HIV trial is ‘breakthough’ of 2011, says Science magazine
WASHINGTON - Agence France-Presse
AFP PhotoA landmark clinical trial that showed HIV drugs can be as effective as condoms in preventing transmission of the virus that causes AIDS was declared Science magazine’s breakthrough of the year on Dec. 22.
The annual top 10 list by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which publishes the journal Science, appear in the magazine’s December 23 issue.
The lead story of the year was an international trial, coined HPTN 052, which showed that people taking anti-retroviral drugs reduced the risk of heterosexual transmission to partners by 96 percent.
The breakthrough was described by some experts as a tipping point in the fight against AIDS, 30 years after the epidemic first surfaced.
The nine other leading advances of 2011 were as follows:
- Japan’s Hayabusa spacecraft that survived a host of technical failures but returned to Earth, albeit three years late, with a dusting of particles from the Itokawa asteroid.
- Following 2010 studies that showed Europeans and Asians inherited two to six percent of their DNA from Neanderthals, new analyses showed that breeding with cavemen gave modern humans an immune boost, and raised new questions about whether the dextrous tool-maker Australopithecus sediba is our direct ancestor.
- Japanese researchers mapped Photosystem II, a protein that plants use to split water into hydrogen and oxygen atoms, a structure that could lead to powerful advances in clean energy.
- Astronomers detected pristine clouds of hydrogen gas much like that from the first few hundred million years after the Big Bang.
- Researchers gained a new understanding of the microbes that dwell in the human gut, with some thriving on high-protein diets while others prefer vegetarian fare.
- The search for the world’s first malaria vaccine RTS,S, received a boost with the release of early results from a major clinical trial showing it cut risk by about half in African children.
- Strange discoveries in deep space included a cluster of six large planets orbiting a star named Kepler 11 about 2,000 light-years from Earth, a gas giants that orbits in the opposite direction of its parent star, 10 planets that seem to orbit no stars and all, and one planet that is orbiting two stars.
- Industrial chemists designed a host of new porous minerals, called zeolites, which could save money and offer a new boost to the oil and gas industry, air and water purification processes and household laundry detergents.
- Getting rid of old cells may help improve life quality, according to scientists who using lab mice discovered that clearing these senescent cells from the body can delay cataracts and muscle weakness.