While the political upheavals across several states in the Middle East have taken up the bulk of interest in 2012, there were exciting developments for science research and the science community in the region as well.
Over the next few days, we will look back at the most important and most read stories and research published on Nature Middle East throughout the year.
To start it off, here is the list of the most read research highlights – highly suggested to be worth a revisit!
- Super battery made from graphene: In a world that is increasingly hungry for energy, innovative new ways to store energy are becoming increasingly important. A team of researchers have managed to use a DVD drive to create a superconductor that can store as much energy as a battery but charge up 1,000 times faster than conventional batteries. They used a DVD covered with a coat of graphite oxide. The laser in the DVD drive stripped the graphite into will-exfoliated sheets of graphene. They used two of these to create a superconductor.
- Qatar discovers its second exoplanet: Two years after discovering their first exoplanet, the Qatar Exoplanet Survey team found a second one. The planet, dubbed Qatar-2b is over twice the size of Jupiter but orbits much closer to its star than Jupiter in our solar system. The nwely discovered exoplanet rotates a star of similar size to the Sun that is 500 million light years away. It makes a full rotation around the star just 1.34 days, however.
- Rare form of autism might be treatable with diet: While the rates of autism are high in the Middle East, it is one of the least studied neurodevelopmental conditions in Arab states. Researchers performing exome sequencing on two consanguineous Egyptian and Turkish families with a rare form of hereditary autism found a mutation in a gene that encodes a certain protein. The researchers suggest that a special diet that provides certain amino acids can prevent symptoms of autism in this case if started early enough.
- Hippo sperm discriminates against the male sex: As the strange title implies, researchers discovered that male hippos have the ability to alter the ratio of sperms carrying X- or Y- chromosomes. In a population of captive hippos, they found the sperms were skewed towards producing more X-chromosomes, which led to female offspring. The exact mechanism of how the hippos managed to diminish a certain type of sperm remains unclear, but if this is not unique to hippos than it may explain population shifts in other mammals as well.
- Protein deficiency causes autoimmune disease: Autoimmune diseases are becoming an increasing burden in the Middle East, and there is little research that explains why it is so. Researchers from across the Middle East and the United States investigated how a certain protein, DOCK8, affects immune cells. The researchers found that cells with a deficiency in DOCK8 failed to produce antibodies and when they did, they produced the wrong ones. The researchers are hopeful these findings can help formlate more effective vaccines for sufferers of autoimmune diseases and eventually paving the way to gene therapy.
That’s it for the most exciting research conducted or partly conducted in the Middle East for 2012. Tune in tomorrow for our list of top science news stories that affected the region.