Chemical hits from Slinn Pickings

  • Space ice goes against the grain – Space ice made from a mixture of methanol and water expands under pressure, and shrinks when heated – the opposite behaviour to most solids. Dominic Fortes at University College London, UK, is interested in the internal structures of icy moons like Saturn’s Enceladus, which is thought to have an underground sea of water. But when measuring the properties of an ice-methanol system his findings were ‘entirely unexpected’ – the ice expanded with increasing pressure and shrank with heating.
  • Thirty minute flu gene detector – Scientists in Japan have developed a portable influenza testing kit with better accuracy than current methods, which can give a result in 30 minutes. Scientists from the Tokyo Medical and Dental University and Sony Corporation made a nucleic acid amplification testing (NAT) device that not only gives information on the sample’s genetic make up to identify the flu pathogen type, but is also more than 90 per cent accurate. The device works by detecting the genes of the influenza virus pathogen – an organism that causes the disease – which gives information about the virus subtype and drug resistance.
  • Enzyme logic biosensor for security surveillance – Scientists in the US have made a system that rapidly detects both explosives and nerve agents, providing a simple yes-no response. The technique could replace two time-consuming tests that are currently used to assess these threats. Joseph Wang and colleagues from the University of California, San Diego, combined their expertise in threat detection and electrochemical biosensors with the biocomputing experience of Evgeny Katz from Clarkson University, Potsdam, NY. The team produced an enzyme-based logic gate with the ability to simultaneously detect both nitroaromatic explosives and organophosphate nerve agents.
  • Breakthrough for bacterial hydrogen production – Scientists in China have developed a device that can produce hydrogen from organic materials using bacteria at temperatures below 25 degrees Celsius.
  • Fighting back against antibiotic resistant bacteria – Scientists in Japan have revealed how vancomycin dimers are effective against vancomycin-resistant bacteria. Vancomycin, a glycopeptide antibiotic, is used to treat bacterial infections in cases when other antibiotics are ineffective. However, the development of vancomycin resistant enterococci (VRE) and Staphylococcus aureus means that researchers are turning to different forms of vancomycin to improve its efficacy.
  • Waking up to new possibilities in imaging – UK researchers have used a cage-like molecule to smuggle metal ions into cells, which could improve medical imaging.
  • Acne-Fighting Boron Compounds, Anacor, and Medicis – Biopharmaceutical company Anacor have announced a partnership with Medicis to discover and develop small molecules to fight acne.
  • Cancer breakthrough to prevent heart failure and increase survival rates – A breakthrough by scientists at Queen’s University Belfast could help reduce heart failure in cancer patients around the world, and ultimately increase survival rates.
  • Omega 3’s — more evidence for their benefit – Omega-3 fatty acids –fats commonly found in fish oil – were shown several years ago to prevent retinopathy, a major form of blindness, in a mouse model of the disease. A follow-up study, from the same research team at Children’s Hospital Boston, now reveals exactly how omega-3’s provide protection, and provides reassurance that widely used COX-inhibiting drugs like aspirin and NSAIDs don’t negate their benefit. The findings, published in the February 9th issue of Science Translational Medicine, also suggest that omega-3’s may be beneficial in diabetes.
  • Raman imaging gives new hope for cancer diagnosis – Combining two Raman spectroscopic imaging techniques could offer a valuable tool for future disease diagnosis, say UK scientists.

Another high yielding news day from Robert Slinn for Reactive Reports in his regular column: Slinn Pickings.