• Tuesday , 23 July 2019

Here are the top ten scientific discoveries of this year.

1. Discovery of neutron star collision

The world’s first-ever detection of two faraway neutron stars colliding, causing a massive blast that rippled through the fabric of space and time, was judged one of the major scientific breakthroughs of 2017.

Collision of two neutron stars. Image courtesy: European Space Agency

The smashup of the two ultra-dense stars observed on August 17 “confirmed several key astrophysical models, revealed a birthplace of many heavy elements, and tested the general theory of relativity as never before,” the journal Science said in a report.

The blast, which occurred 130 million light-years away, is the kind of event that produces as much as half of the universe’s gold, platinum, uranium and mercury, experts said.

.Shockwaves ran through the scientific community when the discovery was announced in October, after being detected by gravitational wave sensors in the US and Europe, and some 70 telescopes and observatories around the world.

Scientists witnessed the smashup of two ultra-dense neutron stars in August 2017. 

Bangalore Sathyaprakash from Cardiff University’s School of Physics and Astronomy recalled the moment as “the most exciting of my scientific life.”

2. Artificial womb keeps fetal lambs alive

Scientists at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia successfully built an artificial “womb” in 2017, which  kept fetal lambs alive and developing normally, a breakthrough that could someday lead to saving premature babies born as early as 23 weeks.

The “womb” has been made of a clear plastic bag (dubbed a Biobag) filled with synthetic amniotic fluid.

A machine outside the bag attaches to the lamb’s umbilical cord, serving as a placenta by providing nutrition and oxygen and removing waste.

The research team of the hospital hopes to test the artificial womb on premature human babies within five years.

3. Discovery of ‘Super-Earth’

A group of scientists at Harvard’s MEarth Project in April announced the  that gives the best opportunity yet to find existence of life.

Artist’s impression of exoplanet LHS 1140b and the red dwarf LHS 1140 it orbits. Photo taken from Wikipedia
Artist’s impression of exoplanet LHS 1140b and the red dwarf LHS 1140 it orbits. Photo taken from Wikipedia

Planet LHS 1140b is rocky, temperate, and just 40 light-years away (practically next door in astronomical terms), where it transits a star smaller than Earth.

Among other factors, astronomers believe the planet could have liquid water on its surface, a necessity for life (as we know it) to exist.

4. Reversing paralysis

French neuroscientist Grégoire Courtine is now developing a revolutionary technology that will connect the part of the brain that controls movement to the spinal cord.

In the next 10-15 years, scientists are hoping to reverse paralysis caused by spinal cord injuries, thanks to the work of Grégoire Courtine.

An experiment was conducted on a partially paralysed macaque monkey. The results were hopeful. As the chip interpreted the monkey’s intentions to move, the paralysed leg began to extend and flex. From there, he was able to walk.

When interviewed by the MIT Technology Review, Courtine said, “The monkey was thinking, and then boom, it was walking.” After testing on the monkey was successful, the researchers wanted to test the process on a human subject.

A quadriplegic patient (a person who is unable to move anything below the shoulders) volunteered for the experiment. The doctors put two recording implants into the man’s brain, as well as several electrodes into his arm and hand. He was able to slowly raise and lower his arm, while clenching and releasing his hand.

Swiss based research company École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne says “The brain-spine interface bridges the spinal cord injury in real-time and wirelessly.”

The neuroprosthetic system decodes spiking activity from the brain’s motor cortex and then relays this information to a system of electrodes located over the surface of the lumbar spinal cord, below the injury.

Electrical stimulation of a few volts, delivered at precise locations in the spinal cord, modulates distinct networks of neurons that can activate specific muscles in the legs, according to the research company.

 

5. New gene that causes heart disease

South African researchers have made a huge breakthrough identifying a new gene called CDH2, which is responsible for causing arrhythmogenic right ventricle cardiomyopathy (ARVC), a genetic disorder of the heart that causes cardiac arrest.

