Top Scientific Breakthroughs Of 2011

Top Scientific Breakthroughs Of 2011

From a game-changing AIDS medication to the little Neanderthal we all carry in us, it's been a big year for science.


ccording to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, there are ten great scientific breakthroughs this year that deserve acknowledgement. The top honor was reserved for a potentially game-changing study for HIV/AIDS patients. The study, called HPTN 052, showed the antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) not only slow the progression of the disease in patients already infected, but virtually eliminate transmission to uninfected individuals. In fact, the study was so incredibly effective that four years before it was slated to end, a third party monitoring board declared that all subjects, even the control group, were to be immediately vaccinated with the ARVs. Here, in no particular order, are a few of the highlights. John Cohen, who wrote the covers story in Science, had this to say about the findings.

“This [HPTN 052 trial] does not mean that treating people alone will end an epidemic…but combined with three other major biomedical preventions that have proven their worth in large clinical studies since 2005, many researchers now believe it is possible to break the back of the epidemic in specific locales with the right package of interventions.”

Sub-Saharan Africa and areas of Asia have seen an HIV/AIDS epidemic that has no abated since the early 90’s. This is partly due to lack of proper medical access, as well as a number of cultural beliefs that continue to propagate the spread of the disease. However, with proper intervention and a battery of these new pharmaceutical interventions, AIDS in African may become a controllable, and even reversible problem.

Several other scientific breakthroughs of note are included here, in no particular order.

Stoneaged Inbreeding – Scientists believe they’ve located a genetic marker in modern humans that proves that Cro-magnon and Neanderthal populations interbred. Not only that, but they found these genetic markers in nearly every human demographic of every human ethnicity across the planet. Some scientific proof for racists the world over.

Bizarre Solar Systems – Planets orbiting two suns, planets orbiting in ways we’ve never observed (and have no way of explaining) and 10 planets that seem to be just floating in dead space with no sun to call their solar system. Space related: they also found two pristine hydrogen gas clouds that seem to have been completely unaffected by all this celestial madness since roughly the Big Bang.

Dead-heading Our Cells Leads to Longer Life – Researchers may have found a way to dramatically increase our healthspan (not lifespan) through the removal of senescent cells. Cells have only so many replications, and when they get to the end of that number, they continue to harvest our body’s resources for some time without actually producing anything. Researchers found that by clearing these cells in mice, the mice were dramatically healthier later into their life spans. On average they didn’t live longer, but they were healthier for the time that they did live. This may hold great implications for human longevity and health.