Most Popular Science Stories of 2015

These are the stories that engaged our visitors in 2015 – whether it was reading in-depth about brain rejuvenation, watching mesmerizing cells in motion on social media, or learning about the latest discoveries that could soon lead to new treatments.

If you didn't get a chance the first time around, check out the most popular scientific research stories of the past year.

1)  UCSF Researchers Control Embryonic Stem Cells With Light

No, it's not science fiction: Matt Thomson, PhD, has determined a way to initiate embryonic stem cell differentiation with beams of light, turning them into neurons. He hopes to use this process to study how stem cells produce complex tissue in three dimensions.

Blood work illustration

2)  Blood Work: Scientists Uncover Surprising New Tools to Rejuvenate the Brain

Scientists are uncovering ways to reverse the lifelong trend of cognitive aging. Whether infusing older mice with younger blood or improving mental ability through video games, it's increasingly clear that neural growth is achievable at any age.

HIV-infected cell

3)  In CRISPR Advance, Scientists Successfully Edit Human T Cells

It's now possible to precisely modify human T cells using the genome-editing system known as CRISPR/Cas9. This could lead to major advances in the treatment of diseases like cancer and AIDS, and an enhanced understanding of how T cells function in the body.

Male nurse checking blood pressure

4)  Male Registered Nurses Make Thousands More in Salary Than Female Counterparts

A UCSF-led study revealed that – despite equivalent education, skill, and experience – male registered nurses (RNs) continue to earn more than their female colleagues, averaging $5,000 more per year.

5)  Building Human Breast Tissue, Cell by Cell

If researchers can create living models of human tissue, it's possible they can better understand how disease spreads and cells self-organize without risk to human subjects. Zev Gartner, PhD, has discovered a way to build living breast tissue layer by layer using an innovative, fresh approach.

6)  Obese Children’s Health Rapidly Improves With Sugar Reduction Unrelated to Calories

It might not be the number of calories you're eating, but what kind. A study by Robert Lustig, MD, MSL, shows that children can drastically reverse their symptoms of metabolic disease simply by removing added sugar from their diet.

7)  New Type of Prion May Cause, Transmit Neurodegeneration

Researchers have discovered that a new type of prion, one similar to the culprit found in Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD), causes Multiple System Atrophy (MSA). This may mean it's possible to develop treatments for MSA, a condition that is currently incurable and difficult to manage.

Elderly man at eye doctor appointment

8)  Eye Drops Could Clear Up Cataracts Using Newly Identified Chemical

Cataracts remains a leading cause of blindness, but it may be possible to reverse the condition with something as simple as an eye drop. Researchers have identified a compound that is effective at undoing damage caused by cataracts and soluble enough for direct application.

brain scan

9)  The Art of Maintaining Cognitive Health as Our Brains Age

Aging is inevitable, and that includes the aging of the brain. However, scientists have identified three ways to help maintain cognitive function over a person's lifetime: staying physically active, managing blood pressure and diabetes, and quitting smoking.

pregnant woman

10)  Blood Test Trumps Accuracy of Standard Screening in Detecting Down Syndrome in Early Pregnancy

It's not only possible, but potentially more accurate, to detect down syndrome by blood test early in pregnancy. This technique could reduce the number of false positives present in other non-invasive tests, leading to better diagnosis.