Science magazine remarks each year on December what they consider the breakthrough of the last 12 months. In 2015 the winner was CRISPR, a gene-editing tool that permits scientists to edit the genome with accuracy, the tool could also be used to cure genetic diseases.

On the other hand, the magazine published a list that features the people’s choice, where Pluto, CRISPR, and the Ebola vaccine are among the winners.

CRISPR: Gene editing method

Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeat (CRISPR), is an organization of short palindromic repeated DNA sequences found in genomes of bacteria and other microorganisms, Harvard’s Science In the News website explained.

CRISPR-Cas9 method for genome editing – a powerful new technology with many applications in biomedical research, including the potential to treat human genetic disease. Credit: Govern Institute for Brain Research at MIT

According to the Human Genome Project, an investigation coordinated by the U.S department of Energy and the National Institutes of Health, the genome is an organism’s complete of DNA. It is known that every genome holds all of the information needed to construct and maintain that organism.

CRISPR immune system can thwart a virus attack by destroying its genome, wrote Harvard.  Experts seem to suggest the method could turn around the field of biology since it permits scientists to edit the genome in an efficient way. Scientists from around the world have already created monkeys with specific mutations and have developed new methods that seek to modify human cells in order to prevent HIV-1 infection.

The usage of CRISPR appears to be controversial, Science magazine declared it could present a new dimension of genetics that would include altering human sperm, eggs or embryos in order to correct disease genes or add them “improvements”.

Another interesting thing about the gene modifying technique is that it is affordable when comparing it to other methods.  Scientist Dana Carroll of the University of Utah said it represented the democratization of gene targeting.

Pluto, the dwarf planet

According to NASA, the dwarf planet discovered in 1930 is about 40 times as far from the sun as Earth. The small object is only 1,400 miles wide and it is very very cold. Its temperatures can reach about 375 to 400 degrees below zero.

On July 14 the NASA’s New Horizon spacecraft that have traveled more than any space mission in history, unveiled the first reconnaissance of Pluto, since that moment thousands of photographs have been published and people have been astonished with the new findings.

New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colorado and Jeff Moore, leader of the New Horizons Geology, Geophysics and Imaging team at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California said:

“Pluto is showing us a diversity of landforms and complexity of processes that rival anything we’ve seen in the solar system. The surface of Pluto is every bit as complex as that of Mars. The randomly jumbled mountains might be huge blocks of hard water ice floating within a vast, denser, softer deposit of frozen nitrogen within the region informally named Sputnik Planum.”

Ebola vaccine

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) several clinical trials have been done through the year and an effective vaccine is expected by the end of the year.

There are two principal candidates, ChAd3-ZEBOV, which was developed by GlaxoSmithCline and the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and VSV-EBOV, developed by NewLink Genetics and Merck Vaccines USA in collaboration with the Public Health Agency of Canada, wrote the WHO.

Results would appear to show that the VSV-EBOV, which tries to train the immune system to beat Ebola, would reach a level between 75 percent and 100 percent of effectiveness as WHO reported. Scientists said to BBC that it could be a game-changer because previously there was nothing; even wen the disease was identified 40 years ago.

Source: Science Magazine