science news The Greatest Scientific Breakthroughs of 2018  

Ranker Science
January 4, 2018 31.1k views 32 items

Scientific breakthroughs happen across the globe each year as the world's top researchers make innovative discoveries that alter life on earth and change our perception of reality. The greatest scientific discoveries are an inspiring testament to the profound capabilities of the human mind. Each year, scientists make incredible discoveries.

In 2017, scientists learned how to pull water out of thin air and edit a human embryo. The latest breakthroughs from 2018 are just as impressive. If you haven't already learned about these recent scientific advances, now is the time. 

This list of 2018 scientific discoveries features informative works that span a wide range of disciplines. Some discoveries brought about a more rich understanding of our past. The last wild horses may not truly have wild ancestors and a lost Native American tribe gave us a more complex look at our earliest ancestors. Other discoveries may mean huge leaps for medical science. From blood tests to detect cancer to the potential to grow human organs for donations, these breakthroughs will give you hope for the future even in bleak times.  

The latest in science news is inspirational for a new generation of thinkers who will continue to push the boundaries of human capability. What were the biggest discoveries of 2018? Read on to find out. 

The Curiosity Rover Uncovered Ancient Components Necessary For Life On Mars

The Curiosity Rover Uncovered ... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Greatest Scientific Breakthroughs of 2018
Photo:  NASA/Handout/Getty Images News

NASA's Mars rover Curiosity discovered an assortment of organic molecules on the red planet's surface. The carbon-based molecules found are the building blocks of life as we know it here on Earth, although their existence does not necessarily confirm life on Mars; these components can exist thanks to geological processes alone.

Samples of the organic matter were taken from a three billion-year-old mudstone in the Gale crater. While scientists are quick to point out this is not concrete evidence of organic life, they aren't eliminating the notion entirely. 

"We cannot rule out the possibility that it was created biologically," study lead author Chris Webster, a senior research fellow at the Jet Propulsion Lab, said. "We can't say that it was, but we're certainly not dropping the idea. So, in a sense, that's positive for the astrobiologists in the world."

The study was published on June 7, 2018, in the online journal Science.

Scientists Discovered 13 Billion Year Old Oxygen, Which May Reveal The Oldest Stars In The Universe

Scientists Discovered 13 Billi... is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest Scientific Breakthroughs of 2018
Photo: ESA/Hubble/WikiMedia Commons/CC BY 4.0

In May 2018, scientists from the University College London published a study that revealed they spotted 12 billion year old oxygen in a distant galaxy. The age of the oxygen indicates this portion of the universe experienced a star-forming period, possibly producing some of the earliest stars in the history of time. After the first wave of stars underwent gas and supernova deaths, this could have potentially caused further star formation. While the precise implications of the research remains unclear, such discoveries are key to eventually understanding how the universe first formed. 

Scientists May Have Figured Out How To Transfer Memories In Snails

Scientists May Have Figured Ou... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest Scientific Breakthroughs of 2018
Photo:  Breaking News Today/YouTube

Neurobiologist David Glanzman made headlines in May 2018 after releasing results of a study he conducted on a type of sea snail called the sea hare. An attempt to better understand the mechanisms of memory, Glanzman theorized memories that cause defensive reflexes may be coded in RNA and not brain cells. To test his hypothesis, Glanzman implanted wires in the tails of sea hairs. He then shocked the snails repetitively until they were sensitized enough to automatically contract their gills when prodded in a fleshy spot of their bodies known as the siphon. Glanzman then extracted RNA from these snails and injected it into a new group of snails that had not been sensitized. The new snails, with the new RNA in place, responded by contracting their gills when prodded in the siphon. Glanzman also exchanged RNA between two groups of snails that had not been sensitized, and no snails from those groups responded to being prodded. 

What does this say about memory? It's not clear. It may indicate that certain memories, specifically those related to semi-involuntary defensive responses, are not necessarily encoded in the brain. However, it's unclear whether the same cna be said for human memories as they are vastly more complex. 

Scientists Erased Damage Caused By Alzheimer's Disease In A Human Brain Cell

Scientists Erased Damage Cause... is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest Scientific Breakthroughs of 2018
Photo:  Alzheimer Universal/YouTube

While the precise implications may not be clear for years, it's possible scientists at Gladstone Institutes in San Francisco made a major breakthrough in terms of discovering a cure for Alzheimer's Disease. The researchers extracted stem cells from Alzheimer's patients and healthy volunteers and used these cells to create neurons (brain cells). The Alzheimer's patients all had two copies of the apoE4 gene - which greatly increases one's risk for developing Alzheimer's. Scientists studied the neurons of both healthy individuals and individuals affected by Alzheimer's. By doing so, they discovered the apoE4 gene causes Alzheimer's via the increased production of a neuron-damaging protein. 

Once the researchers figured out the protein promoted Alzheimer's Disease, they developed a method that allowed them to change its structure. By doing so, they erased any evidence of Alzheimer's in the damaged neurons and the cells became healthier and lived longer. 

The research is very promising, but does not necessarily mean there will be a cure for Alzheimer's in the near future. Researchers still need to find a way to alter neurons in human patients, which could take considerable more time and research. Nevertheless, the study marks a major breakthrough in terms of understanding the root cause of Alzheimer's Disease.