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30 Scientific Discoveries That Will Change the World Within Our Lifetime

3D Printing Organs and Tissues

The process of organ donation is often long, with waiting lists that can last for years. Surgery to implant them, including skin grafts, can be painful and difficult to heal from. Sometimes, the organs can be rejected years after the surgery. Because of the difficulties surrounding organ donation and the risk of rejection, scientists are working on 3D printing body parts and tissue that will be a perfect match for each individual patient.

 

The technology for 3D printing human tissue is still in clinical trials, but there has been some success with growing cells in the lab. Some procedures, such as for growing skin, involves harvesting cells from the patient to grow new ones. Others use microfluidics (controlling fluids that are in a very small space) to create the structure of the cell. This could potentially treat a wide range of diseases and revolutionize the field for those in need of organs and other tissues, while simultaneously reducing the risk of rejection.

 

Autonomous Vehicles

We’ve all heard about the new self-driving cars. Some models currently on the road already use some of the technology that will be employed by car companies in the future. Tesla Motors, for example, is actively working on developing self-driving technologies. Their cars already come with sensors that warn you if another car is getting close or if you’re drifting out of your lane.

The Tesla company says that all of the new models already come with advanced hardware capable of autopilot driving, it’s just still in development so that engineers can improve it based on real-life driving. This kind of advancement in the automobile industry could save thousands of lives. Almost 1.25 million people die in car crashes every year, and autonomous vehicles could drastically decrease that number.

 

Hyperloop Rapid Transit System

Everyone would love to be able to cut down on travel time, especially the commute to work. As populations and cities grow, the need for efficient public transportation also grows. Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, has been promoting efforts to fill that need. Los Angeles will be the first city to try out the Hyperloop Rapid Transit System.

 

The Loop system works by creating a low-pressure environment, which allows the passenger cars to move at more than 600 miles per hour. One day we’ll be able to go across the US in a few hours instead of a few days. Right now, the Hyperloop system is still in testing stages. In the future, the Hyperloop will be able to connect over long distances and greatly reduce travel time at an affordable price.

 

Chip Implants for Paralysis Victims

Millions of people all over the world suffer from paralysis in varying stages. Physical therapy, medication, and the emotional toll can all be very hard on the patient and doesn’t always end in success. Luckily, the field of neural engineering is improving rapidly. These chips, implanted in the brain, allow the patient to send brain signals directly to the desired body part, skipping over the spinal injury.

 

The chip implant has seen success for people with varying levels of paralysis, including quadriplegics. Chip implants for people with paralysis are still in the early developmental stages, and current patients can only use the chip in a lab environment while hooked up to computers. In the future, this technology could be used to treat or even cure paralysis, ensuring a higher quality of life for those patients.

 

Bowhead Whale Gene Mapping

You might be wondering how mapping the genome of bowhead whales will change the world. These fascinating animals can live up to 200 years, resist cancer, and repair damage to their DNA, something scientists are very interested in learning more about. Discovering the secret of what makes bowhead whales the longest-living mammal can help prolong the life of human beings.

 

This process is still in the experimental stage, and the next step is testing the bowhead genes on mice. The cure for cancer is still a long way away, but finding out what makes bowhead whales able to live longer, healthier lives could be the next big breakthrough. This technology could save millions of lives and improve and lengthen billions more.

 

Image via Wikipedia

Gene Editing Technology

Genome editing is used to change the DNA structure of plants, bacteria, and animals. Scientists hope to use this technology to help prevent diseases and disabilities in the womb. The process involves cutting DNA at a specific spot and then removing, adding, or replacing DNA where it was cut.

 

A form of genetic modification called Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR) could revolutionize the way we deal with and prevent diseases. Possible applications of the CRISPR technology include treatments for cystic fibrosis, HIV, cancer, and even mental illness like schizophrenia or depression. This technology is still in the beginning stages but has the potential to improve the lives of billions of people and even eradicate some diseases.

 

Metallic Hydrogen as a Power Source

Metallic hydrogen is one of the most abundant forms of matter in our planetary system, but it doesn’t exist naturally on Earth. Jupiter, for example, has pieces of the metal flying through the air and embedded in the ground, but it can only be recreated under special circumstances in the lab here on earth.

