Science that fell under the radar..

With 2016 constantly keeping us on our toes it was easy for many  scientific discoveries to not receive the publicity they deserve. So in sight of this, I thought i’d share my favourites of the previous year with you!

A NEW SPECIES OF HUMAN 

A previous 1 million year gap in the human evolutionary tree between Lucy and Homo erectus became filled as six women took to an 8 inch wide passage to retrieve over 1000 bones. It was observed although similar to Homo erectus there was sufficient difference for the classification of a new species –  Homo naledi. Our new found ancestor is characterised by feet similar to ours but an upper half for suited to the life of an ape.

ALGORITHMS TO AID IN SUICIDE PREVENTION 

Machine learning has been shown to identity with 93% success the suicidal feelings of a patient. Upon answering a series of open ended questions and behavioural rating scales, algorithms are able to analyse both the verbal and non-verbal language of patients and categorise them into three groups: suicidal, suffering from mental less but not suicidal or neither. Extending this technology from hospitals out into schools, shelters and community centres may help to reduce the rate of suicide as it can be detected earlier.

ANTI-AGEING MICE 

A team of stem cell researchers induced Yaminka factors into the cells of mice living with progeria. It was observed that these mice showed a 30% increase in their length of life, improved cardiovascular health and no development of cancer. It is hoped that these findings in the future may be used to improve human longevity as the most common risk factor for many diseases is age.

A HOME FOR ALIENS

After the discover of red giant Proxima Centauri the hunt for a orbiting exoplanet was on. In the summer of 2016 luck struck and Proxima b was found. A terrestrial planet found to be circulating in the habitable zone of  a star cooler and smaller than our own sun.. is it time to prepare for the alien invasion? Well I’m afraid not, at present there has been no visual evidence of Proxima b to confirm the presence of an atmosphere and it may be found that there is no liquid water. The lack of atmosphere may be accountable for by the planet being tidally locked, however this would lead to a lack of day an night. Proxima b is a lot closer to its star than we are to the sun, if it were to be inhabited the lifeforms would be exposed to much greater UV and X-ray radiation than what we do here on earth.

PRINTED BONES

Last year China revolutionised 3D printing forever as they printed bones made of actual bone… Comparative studies are now being completed to examine how similar the printed bones are to the real deal. Not only did they stop there, elsewhere in China new methods of 3D printing were developed using heat and UV light. This method produced an artificial bone with the same porous properties and strength of those the rabbit was born with. Upon completion of the transplant new bone cells began to grow on the imposter bones surface. Both of these advancements will undoubtably support the advancement and use of 3D printing the future for many human transplants.

I personally cannot wait to see the results of research carried out in 2017 and the conclusions that are published from decades of work. I hope you all have a science filled 2017!

Lorna Milne

19 year old, Biomedical Science undergraduate at the University of Sheffield.