Journal-Times (Grayson, KY)

Features

December 24, 2013

Science's top 10 breakthroughs of 2013

WASHINGTON — Every year, the editors of Science huddle together and pick an outstanding scientific achievement as the Breakthrough of the Year. This year's winner is:

CANCER IMMUNOTHERAPY: harnessing the immune system to battle tumors.

Scientists have thought for decades that such an approach to cancer therapy should be possible, but it has been incredibly difficult to make it work. Now many oncologists say we have turned a corner, because two different techniques are helping a subset of patients. One involves antibodies that release a brake on T cells, giving them the power to tackle tumors. Another involves genetically modifying an individual's T cells outside the body so that they are better able to target cancer, and then re-infusing them so they can do just that.

We are still at the beginning of this story and have a long way to go. Only a very small proportion of cancer patients have received these therapies, and many are not helped by them. Doctors and scientists still have a lot to learn about why the treatments do and do not work. But the results have been repeated at different centers and in different tumor types, giving doctors hope that immunotherapy for cancer may benefit more and more people in the future

The editors also singled out nine runners-up for special praise:

GENETIC MICROSURGERY

A year-old gene-editing technique called CRISPR touched off an explosion of research in 2013. It's short for "clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats": repetitive stretches of DNA that bacteria have evolved to combat predatory viruses by slicing up the viral genomes. The "knife" is a protein called Cas9; in 2012, researchers showed they could use it as a scalpel to perform microsurgery on genes. This year the new technology became red hot, as more than a dozen teams wielded it to manipulate specific genes in mice, rats, bacteria, yeast, zebrafish, nematodes, fruit flies, plants and human cells, paving the way for understanding how these genes function and possibly harnessing them to improve health.

Text Only
Features
  • Lindley, Tom.jpg Basketball stars may linger on campus a while longer

    The NBA seems serious about raising its minimum age, which could signal the end of the one-and-done era in college basketball.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • bomb1 VIDEO: A year after marathon bombing, Boston remains strong

    The City of Boston came together Tuesday to honor those who were injured and lost their lives at the Boston Marathon on the one-year anniversary of the bombing. While the day was sure to be emotional, those affected by last year's race are showing they won't let the tragedy keep them down.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Lindley, Tom.jpg Wildcats aren't champs but we're all still watching Calipari

    Kentucky coach John Calipari is a college basketball phenom for his ability to knit together championship-caliber teams of freshmen. How long will Calipari's success last as other coaches catch on?

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • At many leading schools, football fails to make cut

    To my astonishment, 67 of the top 100 schools, ranked by participation in college-level tests, said they do not field a team, denoting a shift in American high school culture, at least in those schools that challenge their students most.

    April 9, 2014

  • spt_mariejones.jpg 92-year-old fan bleeds UK Wildcats blue

    As the Kentucky Wildcats prepare for their 16th Final Four appearance this weekend, they’ve reawakened the passions of fans across the country, including one woman who watches every game on TV, even though she can’t clearly see the players’ faces.

    April 4, 2014 1 Photo

  • For April Fools' Day: A sampling of scientific hoaxes over the centuries

    Speaking of jokes, in honor of April Fools' Day, Discovery magazine's Jonathon Keats briefly recounts some scientific hoaxes perpetrated over the centuries. His catalogue of cons includes "Aristotle's Masterpiece," a 17th-century mishmash of bogus medical texts and sex advice that remained in publication for 200 years.

    April 2, 2014

  • Newborn.JPG Census: U.S. has fewest births since 1998

    The U.S. recorded the most deaths in its history and the fewest births since 1998, resulting in the lowest population gain from natural causes in 35 years, an analysis of 2013 Census Bureau estimates released Thursday shows.

    March 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • news_mudslide.jpg Mudslide region deals with 'mind-numbing' disaster

    As hundreds of workers spent a fifth day digging through debris and wreckage, the death toll increased to 16 and was expected to keep rising; worse, no survivors have been found since Saturday, the day the landslide hit.

    March 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • news_sxswcrash.jpg VIDEO: Two dead at SXSW after car hits crowd

    A suspected drunken driver fleeing police crashed through barricades at the South By Southwest festival in Austin, slamming into a crowd outside a nightclub and killing a man and woman on a moped early Thursday, police said.

    March 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • missing-plane.jpg In this tech age, how can a plane go missing?

    Call 911 from the side of the road, and GPS satellites can tell dispatchers exactly where to send help. Airline passengers have access to detailed maps that show exactly where they are during their journey. Hop onto WiFi, and somehow Google knows whether you're logging on from Lima or London, and will give you detailed suggestions about what to eat.

    March 12, 2014 1 Photo

Poll