Science, the journal published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), has made its annual selection of the top ten scientific breakthroughs of the year. Its choice for 2008 is cellular reprogramming, a biochemical process through which DNA sequences introduced to a cell’s genome in effect turn the cell’s biological clock backward, reverting it to an embryonic, totipotent state and offering clues as to how cells “decide” their own ultimate fate.
The key research (free subscription required) this year involved taking cells from patients suffering from a variety of diseases–among them ALS, Down syndrome, muscular dystrophy, and Type I diabetes mellitus, conditions difficult or impossible to study with animal models–and reprogramming them into stem cells.
Scientists emphasize that before safe disease cures can be found via cellular reprogramming, more efficient and reliable ways of triggering it must be found.
Web links on cellular reprogramming
The rest of the Science top ten:
2. Seeing Exoplanets
3. Cancer Genes
4. New High-Temperature Superconductors
5. Watching Proteins at Work
6. Water to Burn
7. The Video Embryo
8. Fat of a Different Color
9. Proton’s Mass “Predicted”
10. Sequencing Bonanza