Just what has set the boffins talking this year?
11. First genetically-designed babies may have been born
In November, a Chinese scientist named He Jiankui announced that he had used the gene-editing technology called CRISPR to alter the DNA of two embryos, and then implanted them in the mother; the two baby girls were born healthy, he claims.
The team disabled a gene that was meant to make the babies immune to HIV.
Although at press time the scientist had yet to offer independent evidence that his claims were true, researchers around the world were stunned and disturbed by the announcement: The scientific consensus has been that CRISPR technology isn’t precise enough to be used in human embryos, yet.
What’s more, in a consensus statement by an international group of scientists, the community agreed that the process will require strict oversight and only be tried for serious genetic diseases that lack treatment options.
12. Science catches the Golden State Killer
Joseph James DeAngelo, 72, who is suspected of murdering a dozen people and raping at least 45 during the 1970s and 1980s, was arrested in April after investigators matched unusually well-preserved crime-scene DNA to him by entering it into an online database meant for genealogy research, according to the New York Times.
DeAngelo had not uploaded his own DNA information to the database, but at least ten distant relatives of his had—and police used the information to narrow down their suspect list, reports Verge.
In Autumn, a study published in Science suggested that most white Americans could be identified using similar technologies even if they haven’t submitted their own DNA samples to public databases, raising privacy concerns.
13. Massive impact crater under the Greenland ice sheet
Researchers found one of the 25 biggest impact craters on the Earth’s surface underneath a glacier in Greenland, according to the Smithsonian.
They were using radar to track changes in the ice sheet and found evidence of a 19-mile-wide, 1,000-foot-deep crater that’s unusually well-preserved.
Scientists theorise that it might have been caused by a meteorite strike as recent as 12,000 years ago (or, at most, 3 million years ago).
This direct hit might help explain a thousand-year-long unexpected temperature drop that occurred about 12,800 years ago – just as the Earth was warming up following the last ice age.