Illustration of a heart with arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC). The right ventricular myocytes are replaced with fibro-fatty tissue leading to the arrhythmias characteristic of the disease. Image courtesy: Ted Rogers Centre for Heart Research.

Researchers at the University of Cape Town’s Hatter Institute for Cardiovascular Research in Africa (HICRA), with global collaboration, have identified the new gene that is a major cause of sudden death among young people. Although everyone has the CDH2 gene, a mutation of it causes the genetic disorder that leads to ARVC.

6. Leaf transformed into human heart tissue

The scientists at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts have successfully transformed a spinach leaf into beating human heart tissue, a significant proof of concept that could lead to major breakthroughs, such as grafting damaged heart tissue.

Photo courtesy: Worcester Polytechnic Institute

To create the spinach-heart hybrid, the team stripped green spinach leaves with detergent, which left behind a cellulose matrix loosely similar to the vascular structure of the heart.

Then they seeded the vacated areas with cardiac muscle cells, and waited. Five days later, the cells began to beat.

7. Secret void detected in great pyramid at Giza

Scientists have found a previously unknown area in the Great Pyramid at Giza in Egypt for the first time since the 1800s, thanks to high-energy particle physics.

Photo courtesy: The ScanPyramids Project

To create the spinach-heart hybrid, the team stripped green spinach leaves with detergent, which left behind a cellulose matrix loosely similar to the vascular structure of the heart.

Then they seeded the vacated areas with cardiac muscle cells, and waited. Five days later, the cells began to beat.

 

The ScanPyramids project team detected a 100-foot-long cavity that could be a chamber, a ramp used to move blocks, or any number of other spaces.

The scientists used muon radiography, which detects the subatomic particles called muons that are constantly raining down on Earth, in their project.

Muon particles pass through empty spaces more easily than they do solid areas, so muon detectors allow researchers to map solid and empty spaces inside a structure.

8. Gravitational waves prove Einstein’s theory of general relativity

Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity states that space and time are unified into one continuum: space-time. Objects in the universe, no matter their size, warp space-time as they move, creating ripples known as gravitational waves.

Until this year, there was no enough evidence of measuring the massive gravitational waves. But thanks to the new technological advancements, astrophysicists measured the massive gravitational waves created by huge objects in deep space.

Usually these come from black holes and neutron stars millions and millions of light years away, so their waves are incredibly faint by the time they reach Earth.

In September 2017, gravitational waves were detected by three separate observatories at once. With all that data, scientists are better able to pinpoint where the waves are coming from, and learn more about them and the universe at large. Better yet, it proves the existence of gravitational waves – and therefore space-time – once and for all.

9. Scientists figure out how to turn hydrogen into metal

Harvard University scientists figured out how to turn hydrogen – the lightest of all elements – into a metal, a feat studied by researchers for nearly 100 years.

The properties of metallic hydrogen could lead to faster super computers, levitating railways, and advances in energy that could literally power rocket ships deep into our solar system, paving the way for revolutionising the modern world.

“It takes a tremendous amount of energy to make metallic hydrogen,” said Professor Isaac Silvera. “And if you convert it back to molecular hydrogen, all that energy is release, so it would make it the most powerful rocket propellant known to man and could revolutionise rocketry. That would easily allow you to explore the outer planets.”But don’t get too excited – while scientists say the discovery is a huge step, the sample size they used is extremely small. More tests will determine whether larger quantities of hydrogen can be transformed into metal.

 

10. Success in embryo gene editing

Researchers are getting closer to using gene editing for disease treatments and organ transplants.

They injected CRISPR into embryos that carried a genetic mutation responsible for an often fatal hereditary heart condition.

CRISPR was able to correct the mutation in about three-quarters of the embryos. Researchers in China had previously edited human embryos with CRISPR, but this was the largest attempt at altering embryos to date.

source-daily star

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