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7 tech breakthroughs you may have missed this year

The release of some advanced generative AI systems will definitely of The biggest science and tech stories of 2022 — DALL-E 2, ChatGPT and more have amazed the world this year with their ability to mimic human creativity.

These AI aren’t the only breakthroughs for 2022. While you’re busy writing scripts for ChatGPT or creating new Pokémon for Stable Diffusion, you might be missing out on some lesser-known but notable scientific achievements of the past. Year.

Before the phone rings in 2023, here are seven stories to help you catch up.

excellent solar cell

Solar cells absorb light and convert it to electricity, but they are not very efficient. The most commonly sold type of silicon-based cell is only about 22% efficient, and the theoretical limit has long been only 29%.

In 2022, a team of Swiss scientists broke that limit with two different solar cells combining silicon and the mineral perovskite. One cell reached an efficiency of 30.93% and the other an efficiency of 31.25%.

“Our results are the first to demonstrate that the 30% barrier can be overcome using low-cost materials and processes and should open up new perspectives for the future. [photovoltaics]’ says researcher Christoph Barif.

Perovskite-on-silicon solar cells

A new perovskite-on-silicon solar cell. Credit: D. Türkay / C. Wolff / EPFL / F. Sahli / Q. Jeangros / CSEM

new heart cells

Unlike our skin and liver, our heart has no regenerative capacity. When a heart attack occurs, many of these cells die, forming scar tissue that interferes with heart function and increases the risk of heart failure.

In 2022, researchers at King’s College London revealed they were developing a cure. retrograde This damage is done by stimulating the growth of new heart cells after a heart attack. These cells replace dead cells and produce new heart muscle in place of scars.

The treatment uses microRNA delivered via the same nanoparticle technology used in the COVID-19 vaccine to encourage the creation of new heart cells. It has been tested in rodents and pigs, and researchers hope to begin human trials within the next two years.

CRISPR Cholesterol Treatment

While researchers try to reverse the damage from a heart attack, Boston-based biotech company Verve Therapeutics prevent Treat them with a treatment that will enter human trials in 2022.

This treatment uses CRISPR to permanently disable genes that cause LDL (“bad”) cholesterol to accumulate in the blood, which is believed to be the leading cause of heart attacks and strokes. In monkey studies, LDL levels decreased by 70% in just 2 weeks and remained low for years.

lower cholesterol

LDL molecule. Credit: Juan Gärtner / Adobe Stock

Verve began trials in New Zealand and the UK earlier this year to see if the treatment could help people with genetic disorders that cause dangerously high cholesterol levels, but plans for a trial in the US. is on hold until more information is available to the FDA. safety data.

As of November 2022, at least three people have been dosed in international trials, and the company expects to have early data from these studies in the second half of 2023. Verve said it plans to “respond as quickly as possible” to the FDA’s request. ‘ lifts its hold at trial in the United States.

“Hibernating” battery

To stop climate change, we need to move to cleaner energy sources, but the two most affordable alternatives, solar and wind, depend on seasonally changing environmental conditions, so they always cost the same amount. power generation. Open all year round.

If renewable energy could be combined with long-lasting batteries, the overall system could be made more stable throughout the year, but current lithium-ion batteries lose energy when idle, so they don’t have enough energy for days or even weeks. cannot be stored. .

But this year, a team at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory announced the creation of a low-cost molten-salt battery that can store energy. Moonand if they can scale up their technology, they could accelerate the transition to a greener grid.

molten salt battery

Molten salt battery.Credit: Andrea Starr / Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

germicidal light

For decades, people have used UVC light to disinfect water, medical equipment, and more. Also, when the COVID-19 pandemic began, some hospitals, restaurants, and other facilities began using he UVC light to kill coronavirus particles in the indoor air as well.

However, UVC light also damages human cells, so disinfecting must be done when the room is empty, creating a major obstacle between us and a coronavirus-free environment.

In 2022, researchers in the US and UK will find a way around that obstacle, and how certain types of UVC light is not Harmful to humans, far UV rays can kill 98% of airborne microbes in just 5 minutes in a full-sized room.

“[E]Evidence from multiple studies suggests it may be a safe way to prevent infection with any virus, including the COVID virus and its variants, influenza, and viruses that could cause future pandemics We do,” said co-author David Brenner of Columbia University.

First RSV vaccine

Unsurprisingly, a vaccine for COVID-19 has dominated the news for the past few years, but immunizations against other diseases, including respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), have made great strides in 2022.

RSV infection is often mild to devastating for healthy adults, but can be fatal for infants, the elderly, and people with certain health conditions, and there are dozens of RSV vaccines available. Years of research have proven unattainable.

That could change soon.

RSV vaccine

Scanning electron micrograph of human RSV virions. Credit: NIH

Earlier this year, Pfizer announced results from a Phase 3 trial in which pregnant mothers were vaccinated against RSV to protect their fetuses. The vaccination reduced her incidence of severe RSV in newborns by nearly 82%.

Both Pfizer and pharmaceutical company GSK this year released results from phase 3 trials testing RSV vaccines in development in older adults that were 85% and 94% effective in preventing serious illness, respectively. .

better malaria vaccine

Malaria kills more than 600,000 people each year, about half of them in children under the age of five.

In 2021, a GSK-developed malaria vaccine secures WHO endorsement for the first time. It was a major breakthrough in the fight against deadly diseases, but the shot was still only 40% effective.

Earlier this year, the University of Oxford announced that a three-dose regimen of its malaria vaccine candidate was up to 77% effective in preventing malaria in children after a one-year follow-up in a phase 2b trial. just on the horizon.

We look forward to hearing from you! If you have any comments about this article, or tips for future Freethink stories, please email us at: [email protected].

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