Sciencebase Top Ten Molecules of 2007


Everyone loves a list. (Don’t they?) Well, as we’re approaching the end of the year and some of us are well into the panto and party season already, I thought it would be a good idea to run down a hit parade of this year’s molecules. So, here’s the Sciencebase Top Ten Molecules of 2007:

  • 10 – Graphene – chicken wire carbon sheets hit the headlines this year and will continue to do so as researchers learn more about this unique material’s optical and electrical properties. One day, carbon may even replace silicon as the elemental of choice in computing.
  • 9 – Helium – at the time of writing physicists in Canada had taken an important step towards understanding supersolidity in helium, stretching it a bit to include this in a list of molecules. This new state of matter forms at very low temperature and under extreme pressure and now it has been found that cooling makes supersolid helium even stiffer.
  • 8 – DNA – deoxyribonucleic acid, and more specifically, the deoxyribonucleic acid that resides in every cell of genomics pioneer Craig Venter. The J Craig Venter Institute claims that this “Independent sequence and assembly of the six billion base pairs from the genome of one person ushers in the era of individualized genome-based medicine”.
  • 7 – Water – Good old H2O continues to confound those scientists hoping to explain its anomalous properties, as supplies of the fresh stuff will dwindle as the century moves on, it’s heartening to know that close to absolute zero, water exists in yet another phase.
  • 6 – Ethanol – a seasonal favourite, of course, the active ingredient in so many beverages. As with a certain other molecule in this Top Ten, this year there has been a lot of hot breath resulting from various and conflicting health studies on the effects of ethanol on human health, expectant mothers and their unborn children, and others. So…raise your glasses to ethanol!
  • 5 – Rotaxane – 140 years ago, Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell devised a thought experiment that might help scientists break the law. An entirely legal, molecular version of Maxwell’s Demon made its debut this year, thanks to chemists at Edinburgh University.
  • 4 – Azadirachtin – After decades of trying and countless post-doc and grad students have come and gone Steve Ley at Cambridge University finally published a total synthesis for the natural insecticide azadirachtin.
  • 3 – Epothilone – could the anticancer drugs produced by soil microbes finally have come of age with the announcement from pharma giant Bristol Myers Squibb that it has obtained approval in the US for semi-synthetic analogue of epothilone B against drug-resistant metastatic breast cancer.
  • 2 – Carbon dioxide – this year, there has been more hot air produced around this greenhouse gas and climate change than I care to cite.
  • 1 – Hydrogen sulfide – yet another small molecule with a big impact. Scientists recently discovered that H2S could be the key to longevity, at least if you’re a nematode worm. A study published in PNAS in December demonstrated that the “rotten egg” molecule increases heat tolerance and lifespan in the molecular biologist’s favourite, Caenorhabditis elegans
  • Well, those are my choices, I deliberately avoided looking at Science to see what they’d come up with for their Molecule of the Year, before I put this post together. If anyone has their own Top Ten or even just a Number 1 let me know.

8 thoughts on “Sciencebase Top Ten Molecules of 2007”

  1. Another thing that could make H2S an even better contender to the top of the list: it is a top contender as a cause for the end Permian mass extinction, which almost wiped complex life off the face of the earth.

  2. I think you should do a top ten bad science ideas of 2007. At the top of the list should be the creation of the PRISM Coalition by executives at the American Chemical Society to fight Open Access. It’s pretty obvious that these people at ACS like Madeleine Jacobs are more interested in saving their bloated salaries than protecting the interests of ACS members.

  3. Well, forgive me but – I don’t like lists~

    I think ‘graphene’ should include any ‘graphene-like’ nanothings including carbon nanotubes which were used to make a radio recently. And many other interesting aspects of CNTs can be found in Nano Lett. of this year

    Water is an eternal myth.

    And rotaxane, aha, I love this class of supramolecule. I would personally put it to the top of the list.

    The magic of some biomolecules in living things should be celebrated by biologists, I think. Even if it is totally synthesized, biologists will be more excited than chemists by the news.

    And DNA, it is invaluable because it is not only essential to life but this year we have witnessed DNA being used as a tool to regulate or control nanoassemblies in a designed way. JACS seems to love this topic very much.

  4. Discover magazine presents the top 100 science stories of 2007 in its annual January issue titled “The Year in Science.” The issue hits newsstands December 11th. Here’s the Top Ten:

    * China’s Syndrome – Numerous reports of contaminated Chinese imports and rising pollution sparked anxiety across the globe and revealed the negative consequences of the country’s rapid economic growth;
    * Reawakening the Dormant Mind – A deep-brain stimulator (DBS) revived a comatose patient – and redefined our understanding of human consciousness;
    * Planetpalooza – Pioneering observations of planets around other stars (and the implication for finding life elsewhere in the universe) made Dr. David Charbonneau DISCOVER Magazine’s 2007 Scientist of the Year;
    * Arctic Thaw – Rapidly melting ice in the Arctic sea sent the U.S. and its foreign competitors into a frenzy as they search for new routes to the Northern territory ;
    * Rx for the FDA – Faced with controversies over recalls and adverse drug effects, and armed with new federal legislation, the agency made an effort to boost its credibility;
    * Conservation Gets A Green Light – Experts looking for alternatives to fossil fuels suggested that new standards for efficient lighting could bring startling savings;
    * Dark Matters – Astronomers unveiled a new map of the mysterious particles that play a surprisingly large role in forming and shaping galaxies – and may have caused the first giant black holes;
    * Can Vitamin D Save Your Life? – New studies indicated that Vitamin D plays a more vital role than previously thought in the prevention of many deadly illnesses, including multiple sclerosis, tuberculosis, schizophrenia, and several forms of cancer;
    * The Genome Turns Personal – A geneticist became the first person ever to publish his entire DNA sequence in a scientific journal and began to unravel the mystery of individual genetic predispositions to disease; and
    * T. Rex Time Machine – A North Carolina State University paleontologist excavated proteins from 68-million-year-old Tyrannosaurus Rex bones which bore a striking resemblance to modern chickens, proving that molecular analysis is possible in materials millions of years old.

    Rebecca Stein for Discover Magazine, by e-mail

  5. Thought you might be interested in TIME’s 50 Top Ten Lists of 2007, including the Top Ten Scientific Discoveries:

    1. Stem Cell Breakthroughs
    2. Human Mapped
    3. Brightest Supernova Recorded
    4. Hundreds of New Species
    5. Building a Human Heart Valve
    6. “Hot Jupiters” Discovered
    7. A Big Bird-like Dinosaur
    8. Man’s Migration Out of Africa
    9. The World’s Oldest Animal
    10. Real-Life Kryptonite

    Charlotte Cowles, Time Inc,
    Via email

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