Yet another year, the unstoppable advances in science and technology have passed many studies and discoveries that transformed the way people live and helps them adapt to a world that requires constant change.
At this time of yearly review, the prestigious magazine Science It published its annual list yesterday, which they have been the main progress in 2018, and that more will mark the next year.
1- Submerge in the human cell system
The combination of three technologies, known as "single cell RNA-seq", is the most important scientific breakthrough of all 2018 by Science, as they allow to know "the intimate life" of cells and to see the embryonic development with maximum detail.
The techniques allow to show which genes are always on and off in each cell. For example, American researchers this year followed the entire embryonic development of 8,000 cells of fruit fly embryos and 50,000 of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. Dr. Leonard Zon from Harvard University (USA) and head of the study said these "techniques have answered basic embryological issues that had never been answered before."
In addition, researchers have begun to see how genes work to regenerate the body and limbs in planarians and in axolotls (a kind of salamander).
This development of three technologies that allows to know how each of the cells in an embryo works at each moment, would in the future serve to cure some diseases or malformations and investigate new ways of performing tissue regeneration.
"These technologies create some of the most extraordinary films ever made and show how a single cell grows within the intricate tissues and organs of a mature animal," said Tim Appenzeller, editor of Science, to highlight this progress.
These technologies have already been used to mark and trace embryonic cells using fluorescent labels and bar codes inserted through the CRISPR gene editing method. Although they cannot be used directly in human embryos, they are already used in tissues and organoids (small artificial organs).
An example of this progress is what is done by the consortium Lifetime, formed by 53 institutions and 60 European companies working to apply these technologies and understand What happens in each cell when tissues move towards cancer, diabetes and other diseases.
2- The great Greenlandic meteorite
Just over a month ago, an international research group announced an extraordinary finding: A gigantic 31-kilometer diameter (could host Washington or Paris) was buried one kilometer deep under the ice in Greenland.
Named as Hiawatha, it is one of the 25 largest on Earth and was formed by an asteroid decline relatively recently, perhaps even only about 13,000 years ago. By influence, Rocken immediately emitted shock waves through the Arctic. Although it was not as catastrophic as the meteorite that killed the dinosaurs 66 million years ago and left the 200 km long crater Chicxulub in Mexico, the Hiawatha event could also have a major impact on the global climate and could even be related to Young Dryas. climatic cooling phase in the Pleistocene.
3- The daughter of Neanderthal and Denisovan
She was baptized as "Denny" and was a woman who lived more than 50,000 years ago. What is special is that it is the first daughter of two extinct human species. The old DNA from a fragment of bone found in a cave in Siberia in 2012 revealed that his mother was Neanderthal and the father Denisovano, the mysterious group whose remains were discovered in the same hole in 2011.
Homo sapiens, the species we all belong to, crossed with Denisovans and Neandertals, at least occasionally during the ice age in Europe and Asia, as the genes of both types of archaic people are present in humans. of Asian and European origin today.
Other fossils found in the Siberian hole have shown that members of the three species lived there at different times. But the new findings of the Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology researchers in Leipzig, Germany, are a unique direct testimony to this historical context.
4- Drops that create cells
Medicine lives through recent years' permanent revolution. And one of its advances is the knowledge that cells are like small towns full of movement, so molecules can travel where they need to be in time.
In 2009, it was discovered that many proteins, long chains of amino acids that carry most of the work inside the cells, condense and separate into droplets, making it easier for them to react and perform their tasks.
This reaction is part of a process known as "liquid-liquid phase separation" and can generally be seen when oil is separated from water or vinegar.
In 2017, two articles were published in nature They revealed that these drops are the key to compressing certain areas of the genome (the entire genetic material of a cell) and "quenching" the genes that remain inside. Already this year, three studies published Science they revealed that the proteins that convert DNA to RNA can condense into droplets to bind to the genetic material.
The scientifically relevant is to eliminate how errors in this condensation can lead to the formation of dysfunctional aggregates in diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). In fact, in April, four studies published in Cell proposed new ways of resolving these toxic aggregates. Utilizing these studies, there are several companies and laboratories working to exploit this to design new drugs to cure neurodegenerative diseases.