 

Scientists have been trying to turn hydrogen gas into a metallic form for almost 100 years. But why? Metallic hydrogen is thought to be a superconductor, able to carry currents without resistance, and could be a powerful propellant. This could be used to revolutionize many electronics and even power rockets.

Image via Wikipedia

Regenerative Medicine

Humans are obsessed with living longer and looking younger. If you don’t believe me, just look at all the products on the market for anti-aging. It makes sense that scientists would be working on ways to improve and lengthen life, even reversing the aging process.

 

This technology is currently in the experimental stage, and most of the testing is being done on mice using senolytic drugs. Senolytic drugs get rid of cells that have stopped dividing and growing, which prevents cell damage, restores physical functions, and can extend lifespans. This could be the next big step in extending human life, potentially saving and improving billions of lives.

 

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Recycled Rockets for Responsible Space Travel

SpaceX, an innovative company run by Elon Musk, has made another big step in the space race. In 2017, the SpaceX Falcon 9 unmanned rocket blasted off, heading to the International Space Station. That might not seem too amazing, at least until you learn that the Falcon is a recycled rocket.

 

Reusability is the future of space travel, according to NASA. The massive, and expensive, space ships get used and are often left adrift or allowed to rot. In an industry ruled by money, NASA considers this advancement a huge milestone because they’ll be saving a lot of money on each launch. With less money being spent on rocket launches, more can be focused on developing new technology for space travel.

 

Image via Wikipedia

Artificial Wombs for Premature Babies

Premature births are the leading cause of death in newborns in developed countries. Underdeveloped organs and sickness stemming from medical exams compromise a baby’s ability to fight infection and keep breathing. Before now, it was next to impossible to keep premature birth rates down, and caring for preemie infants is incredibly difficult.

 

Scientists and doctors from a variety of institutions, including the Center for Fetal Research, have been working on a system that addresses this concern; using oxygen, a man-made umbilical cord, and artificial amniotic fluid to replicate the womb. Fetal lambs have been successfully delivered with healthy vital signs using this system. When this technology is available, it will revolutionize neonatal care, and we’ll see a greatly reduced infant mortality rates.

 

Vision Restoration With Stem Cells

Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is one of the most common causes of blindness and can affect anyone. Treatments include surgery, corrective lenses, and support groups. Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for this form of blindness unless you’re a candidate for a transplant. A groundbreaking new treatment uses stem cells to change that.

 

Scientists have created a patch of stem cells that go over damaged portions of eyes to restore vision. This isn’t limited to people with AMD and could be used to improve vision loss or totally cure several forms of blindness. It’s still in the experimental stage but if trials continue to go well, then this treatment could be as common as cataract surgery one day.

 

Small Molecules for Faster-Working Drugs

Drug discovery, the process of identifying molecules for developing new medicines, is a slow process. UCLA chemists have developed a way to speed up drug discovery by using electron microscopes. Before, analyzing the structure of potential medicinal ingredients could take hours, and now it can take as little as 30 minutes.

 

Small molecules, like the ones used with the electron microscope, aren’t only easier and faster to identify, they’re also more efficient. This could revolutionize the way medicine is created while also improving how fast and effective medicine works.

 

Gut Enzymes for Universal Blood Donation

Hospitals rely on donated blood supplies for life-saving treatments and surgeries. Type O blood is known as the universal donor because it can be given to anyone without risk of rejection. This type of blood is highly sought-after and also hard to get a hold of because there are so few universal donors, and too few donations.

 

Researchers at the University of British Columbia found that a gut enzyme can convert other blood types into type O-. This works by using the gut enzymes to break down sugars and remove them from the red blood cells. A breakthrough like this could solve the constant blood-supply shortages and save millions of lives.

 

Reversing Alzheimer’s Damage With Stem Cells

Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia and is characterized by loss of memory, confusion, and the inability to recognize people. It can completely change a person and isolate them from everyone they know, permanently. Scientists at Gladstone Institutes have made huge advances toward finding a cure.

 

Stem cells from healthy people were used to create neurons for Alzheimer’s patients. This led to the discovery of the protein responsible for Alzheimer's, apoE4. Gladstone’s scientists were able to change the structure of the protein and reverse the damage done to cells. It’s not a cure, but it’s a big step in the right direction. Until then, this will revolutionize Alzheimer’s treatments.

