Top ten chemical picks: Slinn Pickings

  • Math may help calculate way to find new drugs for diseases – Using mathematical concepts, Princeton researchers have developed a method of discovering new drugs for a range of diseases by calculating which physical properties of biological molecules may predict their effectiveness as medicines.
  • A Second Pathway for Antidepressants – Berkeley Lab researchers developed a unique cell-based fluorescent assay that enabled them to identify a means by which fluoxetine, the active ingredient in Prozac, suppresses the activity of the TREK1 potassium channel. TREK1 could be an important new target for antidepressant drugs.
  • New explanation for heart-healthy benefits of chocolate – In time for the chocolate-giving and chocolate-eating fest on Valentine's Day, scientists are reporting discovery of how this treat boosts the body's production of the "good" form of cholesterol that protects against heart disease. Polyphenols in chocolate rev up the activity of certain proteins, including proteins that attach to the genetic material DNA in ways that boost "good" cholesterol levels.
  • Save messengers – Modified mRNAs open up new therapeutic possibilities – Defects in the genome are the cause of many diseases. Gene therapy – direct replacement of mutant genes by intact DNA copies – offers a means of correcting such defects. Now a research team based at the Medical Center of the University of Munich, and led by Privatdozent Dr. Carsten Rudolph, has taken a new approach that avoids DNA delivery. The team shows for the first time that chemical modification of mRNAs (the metabolically active molecules derived from genomic DNA that programs protein synthesis) provides a promising alternative to DNA-based procedures.
  • The brain knows what the nose smells, but how? – Mice know fear. And they know to fear the scent of a predator. But how do their brains quickly figure out with a sniff that a cat is nearby?
  • Siemens prepares to build molten-salt power plant – Siemens is to build a test power plant that will operate with molten salt as the heat-transfer medium.
  • Engineers grow nanolasers on silicon, pave way for on-chip photonics – Engineers at the University of California, Berkeley, have found a way to grow nanolasers directly onto a silicon surface, an achievement that could lead to a new class of faster, more efficient microprocessors, as well as to powerful biochemical sensors that use optoelectronic chips.
  • Using mining by-products to reduce algal blooms – CSIRO research has shown that some mining by-products can be effective in preventing nutrients from entering river systems, thereby reducing the potential for algal blooms.
  • Clay-armored bubbles may have formed first protocells – A team of applied physicists at Harvard's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), Princeton, and Brandeis have demonstrated the formation of semipermeable vesicles from inorganic clay. The research shows that clay vesicles provide an ideal container for the compartmentalization of complex organic molecules.
  • Targeting memory loss – A new treatment for Alzheimer's disease has been developed by Canadian and US scientists. Chris Orvig at the University of British Columbia, Canada, and colleagues incorporated a thioflavin dye molecule with pyridinones. The dye is used as a marker for detecting amyloid protein deposits in tissues – a sign of neurodegenerative disease – and pyridinones cross the blood-brain barrier and trap the metal ions that cause the Alzheimer's disease

Robert Slinn refluxes the chemistry news and extracts a goodly yield for Reactive Reports in his regular column: Slinn Pickings.