Combating several human pathogens, including some biological warfare agents, may one day become a bit easier thanks to research reported by a University of Iowa chemist and his colleagues in the April 16 issue of the journal Nature.
Amnon Kohen, associate professor of chemistry in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said that the study indicated a new mechanism by which certain organisms manufacture the DNA base thymidylate. This new mechanism is so very different from the way humans synthesize this base that drugs targeting this biosynthetic path in the pathogens are unlikely to affect the human path, thus resulting in very reduced side effects or no side effects at all.
The club moss Lycopodium serratum is a creeping, flowerless plant purportedly used to treat a wide variety of ailments. It contains a brew of alkaloids that have attracted scientific and medical interest because of the use of the moss in homeopathy. However, the plant makes many of these compounds in extremely low amounts, hindering efforts to test their therapeutic value.
That is no longer a problem for what is arguably the most complex of these alkaloids, a compound called Serratezomine A: an alkaloid that could have anti-cancer properties and may combat memory loss. A team of synthetic chemists at Vanderbilt University reported in the Journal of the American Chemical Society that they have created an efficient way to make this molecule from scratch.
Scientists have completed the first study of microbes that live within the plumbing of deep-sea mud volcanoes in the Gulf of Mexico, where conditions may resemble those in extraterrestrial environments and early Earth. The study was conducted in an area where clusters of seafloor vents spew mud, oil, brine and gases that support food chains independently of the Sun.
And it's about time. Only about five percent of the world's oceans have been explored but the dark side of the moon has been throughly mapped.
Specialized Microbes Thrive in Harsh Environments
Researchers at Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) have developed an entirely new method for starting chemical reactions. For the first time they used mechanical forces to control catalytic activity – one of the most fundamental concepts in chemistry. This allowed them to initiate chemical reactions with mechanical force. This discovery paves the way to developing materials capable of repairing themselves under the influence of mechanical tension. The results of their research were published in Nature Chemistry.
Dr. Aleem Gangjee, Distinguished Professor of Medicinal Chemistry at Duquesne University’s Mylan School of Pharmacy, and his team of collaborators continue to test a compound that appears not only to prevent cancer tumors from developing but to eliminate already-existing tumors.
In 2008, tests of a new compound developed by Gangjee showed that it stifled the growth of cancer tumors, which were composed of KB tumor cells, in mice. An unexpected result also showed that the compound shrunk and eventually eliminated cancer tumors in another group of mice, which remained tumor-free for 60 days.
“What we’re seeing here is a compound that can treat early- and late-stage cancer,” Gangjee said. “There are many ramifications to that.”
Chemists at the University of Illinois have created a simple and inexpensive molecular technique that replaces an expensive atomic force microscope for studying what happens to small molecules when they are stretched or compressed.
The researchers use stiff stilbene, a small, inert structure, as a molecular force probe to generate well-defined forces on various molecules, atom by atom.
"By pulling on different pairs of atoms, we can explore what happens when we stretch a molecule in different ways," said chemistry professor Roman Boulatov. "That information tells us a lot about the properties of fleeting structures called transition states that govern how, and how fast, chemical transformations occur."
Physicists at Michigan Technological University have filled in some longtime blank spaces on the periodic table, calculating electron affinities of the lanthanides, a series of 15 elements known as rare earths.
"Electron affinity" is the amount of energy required to detach an electron from an anion, or negative ion (an atom with an extra electron orbiting around its nucleus). Elements with low electron affinities (like iron) give up that extra electron easily. Elements with high electron affinities (like chlorine) do not.
"I remember learning about electron affinities in 10th grade chemistry," said Research Associate Steven O'Malley. "When I began working as a grad student in atomic physics, I was surprised to learn that many of them were still unknown."
The most abundant material on Earth exhibits some unusual chemical properties when placed under extreme conditions.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientists have shown that water, in hot dense environments, plays an unexpected role in catalyzing complex explosive reactions. A catalyst is a compound that speeds chemical reactions without being consumed. Platinum and enzymes are common catalysts. But water rarely, if ever, acts as a catalyst under ordinary conditions.
Detonations of high explosives made up of oxygen and hydrogen produce water at thousands of degrees Kelvin and up to 100,000 atmospheres of pressure, similar to conditions in the interiors of giant planets.
The viscosity, or 'gloopiness', of different parts of cancer cells increases dramatically when they are blasted with light-activated cancer drugs, according to new images that provide fundamental insights into how cancer cells die, published in Nature Chemistry
The images reveal the physical changes that occur inside cancer cells whilst they are dying as a result of Photodynamic Therapy (PDT). This cancer treatment uses light to activate a drug that creates a short-lived toxic type of oxygen, called singlet oxygen, which kills cancerous cells.
That guy who gets in the elevator reeking of Drakkar Noir is nothing new - the Ancient Egyptians cherished their fragrant scents, too. In a new part of its permanent exhibition, Bonn University's Egyptian Museum has on display a particularly well preserved example of that.
Screening this 3,500-year-old flacon with a computer tomograph, scientists at the university detected the desiccated residues of a fluid, which they now want to submit to further analysis. They might even succeed in reconstructing this scent.