|Human genome (1)|
An article in The Telegraph asserts that one of the top scientific achievements in the past decade was the mapping of the human genome, which was completed in 2003. While not a scientific discovery per say, it nonetheless proved to be a huge milestone. Scientists could now examine the entire set of human genes to search for variants that contributed to major diseases, to find genes that offered protection from certain illnesses, and to help in tracing human ancestry. As The Telegraph article notes, genetics has not advanced as rapidly since 2003 as some predicted; however, that does not dampen the importance of this scientific achievement.
The Creation of Pluripotent Adult Stem Cells
Discovery News hails the creation of pluripotent adult stem cells in 2007 as one of the most important scientific discoveries of the past decade. The article says that "scientists from Kyoto University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, working separately, essentially turned back the clock for adult skin cells, allowing these mature cells…to act like embryonic stem cells." Like their embryonic counterparts, pluripotent adult stem cells can become almost any type of cell in the body; however scientists do not have to destroy human fetuses to create them. As a result, this discovery has the potential to revolutionize medical treatment without attracting concern from anti-abortion advocates.
Discovery of Tissue in a Dinosaur Bone
Another Discovery News article states that in 2005, paleontologists discovered soft tissue fragments, including "blood vessels, bone matrix, and other cells," inside the fossil remains of a young Tyrannosaurus Rex, which had been dead for tens of millions of years. The discovery proved to be a watershed moment in paleontology; it helped to overturn a long held assumption that tissue fragments could not survive for that long of a period. As important, it provided further proof that modern day birds descended from dinosaurs.
Discovery of Eris
The same article also hails the discovery in 2005 of another planet sized body in our solar system, which orbits the sun. Astronomers named it Eris and noted that it was "27 percent bigger than Pluto." The discovery prodded scientists to reduce the status of Pluto to a "dwarf planet;" it was removed from the pantheon of planets in our solar system. For the first time in decades, 1st and 2nd Grade students only had to memorize the names of eight planets instead of nine.
A New Way to Test for Alzheimer's Disease
Cleveland Clinic physicians and researchers, in a Slainte Healthcare paper, assert that the FDA's approval of AV-45 in 2011 is one of the top medical accomplishments of the past three years. AV-45 is an imaging compound which, when injected into the brain, allows doctors to use PET scans to "peer into the brain of the patient" to see if they exhibit any signs of Alzheimer's disease. It will provide researchers with another method to detect the presence of this illness in patients and will eventually help doctors in "monitoring disease progress and drug efficacy." This technology represents a step forward in the fight against this malady.
These scientific accomplishments will help improve the human condition and expand our knowledge of the world around us. Hopefully, scientists will make even more important discoveries in the coming decade.
1. Creator: Plociam
Date: August 10, 2005
Title/Description: Illustration of the human genome, from the genome to a chromosome, and from a
chromosome to genes.
Location/Permission: Wikimedia - Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license
(click on the title/link for art, credits, permissions).
-- Anthony Hopper
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