Chemistry

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 today.

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.
What had once been impossible has now been shown to be possible – an alloy between two incompatible elements.

A research team led by Professor H.K. Mao from Carnegie Institution of Washington and Professor Rajeev Ahuja from UU have used high pressure experiments and theoretical calculations to study the behavior of Ce3Al under high pressure.

"We were surprised to find that Cerium and Aluminium formed a so called substitutional alloy under high pressure. Forming these alloys has been limited to elements close in atomic radii and electronegativity up until now", sais Professor Rajeev Ahuja of Uppsala University.
An international team of researchers has discovered a new chemical compound that consists of a single element―boron. Chemical compounds are conventionally defined as substances consist of two or more elements, but the researchers found that a high pressure and temperature pure boron can assume two distinct forms that bond together to create a novel 'compound' called boron boride.
It would almost be worth becoming a biochemist to work here.  Almost.
Anne Cattrell's "Flock of Birds" (Photo by K. Collie in Nature 457, 541 )The new biochemistry laboratory at Oxford is designed to encourage collaboration and inspire.  Click on the picture above to see a 360 view.
To prolong the shelf life of foods, manufacturers often add hydrogen to natural oils, a process called hydrogenation. But hydrogenation also results in the production of trans fats, which have adverse health effects such as raising bad cholesterol and increasing the risk for coronary heart diseases.   Trans fats are found in vegetable shortenings, some margarines, crackers, cookies and snacks. Health authorities worldwide recommend that people reduce their consumption of trans fats.

UC Riverside chemists have designed a catalyst  (a substance that accelerates a chemical reaction) that allows hydrogenated oils to be made while minimizing the production of trans fats.
Stradivarius and his violins are so eponymous in our culture that they have become a benchmark for quality - and the mystery of why they sound so good has baffled competitors for centuries.   After 33 years of work, a Texas A&M University professor is confident he knows the secret - chemistry.
The future of the nanotechnology field depends on our ability to reliably and reproducibly assemble nanoparticles into 3D structures we can use to develop new technologies. According to Hao Yan and Yan Liu at Arizona State University, the greatest challenges in this burgeoning field include control over nanoscale 3D structure and imaging these tiny materials.

"The ability to build predicted structures and provide experimental feedback to current theories is critical to the nanotechnology field," said Yan.

One approach to production of nanoscale architecture is creation of nanoparticles that assemble themselves into the desired structure. DNA molecules are an elegant biological example of small particles that self-assemble to form higher order 3D structures.

You may remember the melamine scandal where in September this year over a thousand babies were made ill and four died as a result of producers putting melamine, or worse, melamine scrap  into milk to increase its apparent protein content as determined by standard analytical methods (basically nitrogen determination.)

Chemistry is wonderful. Chemistry now has to play more than ever an interdisciplinary role for new visions. Here are two wonderful studies that I caught singing to me in 2008. Both contain elegant science that promises sheer greatness. Each rocks in a different manner by means of chemistry.



The first one is in polymer chemistry, a dear interest of mine, for molecules that can rotate and slide. The second, an Inventors Hall of Fame winner, solves living-cell networks to cure the sick.