In a previous issue, we discussed early work on Escherichia coli as a proof of principle for understanding how bacterial resistance to antibiotics can emerge. Now, Edward Yu’s team at Iowa State University have taken another step forward in our understanding of this pressing issue by using crystallography to reveal the structure of a protein regulator that controls the expression of the multidrug efflux pump in Mycobacterium tuberculosis.
- An NMR machine in a fume hood – Scientists in Germany have demonstrated a portable nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectrometer that's small enough to be placed in a fume cupboard to monitor the progress of a reaction in situ.
- Scientists a step closer to understanding ‘natural antifreeze’ molecules – Scientists have made an important step forward in their understanding of cryoprotectants – compounds that act as natural 'antifreeze' to protect drugs, food and tissues stored at sub-zero temperatures.
- Chemist solves riddle of killer diseases – Using the tools of synthetic chemistry, a Copenhagen chemist has copied the endotoxin of bacteria-causing diseases such as anthrax. This paves the way for new and efficient antibiotics.
- Blue light switches genes on – Scientists reveal a technique that uses light to flip on individual genes in a cell.
- A Beautiful Web of Poison Extends A New Strand – A talk about the rough-skinned newt, the most ridiculously poisonous animal in America.
Robert Slinn, chemist and writer, profers a fix of five fine chemical finds for his regular chemistry news column on Reactive Reports
- Opalinus Clay as a potential host rock for nuclear waste repositories – Scientists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU, Germany) have studied natural claystone in the laboratory for more than four years in order to determine how the radioactive elements plutonium and neptunium react with this rock.
- Chemist discovers shortcut for processing drugs – A prolific University of Missouri chemist has discovered a quicker and easier method for pharmaceutical companies to make certain drugs.
- Sunlight can influence the breakdown of medicines in the body – A study from the Swedish medical university Karolinska Institutet has shown that the body's ability to break down medicines may be closely related to exposure to sunlight, and thus may vary with the seasons. The findings offer a completely new model to explain individual differences in the effects of drugs, and how the surroundings can influence the body's ability to deal with toxins.
- Synthetic biology: TUM researchers develop novel kind of fluorescent protein – Since the 1990s a green fluorescent protein known as GFP has been used in research labs worldwide. Protein designers at Technische Universitaet Muenchen have now taken it a step further: They have managed to incorporate a synthetic amino acid into the natural GFP and thus to create a new kind of chimeric fluorescent bio-molecule by means of synthetic biology. By exploiting a special physical effect, the fluorescent protein glows in turquoise and displays unmatched properties.
- New molecular robot can be programmed to follow instructions – Scientists have developed a programmable "molecular robot" — a sub-microscopic molecular machine made of synthetic DNA that moves between track locations separated by 6nm. The robot, a short strand of DNA, follows instructions programmed into a set of fuel molecules determining its destination, for example, to turn left or right at a junction in the track. The report, which represents a step toward futuristic nanomachines and nanofactories, appears in ACS's Nano Letters.
- Discovery of a biochemical basis for broccoli’s cancer-fighting ability – Scientists are reporting discovery of a potential biochemical basis for the apparent cancer-fighting ability of broccoli and its veggie cousins. They found for the first time that certain substances in the vegetables appear to target and block a defective gene associated with cancer. Their report, which could lead to new strategies for preventing and treating cancer, appears in ACS' Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.
- Dark-Colored Sodas May Have Toxic Backwash, Or Not – The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has made a claim that “caramel coloring” used to improve the eye appeal of colas and other dark-colored soft drinks contains the carcinogenic by-products 2-methylimidazole and 4-methylimidazole (shown) and thus might be a cause of thousands of cancers in the U.S. The nonprofit consumer advocacy organization made its announcement via a regulatory petition filed with the Food & Drug Administration on Feb. 16.
- Measuring cells’ oxygen levels with PEBBLEs – Scientists in Germany have developed a strategy to visualise oxygen concentrations in cells to better understand its role in biological reactions such as metabolism.
- Chemical mystery of antifungal compound solved – US researchers have applied synthetic organic chemistry to crack a mystery that has baffled scientists for more than 50 years: how the powerful, naturally occurring antifungal compound amphotericin B interacts with sterols in cell membranes.<br />
The work, carried out by Martin Burke's group at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, could open the way to reducing amphotericin's toxic side effects, and to developing new drugs to replace faulty proteins in human cells – as a kind of molecular prosthesis.
