Science Names Top Ten Breakthroughs Of 1997

December 19, 1997

In the 19 December 1997 issue, the editors of Science offer their picks for the year's top ten scientific breakthroughs. Heading the list as "Science's 1997 Breakthrough of the Year" is the cloning of Dolly, the world's first cloned adult mammal. Science, which is published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Washington, DC, is one of the world's most often cited peer-reviewed journals. The annual top-ten list honors those advances that break new ground, unite scientific fields, and offer great potential benefits to society.

The cloning of Dolly sparked a firestorm of debate: do ethical concerns outweigh the possible social benefits of mammalian cloning? Can human cloning be far behind? Dolly also challenged scientists to revise their ideas about cell growth, development, and aging (Dolly's DNA is older than she is). Many pointed to the potential good that such techniques may offer, from making identical copies of prized livestock to cloning genetically modified animals that can generate human proteins useful in medicine and other areas. (A step in this direction has already been taken, according to a report in the same 19 December issue--building upon their Dolly experiment, Scottish researchers Schnieke et al. managed to produce cloned, transgenic sheep capable of pumping out a human blood coagulant used to treat hemophilia.) *

The nine runner-up breakthroughs are as follows: The Breakthrough feature also looks at the leap science made into public consciousness during 1997 and how global warming changed from being merely a theory kicked around by scientists to one of the hottest public policy debates around. As in previous years, the editors of Science propose six areas of scientific research that promise the most exciting results in 1998: genetically altered agricultural crops; "pharmacogenetics"--technologies that can scan a person's genome for disease genes and custom-tailor therapeutic drugs; the complex relationship between biodiversity and the health of ecosystems; improved climate prediction strategies that might allow up to ten-year forecasts; the structure of the ribosome, the cell's protein factory; and supernovae data suggestive of an endlessly expanding universe. And finally, the editors score themselves on how well last year's predictions fared.

The ten breakthroughs honored by Science were chosen by the editors, led by Editor-in-Chief Floyd E. Bloom, M.D. of Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, CA. Bloom writes about the "Breakthrough of the Year" section in the 19 December editorial (available upon request).

AAAS is the world's largest general science organization, with programs in science policy, science education, and international scientific cooperation.

* To interview authors on the Schnieke et al. paper, or for more information on animal cloning, contact April D'Arcy, PPL Therapeutics Public Affairs, at 44-131-440-4777 or Harry Griffin, Roslin Institute Public Affairs at 44-131-527-4478.

To request copies of any of the following, please send an e-mail request to scipak@aaas.org. Copies will be available on Monday, 15 December.

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American Association for the Advancement of Science

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