Slinn Pickings – more chem news from Robert

Renowned chemist Robert Slinn distils the latest from the world of chemistry

  • ‘A stark warning:’ Smoking causes genetic damage within minutes after inhaling – In research described as "a stark warning" to those tempted to start smoking, scientists are reporting that cigarette smoke begins to cause genetic damage within minutes — not years — after inhalation into the lungs. Their report, the first human study to detail the way certain substances in tobacco cause DNA damage linked to cancer, appears in Chemical Research in Toxicology, one of 38 peer-reviewed scientific journals published by the American Chemical Society.
  • Adrenaline receptor ‘frozen in action’ by VIB researchers – Discovery means breakthrough for the development of new drugs based on GPCR’s – Adrenaline, the hormone that prepares our body to fight or flight, acts on a hyperdynamic receptor. This molecule switches so fast between several positions, that it was impossible to image it. Until now. Scientists, including Jan Steyaert of VIB and the Vrije Universiteit Brussel in Belgium, and colleagues from Stanford University in the US, have "frozen the molecule in action" using XaperonesTM, tiny, stable antibodies developed by the Brussels scientists. The Xaperones™ bind like a key to a lock, holding the adrenaline receptor in one position — the on position. After binding the adrenaline receptor to the Xaperone™, the researchers could use X-ray crystallography techniques to determine its structure. The results are published in Nature.
  • Learn to love uncertainty and failure, say leading thinkers – Being comfortable with uncertainty, knowing the limits of what science can tell us, and understanding the worth of failure are all valuable tools that would improve people's lives, according to some of the world's leading thinkers.
  • Heavy metals and pesticides threaten a Huelva wetland – The Estero de Domingo Rubio wetland, located near the Marismas del Odiel Natural Area in the Huelva estuary, is regionally, nationally and internationally protected thanks to its ecological value. However, its tributary rivers and the Ría de Huelva estuary pump manmade pollutants into it, which could affect its water quality and ecosystem.
  • Why coffee protects against diabetes – Coffee, that morning elixir, may give us an early jump-start to the day, but numerous studies have shown that it also may be protective against type 2 diabetes. Yet no one has really understood why. Now, researchers at UCLA have discovered a possible molecular mechanism behind coffee's protective effect.
  • Are You a Famous Scientist? – You've heard of Charles Darwin, of course. But have you heard of evolutionary biologist Ray Lankester? How about physicist Balfour Stewart? Probably not. And yet they were very famous scientists in their day. If one could somehow capture the evolving fame of these three men through time, how would they compare? Now, using a method described today in Science, researchers show that fame can be rigorously measured across history. On average since they each arrived on the scene, Ray Lankester and Balfour Stewart have been 17.5% and 12.4% as famous as Darwin, respectively. See for yourself on our Interactive Science Hall of Fame.