 

Reprogramming Cells for Medical Treatments

The German Cancer Research Center (GCRC) looked into modifying cells for other uses in the human body. By reprogramming human blood cells into a neural stem cell, they can be multiplied and modified indefinitely using gene-editing technology. These cells were similar to the ones that happen in the early stages of developing the central nervous system.

 

In the past, one of the biggest problems with reprogramming cells was that only a small amount could be used at one time. The cells took too long to change, and a large number of cells are needed for successful treatments. The GCRC has figured out how to multiply cells indefinitely, making them more suitable for regenerative therapies.

 

Artificial T-Cells for Immunity

T-Cells are white blood cells that fight infection and are necessary for a healthy immune system and long life. These cells are incredibly hard to replicate in a lab setting because of how quickly they die outside of the body. Bioengineers at UCLA have used a microfluidic system to create synthetic T-Cells, which mimic the shape, size, and function of T-Cells.

 

Without T-Cells, we would die. The discovery of synthetic T-Cells could pave the way for the cure to HIV/AIDS, cancer, and autoimmune diseases, all of which attack your immune system. The lab-created T-Cells successfully attacked infections and killed cancer cells, indicating that this technology will save millions of lives when it becomes available.

 

Blood Test for Cancer

One of the most important parts of cancer treatment is early detection. The sooner you catch it, the higher your chances are for surviving the disease and treatments. Of course, screening for tumors isn’t something you normally get done every year—even if you should be getting screenings every few years—so it can often go undetected for too long.

 

Researchers at Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center have been working on a blood test that would test for eight common cancers, including breast and lung cancer. So far the testing is still in the preliminary stages, but the researchers are optimistic. If the blood test works out, it could detect cancers at their earliest and most curable stages, saving millions of lives.

Innovations in Solar Power

Solar power has been around for many years already, but that doesn’t mean innovation stops there. In recent years, solar energy has become more affordable and efficient. This is an important step for making clean energy accessible to everyone, thanks to companies like Thomson Reuters.

 

Innovations in solar energy include thinner inexpensive materials to make it available to everyone, not just the wealthy. There will also be a photosynthetic process— like plants go through to get their energy— allowing access to solar power in any weather. This could help save the planet and help save money, both of which would benefit the whole world.

 

Agricultural Advancements in Genetic Modification

Food shortages and high produce prices have been an ever-growing problem for years. Scientists are now saying that by 2025, those worries will be a thing of the past. Advancements in lighting technology and DNA modification feature built-in receptors. This means those genetically modified plants will be more sensitive to light, which makes them grow faster and stronger.

 

Genetically modified food is a scary term in today’s world, but it might be the food of the future. Farmers will be able to grow crops indoors all year long, and those plants will be bred for disease resistance and high yield. There will be less crop failure, more nutrition, and a more consistent supply of food for the whole world.

 

Electric Airplanes for Efficient Travel

We’re all familiar with electric cars. They might be the future of the automobile industry, but for now, there’s more pressing technology like self-driving features. But that doesn’t mean the potential for electric vehicles is halted. Electric airplanes are being developed, and scientists predict that lightweight aerospace engineering, paired with new battery technology, will push these planes into the skies.

 

These new, light vehicles will be powered by lithium-ion batteries and motors that use superconducting technology. This means our air travel will become more environmentally conscious, affordable, and safer than ever before.

 

DNA Mapping for Medical Treatments

Gene editing starts with DNA mapping, and even if you’re not sure how you feel about gene editing, mapping our DNA is a non-invasive way to prevent and treat autoimmune diseases. Using single-cell analysis, you can get your DNA examined to see if you have a risk or early appearance of autoimmune diseases.

 

This would also be able to be done at birth to find out if your baby has any special needs, diseases, or risk factors for developing one. By mapping human DNA, tracking diseases would be much easier and preventing them would be much more effective. It would also benefit thousands of people who have autoimmune diseases and don’t know it, making treatments more effective, too.

 

Stem Cell Multiple Sclerosis Treatments

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a chronic disease that affects the brain, spinal cord, and immune system. The result is debilitating pain, fatigue, and impaired coordination that severely impacts the quality of life for people living with MS. Previously, the only treatments have been physical therapy, chemotherapy, steroids, and other medicines that weren’t very effective.

