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Significant News in Science and Medicine During 2005


According to the Chinese zodiac, 2006 is the year of the dog. But scientifically, 2005 could be considered the year of the dog. The year's top science story concerns an Afghan hound named Snuppy, after Seoul National University where he was cloned. VOA's Carol Pearson reviews medical and science stories that made news in 2005.

Snuppy made his debut at a press conference in Seoul last August. Although other animals have been cloned, dogs have proven more difficult. And now there are doubts about whether Snuppy WAS cloned after an investigation indicated other Korean cloning research was faked. Biologist Gerald Schatten worked with Professor Hwang Woo Suk on this experiment and spoke before doubts were raised.

"Wouldn't it be a marvelous thing that our best friends would be the first beneficiaries of stem cell medicine? And in learning whether it's safe and effective in our companions we may also know whether it's safe and effective for our loved ones," said Dr. Schatten.

Professor Professor Hwang had also claimed he was able to create stem cell colonies from individual patients through cloning, an achievement that would be a step closer to allowing scientists to regenerate worn-out or damaged body tissues. But an investigation by Seoul National University indicated that none of the 11 supposed stem cell lines was actually cloned from individual patients. And it was unable to conclude whether the dog cloning was real. The scandal may turn out to be the biggest scientific story of the year.

Bird flu is another issue that concerns both doctors and scientists. It is already spreading through migration. Infected birds have been found in Asia and Europe. The big question is when will this deadly flu will make the jump from birds to humans? The fear is a pandemic that will spread as rapidly as a bird flu did in 1918. Between 20 and 50 million people died as a result of that epidemic. So far, there's no vaccine for this virus.

There was a flap about climate change this year.

"Distinguished delegates, you have upheld the trust the people of the world have placed in us. Facing the worst ecological threat to humanity, you have said the world is united and together, step by step, we will win this fight."

This was said by Canadian Environment Minister Stephane Dion, speaking at a UN conference on global warming. More than 150 nations agreed to open talks on mandatory reductions in green house gases. The United States agreed to join an exploratory dialogue on future steps to combat climate change.

Some climatologists blamed the intensity and large number of dangerous hurricanes on global warming. Others discredited that idea. But no one could deny the obvious stated by Conrad Lautenbacher from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: "This was a record-breaking season for the Atlantic."

There were 28 named tropical storms, 13 hurricanes including three category fives. It was possibly the most destructive hurricane season recorded.

Space Shuttle Discovery roared off into space in July, ending a two-and-a-half year wait for the historic return to flight mission. All space shuttle flights had been canceled after the shuttle Columbia disintegrated as it returned to Earth in 2003.

In other news about space: U.S. astronomers say they have discovered a tenth planet far beyond Pluto in the outlying region of the solar system.

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