Nature’s 10: Ten people who wrote the science of 2023

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They didn’t win the Nobel Prize, and only in some cases will you be familiar with their name. Yet the 10 people you’re about to meet have made historic contributions in their fields to science in 2023. Each of them is working to build a better future in health, energy production, environmental protection, and the expansion—spatial and technological—of humanity. . For these reasons, the magazine Nature put them in Nature’10 2023, a prestigious selection of the most interesting scientific personalities of the year.

1. The woman who took India to the moon. Kalpana Kalahasti, deputy director of India’s Chandrayaan-3 lunar mission, played a key role in preparing the venture that brought the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) to the moon. In August 2023, India gently placed a probe on the lunar surface, a feat only the United States, Russia and China have achieved so far.

To prepare for this triumph, Kalahasti and his team started from a failure: the failure of the Chandrayaan-2 lunar mission, which ended with the crash of the lander on our satellite in 2019. The lessons from this experience were used to create no-budget increases , an improved version of the lander module with more fuel and more stable legs, and to conduct tests and simulations on how to orient the orbiter and avoid danger from landing.

2. Protector of the Amazon. In 2023 Marina Silva was re-elected by President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva as Minister of the Environment and Climate Change of Brazil: it was her second mandate after the destructive period for the forest represented by the presidency of Jair Bolsonaro. Silva, who was born in the heart of the Amazon with a background as an activist that led her to politics, reintroduced a new version of the Action Plan to Prevent and Control Deforestation in the Amazon, a package of measures that started 20 years ago. between 2004 and 2012 allowed for an 83% reduction in deforestation.

Between January and July 2023, fines for environmental crimes in the forest increased by 147% compared to the 2019-2022 average, and this summer Silva reported a 43% drop in deforestation warnings from satellite images of the Amazon rainforest between January and July 2023, compared with the same period of 2022.

3. The man who rewrites the rules of reproduction. In March 2023 Katsuhiko Hayashibiologist at Osaka University in Japan, announced that he had obtained baby mice from the cells of two male mice.

The complex process involves isolating stem cells from the tails of two male rodents, selecting the few that spontaneously lose their Y chromosome, causing them to make a series of mistakes that, in rare cases, lead to the duplication of an egg for fertilization and implantation.

A task so far considered impossible, decades away from possible applications in human reproductive medicine, but the development of which could serve to save some species from extinction – for example, the northern rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum cottoni), of which only two female specimens remain.

4. Fusion trigger. Annie Kritcher designed one of the most important nuclear fusion experiments in the world, the US Department of Energy’s National Ignition Facility (NIF) experiment, which succeeded in a challenge pursued by laboratories around the world for decades: compressing atoms until they implode. able to melt their core and generate more energy than is necessary to start the reaction (know more). Essentially the same reaction that makes stars shine, reproduced in a controlled environment. Between late 2022 and 2023, Kritcher’s team successfully repeated the experiment four times.

5. Global warming mitigator. Eleni Myrivili is the first Chief Heat Officer of the United Nations, whose task is to raise awareness among the public and competent authorities about the causes and effects of extreme heat due to global warming and to ensure the allocation of funds to support the development of cooling technologies that do not involve greenhouse gas emissions.

6. Father of ChatGPT. Ilya Sutskever is a lead scientist at OpenAI who worked to create ChatGPT, a controversial AI system that has fundamentally changed the way we think about these tools over the past year. In July 2023, Sutskever shifted his interests to the four-year OpenAI project “to study control systems and control forms of AI that are smarter than us”.

7. Superconductivity Debunker. James Hamlin is a condensed matter physicist at the University of Florida in Gainesville. In 2023, he found methodological problems in the controversial work of colleague Rang Dias, a physicist from the University of Rochester (New York). In March 2023, Dias published an article about Nature in which he claimed to have achieved superconductivity (a set of properties that cancel out electrical resistance) at room temperature and in a material held at moderate pressures, a sort of “holy grail” of materials physics.

Hamlin sent to Nature their concerns and the paper was withdrawn. This is the third recall for Dias in the past year.

8. The real discoverer of semaglutide. Svetlana Mojsová is a biochemist at Rockefeller University in New York who played a key role in identifying and characterizing the active form of the hormone GLP-1, used in semaglutide-based anti-diabetic and anti-obesity drugs. In the 80s of the 20th century, Mojsov conducted a number of studies on animal models, which later made it possible to demonstrate that the hormone GLP-1 can reduce the level of glucose in human blood. Nevertheless, his basic research remained unrecognized for a long time.

9. Pioneer of malaria vaccines in Africa. Halida Tinto runs a clinic in Burkina Faso, without which the approval of the first antimalarial vaccines, including RTS,S and R21, which promises to reach a wide audience of patients and which was recommended by the WHO in October 2023, would never have been possible. The Clinical Research Unit of Nanoro (CRUN), an institute, where Tinto works, and which he helped create from scratch, is a focal point for conducting tests of potential vaccines against the disease, which causes 500,000 deaths in Africa, mainly among children under the age of five.

10. Explorer of new antitumor therapies. Thomas Powles, an oncology researcher at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital in London, found that a combination of two newer drugs compared with traditional chemotherapy increased the median survival time of bladder cancer patients from 16 months to 2.5 years. When he presented the results at the Congress of the European Society of Medical Oncology in Madrid in October 223, the audience erupted with two long standing ovations: it is the first revolutionary result in the therapy of advanced forms of this type of tumor in almost 40 years.

The treatment combines a drug from the Antibody-Drug Conjugates (ADC) category, which combines the cytotoxicity of chemotherapy with the effectiveness of an antibody that targets tumor cells, with immunotherapy, which removes the brake on immune cells that kill tumors.



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