- World’s ‘coolest’ physics study – The interior of a powerful machine newly installed at The University of Western Australia is not only the coldest place in the State, it is colder by far than anywhere in Antarctica or even in outer space.
The latest issue of “Slinn Pickings”. Chemistry news handpicked by chemist and writer Robert Slinn, who distils the chemical web in his regular guest blog posts for Reactive Reports.
- Venom of marine snails provide new drugs – Baldomero Olivera studies chemical compounds found in the venoms of marine cone snails, a potential source of powerful, yet safe and effective drugs. He will discuss the development of Prialt – an FDA-approved drug for intractable, chronic pain – and the potential for new drugs.
- Oxygen levels in the air do not limit plant productivity – There have been concerns that present oxygen levels may limit plant productivity. Swedish researchers at Umea University show that this is not the case in a new study published in the journal The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The results are encouraging since they demonstrate that plans for future biomass and solar fuels production are not limited by this effect.
- Engineering atomic interfaces for new electronics – A multi-institutional team has made fundamental discoveries at the border regions, called interfaces, between oxide materials. Led by University of Wisconsin-Madison materials science and engineering professor Chang-Beom Eom, the team has discovered how to manipulate electrons oxide interfaces by inserting a single layer of atoms.
- Scientists discover agave’s tremendous potential as new bioenergy feedstock – An article in the current issue of Global Change Biology Bioenergy reviews the suitability of Agave as a bioenergy feedstock that can sustain high productivity in spite of poor soil and stressful climatic conditions accompanying climate change.
- The Green Machine: Algae Clean Wastewater, Convert to Biodiesel – Researchers at RIT are developing biodiesel from microalgae grown in wastewater. The project is doubly "green" because algae consume nitrates and phosphates and reduce bacteria and toxins in the water. The end result: clean wastewater and stock for a promising biofuel.
- Antibody seeks cancer source – Deakin University medical scientists have created the world’s first cancer stem cell-targeting chemical missile, placing them a step closer to creating a medical ‘smart bomb’ that would seek out and eradicate the root of cancer cells.
- Photoinduced hydrogen nanogenerators made of nanogels – Researchers in Japan have proposed a novel photochemical application toward artificial photosynthesis using nanogels as nanogenerators, which evolve hydrogen gas from the internal water induced by irradiation with visible light. Actually, these nanogel systems generate hydrogen gas more efficiently than conventional solution systems.
- Residual dipolar couplings unveil structure of small molecules – Chemists at the Technische Universitaet Muenchen and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology introduced a new method for identifying chemical compounds.
- To thicken up runny liquids, add fluid – Adding a small amount of an immiscible fluid to a suspension – solid particles dispersed in a fluid – tunes the consistency of the suspension. The method could be used to create low-calorie foods, say the researchers in Germany.
- Standardising nanomaterials – The European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) has launched the world's first reference repository for nanomaterials, which will be used for safety assessment testing by national and international standardisation bodies.
Another high yielding news day from Robert Slinn for Reactive Reports in his regular column: Slinn Pickings.
- Sterility in frogs caused by environmental pharmaceutical progestogens – Frogs appear to be very sensitive to progestogens, a kind of pharmaceutical that is released into the environment. Female tadpoles that swim in water containing a specific progestogen, levonorgestrel, are subject to abnormal ovarian and oviduct development, resulting in adult sterility.
- Inhaling ‘Red Mud Disaster’ dust may not be as harmful to health as feared – Scientists in Hungary are reporting that the potential health effects of last October’s Red Mud Disaster, one of the worst environmental accidents in Europe, may be less dangerous than previously feared.
- First identification of endocrine disruptors in algae blooms – Scientists are reporting for the first time that previously unrecognized substances released by algae blooms have the potential to act as endocrine disruptors, which can interfere with the normal activity of reproductive hormones. The effect is not caused by microcystin toxins, long recognized as potentially harmful to humans and aquatic animals, but as yet unidentified substances. As a result, the scientists are calling for a revision of environmental monitoring programs to watch for these new substances.
- Discovery of blood proteins that are red flags for ectopic pregnancy – A long, urgent search for proteins in the blood of pregnant women that could be used in early diagnosis of ectopic pregnancy has resulted in discovery of biomarkers that seem to be specific enough to begin testing in clinical trials, scientists are reporting in a new study in ACS’s Journal of Proteome Research.
