Five ‘Practical’ Scientific Breakthroughs of the 21st Century

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The top five scientific breakthroughs in my list are limited to those with significant value to human's everyday life. That means between a meteor-related discovery and a new way to treat a given disease, the latter will be given a space in this article.

 Below is the list of the said scientific discoveries, which made, still making, and are expected to make a significant impact to the lives of people around the globe.

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

1.) Human Genome Project (2003). As of this writing, the completion of the human genome project is probably the single breakthrough in the 21st century with the most applications. From molecular medicine, it passes through the spheres of energy sources and environment up to the concerns in bioprocessing, agriculture, and livestock.

The genome maps helped medical researchers in their study and in better understanding and treatment of genetic conditions like fragile X syndrome, myotonic dystrophy, types 1 and 2 neurofibromatosis, colorectal and breast cancer, and Alzheimer's disease.

In 2010, Battelle Memorial Institute valued the economic impact of Human Genome Project at $796 billion. The said estimate is expected to increase as the project creates new industries, companies, and jobs.

2.) Partial Root Zone Drying (2002). In countries where severe drought is a normal occurrence like China, Australia, and most countries in Africa, the partial rootzone drying technique has lessened the extreme weather's substantial cost to the economy and the agriculture industry. Partial rootzone drying or PRD is an irrigation technique, which lessens the use of water by 50 percent without negative impact to crop production.

The method's pioneers, Billie Davis of Lancaster University in United Kingdom and his team, received the Times Higher Research Project of the Year award in 2009. The award was given in recognition of the irrigation technique's concrete impact on farming and living condition in drought-ravaged economies. While Davies has been publishing studies related to the process since the 1980s, it was not until 2002 that he and his team focused on the positive effects of exploiting plant's chemical signaling to increase water use efficiency in agriculture. In the United States alone, drought's agricultural damage was estimated at $8 billion annually.

3.) HPTN 052 Study (2011). While antiretroviral drugs (ARV) were introduced as early as 1995 for the treatment of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), there was no general consensus among medical practitioners about its efficacy. In an interim results announced in May 2011 and published in August of the same year in New England Journal of Medicine, the study revealed that HIV patients who are into aggressive ARV treatment have 96 percent chance of averting the transmission of the deadly virus to their uninfected partners. The journal Science named the study the most significant breakthrough in 2011. The HIV study is believed to impact more than 1.2 million people in the United States alone.

4.) Malaria Vaccine (2011). The malaria vaccine RTS,S developed by scientists in Europe is expected to decrease the count of malaria victims by 50 percent. While scientists and medical practitioners look forward to the vaccine's 100 percent potency in the coming years, the said efficacy rate can be translated to 112.5 million reductions in new cases of malaria each year. It is the first successful attempt to create an antimalarial drug in history. In 2009, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) attributed around 800 thousand deaths to malaria. Of the count, 90 percent were children from countries in Africa.

5.) Jadarite (2006). Aside from the fact that it resembles the chemical formula of that fictional ore called kryptonite, which undermines Superman's power, jadarite has an ample number of uses. Discovered in 2006, jadarite is an essential component in the production of batteries for cellphones, computers, and electric or hybrid cars. Demand for the said mineral is growing at a 10-percent rate yearly. Mining of jadarite and other minerals provided some needed jobs to the recession-afflicted Serbia. Jadarite was named after Serbia's Jadar Valley where it was discovered by an Australian mining company. Due to the discovery, Serbia is expected to produce the 90 percent of Europe's lithium output in the coming years.

Sources:

BBSRC. 22 October 2009. "Plant science discovery wins Times Higher research project of the year." Accessed April 23, 2012. http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/news/archive/2009/091022-n-plant-science-discovery-wins-project-of- year.aspx

Belgrade. 2009. "Rio Tinto mulls opening of Jadarite mine in Serbia." Reuters, August 25. http://www.reuters.com/article/2009/08/25/serbia-riotinto-idUSLP41322320090825

National Institute of Health. 11 December 2011. "HIV study named 2011 Breakthrough of the Year by Science." Accessed April 23, 2012. http://www.nih.gov/news/health/dec2011/niaid-22.htm

U.S. Department of Energy. "Potential Benefits of Human Genome Project Research." Accessed April 23, 2012. http://www.ornl.gov/sci/techresources/Human_Genome/project/benefits.shtml

Welse, Elizabeth. 2011. "Malaria vaccine may have potential to save millions." USA Today, October 10.
http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/medical/health/medical/treatments/story/2011-10- 18/Malaria-vaccine-may-have-potential-to-save-millions/50814768/1

 

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