9 Science Stories We're Psyched About In 2018

Get excited.

We're only a week into 2018, but already there are several scientific developments on the horizon that have us very excited about what's to come. 

From revolutionary developments in the treatment of HIV, to exploration of the sun, the scientific advances poised to occur over the next 365 days or so are pretty mind-blowing. 

And that's to say nothing of the equally impressive strides that have taken place over the past several months, such as Google's recent release of a tool that uses artificial intelligence (AI) techniques and machine learning to assemble complete human genomes for free.

Take a look below at some of the most anticipated stories of the next year.

1. Tourists on the moon.


Until now moon travel has more or less been reserved for professional astronauts, but this year, people like you and me (and plenty of money to spare) may head into outer space thanks to a Silicon Valley startup called Moon Express. Though the company was actually founded eight years ago, 2018 is reportedly the year they will "definitely" land a craft on the moon, paving the way for a generation wealthy space explorers.

"We are really looking good and we are still hoping to launch the lander next year," Moon Express' Chairman Naveen Jain told CNBC in November. "And when we launch and land on the moon, not only (do) we become the first company to do so, we actually symbolically become the fourth superpower."

2. A chemotherapy-related breakthrough.


Many cancer patients lose their hair while undergoing chemotherapy, but that could all change with the help of one groundbreaking invention — a scalp-cooling cap. The DigniCap Scalp Cooling System was cleared by the FDA  for use with breast cancer patients in 2015, and subsequently received clearance for use with other solid tumor cancers in 2017. It is designed to be worn before, during, and after chemotherapy treatments in an effort to reduce the likelihood of hair loss, according to CNN. This invention is one to look out for in the coming months.

3. The possibility of life on other planets.

Between the myriad of devastating natural disasters and the climate change crisis, life on planet Earth wasn't exactly a cakewalk this year, so it might be comforting to know that scientists at NASA are in the midst of searching for life on other planets.

This year, the space agency is scheduled to launch a new planet-hunting mission, known as the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) which will begin a more targeted search for planetary systems within 300 light-years from Earth. Per The Los Angeles Times, TESS is expected to launch between March and June. It will begin its search for local exoplanets shortly after launch.

4. The most ambitious health study ever.

Of the thousands of health studies that will be commissioned this year, one that is set to begin this spring stands out above the rest because it is the most ambitious health study ever. Said study, which was proposed by then-president Barack Obama in 2015, will look at one million Americans in an effort to explore the interplay between genes, lifestyle, the environment, and health.

Science Mag reports the study, called All of Us, is expected to take 10 years and cost approximately $4 billion. While that may sound like a massive undertaking, the study is part of a push for personalized medicine that could revolutionize the way we treat everything from cancer to diabetes. A reported 12,000 participants are already enrolled for pilot testing, and study leaders aim to sharply increase that number by the end of the year and ensure that at least 50 percent of volunteers are from groups typically underrepresented in biomedical research.

5. Getting up close and personal with a black hole.

Illustration via Maxal Tamor / Shutterstock.
Illustration via Maxal Tamor / Shutterstock.

Scientists have long been acquainted with the effects of black holes, but no one has ever really seen one in action. However, that could change over the course of the next several months thanks to researchers on the Event Horizon Telescope team, an international collaboration that hopes to capture the first image of a black hole by creating a virtual Earth-sized telescope. According to Science Mag, the telescope (which is actually eight telescopes from across the globe that are linked) is all set, and images of a black hole called Sagittarius A are forthcoming. 

6. Revolutionary HIV treatments.

While there are dozens of drugs to treat HIV, a great deal of them come in pill form and it can be difficult for those infected (especially in developing countries) to stick to a strict schedule and take the pills as prescribed. However, that could all change this year as researchers have been investigating whether injectable, long-lasting antiretroviral (ARV) drugs given once every four weeks work as well as pills taken daily. 

The preliminary results look promising, and Science Mag states these injections could be a game changer for prevention, as well, because ARVs taken by uninfected people — so-called pre-exposure prophylaxis — derail transmission.

7. The journey to the sun.

Scientists at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland explain the Parker Solar Probe's mission to its namesake, solar astrophysicist Eugene Parker. NASA/JHUAPL
Scientists at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland explain the Parker Solar Probe's mission to its namesake, solar astrophysicist Eugene Parker. NASA/JHUAPL

In addition to looking for other planets in our vicinity, NASA is also headed to the sun's atmosphere in 2018. The L.A. Times notes the Parker Solar Probe is scheduled to lift off on July 31 and swing within four million miles of the sun's surface, tasting charged particles from the atmosphere and making detailed measurements during 24 planned orbits. This will be the first such journey of its kind and it is expected to tell us some previously unknown information about the sun that may help scientists better understand solar flares and the solar storms that can wreak havoc with Earth's satellites, energy grids, and other key infrastructure.

8. Scientists will run for office.

In 2017, science often felt under attack, but this year is already poised to be different thanks to something called 314 Action. The organization is dedicated to recruiting, training and endorsing candidates with backgrounds in science, technology, engineering and math, and according to the L.A. Times, 314 Action trained approximately 1,400 potential candidates last year who expressed interest in running for office.

What's more? Two people who benefited from 314 Action's tutelage will be on the ballot for federal office in 2018, while a handful of others are running for positions at the state level. 

9. A CRISPR trial will test the gene-editing tool in humans.

Until now the gene-editing system known as CRISPR hasn't been used to treat diseases in humans, but it's expected to do just that in 2018, as the first trial that will deploy the CRISPR gene editor inside a living person's body is expected to take place. 

The L.A. Times reports said study will kick off this month, and will use CRISPR to fight the human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes cervical, anal, throat and other cancers. In the coming months and years, scientists also plan to use CRISPR to treat ALS, sickle cell disease, and more.

Clarification: This story has been updated to reflect that the FDA cleared the scalp-cooling cap for wider use in 2017, although it had previously been cleared in 2015 for use with patients with breast cancer. A previous version of the story stated that the FDA "approved" the cap.

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