

The Neanderthals may have been extinct for thousands of years, but in 2010, geneticists mapped their genome using DNA extracted from ancient bones. This led to a startling discovery: our ancestors interbred with other species after they migrated out of Africa.

So in the UK, most of us have a small percentage of Neanderthal genes in our DNA.

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From gene editing to black holes and the Neanderthals, here's the biggest advances in science over the past decade - inews

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