 

There is now an experimental stem cell treatment, which would help drastically improve the lives of those suffering from MS. Patients are first given chemotherapy to destroy the weakened immune system. Then, stem cells are used to repair and rebuild the immune system, starting with the blood and bone marrow.

 

At-Home Breast and Ovarian Cancer Testing

Getting regular health screenings is important, especially if you’re at risk for certain diseases. Breast and ovarian cancer are both better treated in the early stages. Early detection is key for survival and scientists have been working on cheaper alternatives to determine your risk of getting cancer.

 

The FDA announced an at-home test that checks for three mutations associated with breast and ovarian cancer. It isn’t a treatment and doesn’t lower your risk of cancer, but it’s an easy way to figure out if you’re at risk of developing cancer. This could potentially save thousands of lives through early detection and treatment.

 

Liquid Water on Mars

For many years now, scientists have been looking for evidence of liquid water—or signs that water was at one point—on Mars. The geography of the planet suggests that it used to have a lot of water, but there was no definitive proof—until July 2018.

 

The Italian Space Agency announced that some of their researchers had located an underground lake on Mars using ground-penetrating radar. This is important because, on Earth, water and life go hand-in-hand. This discovery could lead to evidence of living beings on Mars and also indicates that humans could live on Mars in the future.

 

Ghost Particles for Understanding the Universe

You might have heard of the God particle, which helps give mass to electrons and protons, but have you heard of the ghost particle? Also known as a neutrino, ghost particles are as small as electrons and travel right through physical objects, which is where the name “ghost particle” comes from.

 

Astronomers at the South Pole observatory think the knowledge that could be gained from understanding ghost particles would change the world as we know it by giving us the answers to the big cosmic questions. The ghost particle’s ability to travel through space makes it easier for scientists to understand what’s happening across the universe. They could also be used to identify what happened in the Big Bang.

 

Curiosity Rover Finds Organic Molecules on Mars

NASA’s Curiosity rover has already given us so much information about the mysterious red planet, including evidence of carbon-based molecules on Mars. Carbon-based molecules are the building blocks of life on Earth.

 

The discovery of organic molecules indicates that life could have existed on Mars at some point. More research needs to be done on the molecules before scientists can confirm they suggest living organisms, but this is a big step for understanding the history of Mars.

 

Image via NASA

Harvesting Vegetables in Antarctica

Scientists in Antarctica were able to grow plants in an artificial environment. Without using dirt, sunlight, or pesticides on the crops, there was a variety of fruits and vegetables harvested successfully. This discovery revolutionizes agriculture by eliminating the need for land.

This process was originally designed to help astronauts grow food on other planets. While this will be helpful for food production on other planets, we can also benefit from this technology on Earth. Food shortages, crop failure, and a dwindling supply of farming land could all lead to serious problems in the food industry.

 

The Cure for Sickle Cell Anemia

Stem cell research has been on a fast-track in the science field for its almost magic-like healing abilities. In 2018, a woman received a stem cell transplant that cured her sickle cell anemia. Sickle cell anemia is a genetic disease affecting the structure of blood cells, which can cause severe pain and organ damage.

 

A few months after the transplant, the patient was declared sickle cell-free and no longer has to endure long, painful treatments. Thousands of other sickle cell patients could benefit from this discovery and achieve a longer, happier, and more comfortable life.

 

Reversing the Aging Process

Scientists have figured out a way to reverse the aging process in mice using a molecule called NAD, otherwise known as Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide. As we age, the level of NAD drops, which leads to DNA damage and the diseases that occur with aging, such as Dementia.

 

Unlike with regenerative medicine, this is a treatment that targets the internal signs of aging like Alzheimer’s and cancer. You won’t look younger, but your body will function better. Your internal organs and DNA would stay healthy longer, improving the quality and length of life for potentially billions of people.

 

Ocean Robotics for Exploration

The Earth’s oceans remain some of the biggest mysteries in the scientific community. The water, intense pressure, lack of light, and predators make the water difficult—and dangerous—to investigate. The human body certainly isn’t up to the task and, until now, nothing had been built that was an effective tool to explore the depths with.

 

Meet SoFi, also known as Soft Robotic Fish. This little robot was designed by MIT researchers to solve communication issues, mechanical errors, and expense worries that other vehicles and robots used to explore the oceans have had. SoFi could eventually be used to learn about aquatic animal behavior, ocean currents, and even pollution.