- Killer paper for next-generation food packaging – Scientists are reporting development and successful lab tests of “killer paper,” a material intended for use as a new food packaging material that helps preserve foods by fighting the bacteria that cause spoilage. The paper, described in ACS’s journal, Langmuir, contains a coating of silver nanoparticles, which are powerful anti-bacterial agents.
- New material provides 25 percent greater thermoelectric conversion efficiency – Automobiles, military vehicles, even large-scale power generating facilities may someday operate far more efficiently thanks to a new alloy developed at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory.
- Pivot Points – Criminal Chemists – Unfortunately, as in any discipline, criminal chemists do exist and are increasingly trawling the scientific literature for inspiration and legal workarounds.
- Monitoring morphological changes during electrodeposition of material with AFM – The copper Damascene electrodeposition is a key fabrication process, currently used in state-of-the-art, multilevel copper metallization of microelectronic interconnects that range from transistor to circuit board length scale. This report effectively demonstrates the ability of the FlexAFM to monitor morphological changes during electrodeposition of material on an electrode surface.
- Zinc can ease cold symptoms – study – Zinc supplements can reduce the severity and duration of common cold symptoms, a study has found.
- Remote powered lab on a chip – A team of US scientists has developed the first lab on a chip device to be powered remotely. Wen Qiao at the University of California, San Diego, made a microfluidic chip that can be powered with a commercially available radio frequency transmitter for electrophoresis experiments.
Another high yielding news day from Robert Slinn for Reactive Reports in his regular column: Slinn Pickings.
- Atom-thick sheets unlock future technologies – A new way of splitting layered materials, similar to graphite, into sheets of material just one atom thick could lead to revolutionary new electronic and energy storage technologies.
- ‘Cornell dots’ that light up cancer cells go into clinical trials – “Cornell Dots” — brightly glowing nanoparticles — may soon be used to light up cancer cells to aid in diagnosing and treating cancer.
- Neutron analysis reveals ‘two doors down’ superconductivity link – Neutron scattering analysis of two families of iron-based materials suggests that the magnetic interactions thought responsible for high-temperature superconductivity may lie “two doors down”: The key magnetic exchange pairings occur in a next-nearest-neighbor ordering of atoms, rather than adjacent atoms.
- Bound Neutrons Pave Way to Free Ones – A study of bound protons and neutrons conducted at the Department of Energy’s Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility has allowed scientists, for the first time, to extract information through experimentation about the internal structure of free neutrons, without the assistance of a theoretical model.
- Turning bacteria against themselves – Bacteria often attack with toxins designed to hijack or even kill host cells. To avoid self-destruction, bacteria have ways of protecting themselves from their own toxins. Now, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have described one of these protective mechanisms, potentially paving the way for new classes of antibiotics that cause the bacteria’s toxins to turn on themselves.
- Turning off stress – Weizmann Institute scientists reveal the actions of a family of proteins that “turn off” the stress response. Their findings could be relevant to PTSD, anorexia, anxiety disorders and depression.
- New data obtained on liposomes employed in drug encapsulation and gene therapies – University of Granada scientists and the Spanish Higher Institute for Scientific Research (CSIC) have made significant progress in understanding phospholipid vesicles , which are colloidal systems arising considerable interest from the pharmaceutical, cosmetic and food industry.
- Tool makes search for Martian life easier – Finding life on Mars could get easier with a creative adaption to a common analytical tool that can be installed directly on the robotic arm of a space rover.
- Is a cure for blindness within sight? – With a new enzymatic discovery, scientists are understanding the cause of an untreatable eye disease and hope to test breakthrough therapies within a year.
- Neurotoxin detection using brain nanotubes – Korean researchers have made a neurotoxin detector system based on nanomaterials from the brain itself.<br />
Diphenylanaline (FF), a dipeptide, is the simplest building block that makes up the beta-amyloid of Alzheimer’s disease, but FF dimers can also self-assemble into nanotubes. Chan Beum Park’s team at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology in Daejeon, Korea, has used these nanotubes to give an optical signal in the presence of phosphate based neurotoxin paraoxon
Robert Slinn refluxes the chemistry news and extracts a goodly yield for Reactive Reports in his regular column: Slinn Pickings.