Life during a global pandemic takes on a surreal quality. There is an extreme difficulty in finding news other than the coronavirus. Futuroprossimo has also adapted the programming, but being able to talk about something else is a way to show that life goes on.
For this reason I have put together a small summary of recent scientific news that I find stimulating, encouraging and noteworthy in these difficult times marked by coronavirus.
1 Il CRISPR it was first used against genetic blindness
For the first time, surgeons at the Oregon Health & Science Institute used the CRISPR gene editing technique for attempt a cure for Leber's congenital amaurosis, a rare genetic condition that causes early childhood blindness. A finding that joins a list of other medical uses of the technique, including the search for a cure for Huntington's disease, herpes, HIV, and immunotherapy for some cancers. Is living in an age where medical researchers have this powerful tool at their disposal good news or not?
2 Another 60.000 seed samples have been added to the Arctic vault in Svalbard
10 days ago a huge stock of 60.000 seed samples was added to the global bunker of the Svalbard Islands, the seed bank inside a mountain in Norway's Svalbard archipelago. Among them, the first seed deposit of a Native American tribe. The increase in deposits in this crop shelter reflects growing global concern over the potential loss of biodiversity and food security, but these actions also demonstrate a great commitment to our future generations.
3 The potential universal influenza vaccine has passed a major series of clinical trials
The viral strains that cause influenza are shape-shifting: they are constantly moving beyond our ability to immunize against them. This is why we need annual flu shots to keep up with the disease. A "universal" flu vaccine it would give us a huge advantage in this race, and now there is a really promising candidate on the cards. The vaccine, called FLU-v, has successfully passed phase I and phase II clinical trials, proving its safety in human subjects. It can induce immune responses that last at least six months. I can't wait to see the results of the next test phase.
4 Scientists invented contact lenses that can correct red-green color blindness
Good news for people whose eyes have difficulty distinguishing green and red shades. A new type of contact lenses could restore the limits of the color spectrum. This brilliant technology already exists in some smartly designed sunglasses. Soon people could also access it through contact lenses, thanks to a team of engineers from Tel Aviv University.
5 One patient was declared "cured" of HIV, and it is not even the first time
The researchers announced that for the second time ever an HIV-carrying patient was declared cured, with no trace of infection in the blood 30 months after traditional treatment was stopped. The patient underwent a specialized type of stem cell therapy. The result does not constitute a generalized cure, because the patient also had a type of lymphoma that allowed him to receive this experimental treatment. But it demonstrates a real breakthrough in medical science, looking forward to even more important confirmations.
6 Niue has been named the first darkest sky nation in the world
Good news also for the small nation of Niue in the South Pacific. It became the first country to be officially accredited as International Dark Sky Place. This recognition is conferred by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA), a conservation nonprofit organization charged with preserving the naturally dark night environment, defending it from the intrusive disturbances of artificial light pollution. Scientific research continuously investigates the negative effects of light pollution, on animals, plants or human health. This recognition underscores that the search for a truly dark night sky is more important than ever.
7 We have found a clean method for hydrogen production 25 times more efficient
Hydrogen fuel is one of the most promising zero-emission options out there. If only we could produce it at low cost and without needing crazy amounts of energy! Now, a team of researchers in Tokyo has managed to do just that, perfecting a method that produces hydrogen fuel using only a few basic ingredients, including light and a particular type of rust. A new study shows that this method produces 25 times more hydrogen than existing methods.
8 There is an excellent way to store renewable energy and we already have the necessary technology
Speaking of sustainability, one of the biggest challenges to the widespread adoption of renewable energy remains the problem of large-scale storage. However, there is an excellent solution to this problem: the thermal storage of electricity. This approach stores electricity by turning it into heat, then turning it back into electricity when needed using a motor. Unlike hydro, which has specific geographic requirements, this type of storage can be built in many places and uses thermodynamic principles to store electricity in the form of heat. And it is already being tested in pilot plants.
9 A totally wrong paper that blamed the sun for climate change has been withdrawn
In June 2019, a strange article caused an uproar after its publication in Scientific Reports. The scientific community quickly voiced their concerns about this flawed study, according to which the movements of the Sun were the real cause of anthropogenic global warming. Even NASA had tried to run for cover. Now, the editors of the well-known journal have corrected the scientific documentation with a withdrawal notice explaining the errors. Good news also for scientific communication, in short: even if something wrong initially escapes peer review, the scientific process is still rigorous enough to correct the error. You can read this fascinating case in full here.
10 There are currently 76 solutions available that can slow down climate change
A new Project Drawdown report has outlined 76 solutions that the world already has at hand if it wants to slow down the climate change. These strategies (from moving our means of energy production to reducing food waste) extend across all sectors. Furthermore, these solutions are actually cheaper than maintaining the status quo (also known as "doing nothing"). The Drawdown project estimates that if we implemented these 76 solutions, savings of up to approximately $ 144 trillion in avoided climate damage and pollution-related health costs would be achieved. Tell everyone: we can do it!
Let's get past this moment: the future, as you can see, awaits us. The good news is to remind us.