5- The forensic genealogy
An innovative genetic technique can chase the most cunning killer. It all started in the 70s and 80s when a mysterious criminal terrorized the state of California with a dozen murders, 45 rapes and more than a hundred robberies committed from Sacramento to Los Angeles.
The police had called him "The Golden State Assassin" when he committed his terrible crimes with complete impunity. But in April, police announced their arrest thanks to a surprising strategy. The researchers identified their relatives by uploading a DNA profile retrieved from one of the crime scenes to a public genealogy called GEDMatch.
The family tree branches led to Joseph James DeAngelo, a 73-year-old former policeman. And a direct test of his DNA showed the mating and that he was the desired monster. Since then, this technique has been used to solve 20 other complicated cases that have given way to a new field: forensic genealogy.
6- The first animal on earth
For a long time, it was considered one of the greatest mysteries of paleontology when scientists did not know whether it was a low, a giant amoeba or a failed experiment in evolution.
But a new find in 2018 sheds light on its true identity: It is the oldest animal on the earth, called Dickinsonia, which lived 550 million years ago, in the dark period called Ediacara. Researchers from the National University of Australia discovered on the White Sea cliff, in northwestern Russia, a fossil of the unusual species with molecular traces similar to cholesterol, an animal-only fat.
The strange creature was about five feet tall and oval, with a large number of fine heights on either side of a central line. It is likely to be at the bottom of shallow marine waters and fed algae and cyanobacteria, although it is not known whether it had mouth and intestines or simply absorbed the food through the skin. The fund creates the image of the mysterious world that gave rise to some of the first animals on Earth.
7- Silence genes for healing
New drug-based drugs are another of the year's scientific advances. These are treatments based on using the so-called RNA interference (RNAi) to inactivate the production of defective proteins, which can result in diseases.
This RNAi has been known for 20 years, but it was only in 2008 when it began to be used therapeutically. Its use was approved for the treatment of a hereditary disease known as hereditary amyloidosis, which is characterized by the production of defective proteins that accumulate in tissues and end up damaging the heart, kidneys and nervous system.
Now, according to Science, many scientists think of ways to design RNAi molecules, stabilized with sugars, to tablet genes and prevent ailments in places such as liver, heart or eyes.
8. A magnifying glass for smaller molecules
The small world of molecules was released in 2018 thanks to a new analysis technique that allows small crystals to be produced in three dimensions to find out the structure of small molecules such as hormones or substances.
Two articles released in October revealed a technology that makes it possible to determine the structure of the molecules not in days, weeks or months, as is usually done now, but in minutes. This will greatly accelerate the investigation and provide access to knowledge that has been banned so far.
The technique is to "shoot" electron beams into small laminar crystals to transform the molecules and form three-dimensional structures. In this way, you can find out what is the structure of the small molecules.
9-Neutrinos outside the galaxy
In 2016, the first direct detection of gravitational waves, some distortions of space time predicted by Einstein and caused by large masses moving at high speeds, was a major leap in a way of making science known as multiple messenger astronomy.
The detection of neutrines, particles almost without mass, moving at the speed of light and constantly crossing our body, is a revolutionary astronomy technique to know more about the universe surrounding us.
On September 22, 2017, IceCube, a large detector under the ice of the South Pole, captured the collision of neutrinos outside the Milky Way. This was the first occasion where a source of neutrinos located outside the galaxy was identified. Now we hope to capture more of these messengers beyond the Milky Way and the detectors will be expanded.
10. Against sexual harassment in science
Sexual harassment in science has often been ignored. Therefore, science has recognized as one of the achievements of the year the report of the National Academies of Science, Technology and Medicine in the United States. on sexual harassment of women who work, research and study in these areas. The magazine describes it as "historic".
The text concluded that more than half of teachers and female employees and between 20% and 50% of students by stage and field have suffered sexual harassment, including the most common: sexist hostility, both verbally and non-verbally. #MeToo or #miracomonosponemos also came to science.