Jonathan Taylor brings us a selection of some of the most important developments in science in 2013.
The Higgs Boson are discovered – Quite possibly the physics discovery of the century. The Higgs boson is the particle which is theorised to give other particles mass. Scientists at the CERN laboratory have achieved a ‘five sigma’ excess confidence of the particle’s existence, which means a probability of lower than one in a million that the result was due to chance. Peter Higgs and François Englert were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics this year for their independent earlier theoretical work on the particle.
Malaria vaccine is 100% effective in early human clinical trial – It is estimated 627 000 people died from malaria in 2012, and there is no effective vaccine at present. However a new vaccine, which contains the entire malaria parasite as opposed to a few proteins as in previous vaccines, has had remarkable success in its first clinical trials. All six vaccinated subjects were 100% protected whereas 5 out of 6 unvaccinated control subjects developed malaria.
3D printers are changing the world – this year researchers have used them to print edible meals, an artificial ear, car bodies, orthopaedic casts, rocket components, firearms, synthetic human tissue, liquid metal at room temperature and stem cell clusters (potentially allowing us to print organs on demand in the future).
Patient specific embryonic stem cells are produced by cloning – For the first time since stem cell research began, scientists have been able to take a cell from a patient and produce an embryonic stem cell with the patient’s unique set of DNA. These cloned cells could specialise into any body cell of the patient, so this research paves the way for production of patient specific cells and organs in the future. Non-patient specific cells, like those from an organ donor risk, rejection by the patient’s immune system.
Sight restored in mice – If you need proof of the usefulness of stem cells then here it is. Photoreceptors detect light so are crucial for vision, and their loss was previously thought to be irreversible. Scientists have successfully grown photoreceptors from stem cells and transplanted them into mice, repairing the retina. The researchers believe they will be able to cure many forms of blindness if they are able to repeat the process with human cells.