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Sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and savory were the five taste sensations you probably learned in school but a group of chemists in Philadelphia say a new one should be added — "calcium."

In a report today at the 236th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society, scientist Michael G. Tordoff, Ph.D., and colleagues with the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia described research they say demonstrates that a taste for calcium exists in mice. With mice and humans sharing many of the same genes, the findings suggest that people also may have such a taste, which could have a range of practical applications.


University of Texas Medical School Assistant Professor C.S. Raman and colleagues say they have been able to manipulate flavor enzymes found in a popular plant model, Arabidopsis thaliana, by genetic means. The enzymes—allene oxide synthase (AOS) and hydroperoxide lyase (HPL)—produce jasmonate (responsible for the unique scent of jasmine flowers) and green leaf volatiles (GLV) respectively. GLVs confer characteristic aromas to fruits and vegetables.

That means not only that you could soon be enjoying a lemony watermelon or a strawberry-flavored banana but that fine tuning those flavor enzymes in fruits and vegetables could lead to environmentally-friendly pest control.

The structure of gold nanoparticles has been largely unknown for over a decade. A current study helps to understand the stability, composition as well as electronic, chemical and optical properties of the particles.

The research group, led by Professor Hannu Häkkinen of the Nanoscience Centre of the University of Jyväskylä, says the results of the study can be utilized in medicine, biomolecule research and nanoelectronics. With the help of gold nanoparticles it is, for instance, possible to destroy cancer cells.

The particles are able to attach themselves to cancer cells due to a biologically compatible molecular overlayer. With the help of laser it is possible to heat the particles so much that the attached cancer cells die. Particles can also be used as a tracer when looking at biomolecules with an electron microscope. Nanoelectronics, for its part, can use gold nanoparticles as components in electrical circuits.

Our skin has an 'odor profile' and that knowledge may open doors to early and noninvasive skin cancer detection and diagnosis, say researchers at the Monell Center, who used odors from skin to identify basal cell carcinoma, the most common form of skin cancer.

Human skin produces numerous airborne chemical molecules known as volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, many of which are odorous. In the study presented at the ACS, the researchers obtained VOC profiles from basal cell carcinoma sites in 11 patients and compared them to profiles from similar skin sites in 11 healthy controls.

The researchers sampled air above basal cell tumors and found a different profile of chemical compounds compared to skin located at the same sites in healthy control subjects.

Rabies, an infection of the nervous system, transmitted by animal bites, causes over 50,000 deaths each year around the world.

A new Chinese study has reported a dramatic spike in rabies infections. The research in BMC Infectious Diseases shows that in some provinces of China the number of human rabies cases has jumped dramatically since the new millennium.

Jia-Hai Lu, from the School of Public Health at Sun Yat-Sen University, China, led a team of researchers who studied the rabies trend in China between 1990 and 2007. Lu describes how things have changed in the last eight years “In China, human rabies was largely under control during the years 1990-1996, via nation-wide rabies vaccination programs. Since the end of the century, however, cases of human rabies have jumped high enough to trigger a warning sign for control and prevention.”

A study by researchers at the Joslin Diabetes Center has shown that a protein known for its role in inducing bone growth can also help promote the development of brown fat, a "good" fat that helps in the expenditure of energy and plays a role in fighting obesity.

Obesity is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes and is closely linked to the metabolic syndrome, a collection of medical problems associated with insulin resistance that can lead to an increased risk of atherosclerosis, the buildup of plaque in coronary arteries that leads to heart attack and stroke.