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Science Past and Future

The gene-editing tool CRISPR fueled two of the top science stories of the 2010s, according to LiveScience.

The first came in 2015, it says, when researchers from Sun Yat-sen University reported that they used CRISPR/Cas9 to alter the beta-globin gene (HBB) that causes beta-thalassemia in non-viable human zygotes. The journal that published the paper, Protein and Cell, said it did so as the "sounding of an alarm." Just three years later, LiveScience notes, He Jiankui announced he edited the genomes of twin girls as embryos, a revelation that led to widespread condemnation. 

CRISPR also makes New Scientist's list of big science stories of the 2010s, as does the use of gene therapy to treat a one-year-old with leukemia and the discovery of the ancient hominin group the Denisovans.

Looking ahead to the next year, Nature says to keep watch on efforts to develop a synthetic form of baker's yeast as well as stem cell-based work to grow replacement organs for people in other animals. At the same time, the Los Angeles Times says 2020 might be the year when liquid biopsies show their promise.