Saturday, July 19, 2014

Amazing Discoveries in 2013

By studying a newfound pathway in mice, scientists identified the first major mechanical reason we need to sleep: to clean the brain.

When the brain is sleeping, channels between cells grow. This allows cerebrospinal fluid into the depths of the brain tissues to flush out toxic proteins that build up during the day, including the kind that are responsible for neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's.

A new solar cell material called perovskite showed great promise this year as a low-cost, more efficient alternative to traditional silicon-based cells. Within four years of development, perovskite cells reached efficiency levels that took more than a decade for technologies used today to reach.

Researchers were able to make embryonic stem cells by cloning human skin cells, a feat that has been in the works for more than a decade. Since stem cells can turn into any tissue in the body — and in this case are an exact genetic match to the cloned cell — the technique may one day be used to develop replacement tissues and organs to treat diseases.

The cloning technique is essentially the same one used to clone animals, including Dolly the sheep 17 years ago. After years of failed attempts, scientists realized that adding a bit of caffeine enabled them to produce stems cells from cloned human embryos.

CLARITY allows scientists to see through the entire intact brain without slicing it up, which was problematic because it severed connections between cells."Studying intact systems with this sort of molecular resolution and global scope — to be able to see the fine detail and the big picture at the same time — has been a major unmet goal in biology.
Up close, Eunectes beniensis may look like your average boa, yet it's actually the first new anaconda species identified since 1936, according to the WWF. The nonvenomous snake, believed to be a hybridization between green and yellow anacondas, may have been spotted in 2002 but was officially discovered at the end of last year in the floodplains of Bolivia.
Floating off the coast of the Florida Keys is this "pink meanie" jellyfish, nicknamed for its hundreds of stinging tentacles and, as scientists have found, taste for other jellies. Known since the late 1800s and observed steadily since 2000, this pink jellyfish was found to be an entirely new species. Unlike other jellyfish, which are known to dine on plankton and small crustaceans, the pink meanie enjoys other jellyfish.

Using GPS and a keen ear for monkey calls, three scientists found Callicebus caquetensis in a remote area near the Ecuador/Peru border last summer. About the size of a cat, the bushy-bearded, greyish-brown titi monkey is critically endangered due to deforestation and its small population.
Gwawinapterus beardi. Discovered: Vancouver Island, Canada

A remarkable Canadian addition to the annuls of palaeontology, the jaw of this flying reptile was found fossilized in a rock on the beach on Hornby Island, near the east coast of Vancouver Island. It took more than half a decade and several scientists to identify the new species: the flying reptile, which lived some 70 million years ago, is only the second pterosaur to be found on Canadian soil.