From the United Kingdom Medicine Regulator approving therapy that uses the CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing system as treatment to Californian scientists beaming a glint of lasers at a pellet of hydrogen to create clean energy, the year in science saw many advancements towards solving some of humanity's biggest problems.
Scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, United States, have made a breakthrough in nuclear fusion ignition and possibly charted a path forward to clean energy.
Professor Graham Bears, John Jett and Jake Long from Lawrence Livermore made the breakthrough after their experiment created the energy equivalent of two sticks of dynamite.
In July, the team shot 192 lasers at a hydrogen pellet which resulted in 89% more energy coming out of the reaction, than what went in.
The experiment generated a burst of energy measured at 3.88 megajoules (MJ) after the lasers delivered 2.05MJ to the target.
Given the energy challenges countries around the world face and South Africa in light of load shedding, this achievement by the Lawrence Livermore team has come at an opportune time.
In November, the United Kingdom became the first nation to grant regulatory approval for medical treatments using the CRISPR Cas-9 gene editing tool.
This is used to treat sickle cell disease.
The treatment was developed by Vertex Pharmaceuticals and CRISPR Therapeutics in Switzerland.
This treatment allows scientists to isolate cells and edit them to remove the faulty genes.
“This is a world-first and a significant moment for researchers, clinicians and, most of all, people with sickle cell disease and beta thalassaemia,” said Professor Josu de la Fuente, Consultant Haematologist & Director of the Paediatric BMT Programme at Imperial College London Healthcare NHS Trust.
CRISPR Cas-9 is used to treat genetic conditions caused by errors in the genes for hemoglobin, CNN reported.
The treatment was created by Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna, who won a Nobel Prize for it in 2020.
The United States Food and Drug Administration said it is also contemplating greenlighting the treatment.
Heading out of Earth's atmosphere and into deep space, the European Space Agency in April launched its Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer – Juice – to study the Jupiter system, according to the European Space Agency.
This was done in attempts to find alternative planets that could potentially sustain life, or could be potentially habitable.
Juice will arrive at Jupiter in 2031.