Slinn Pickings – chemistry news

  • Zooming in on the weapons of Salmonella – Bacteria like salmonellae infect their host cells by needle-shaped extensions which they create in large numbers during an attack. A group of Vienna-based scientists headed by Thomas Marlovits employed recently developed methods of cryo-electron microscopy and have been able to clarify the structure of this infection apparatus on the near-atomic scale. The exact knowledge of the needles' building plan may help to develop substances that interfere with its function and thus prevent infection.
  • New role for an old molecule: protecting the brain from epileptic seizures – The aftermath of an epileptic seizure has some mysterious characters, including the molecule putrescine. In new research on tadpoles, which share similar brain chemistry with humans, putrescine emerges as a calming influence that conveys resistance to subsequent seizures. In the long run, the discovery could aid in developing drugs for young children with epilepsy.
  • Accurate measurement of radioactive thoron possible at last – Annette Rottger and her scientific team managed to do something that was previously thought to be impossible: they developed a primary standard for the measurement of short-lived radioactive thoron.
  • Berkeley Lab Researchers Illuminate Laminin’s Role in Cancer Formation – Berkeley Lab researchers, led by cancer authority Mina Bissell, have shown how the protein laminin, long thought to provide only structural support in the microenvironment of breast and other epithelial tissue, can play a leading role in the development of cancer.
  • Rockefeller Scientists discover new compound that rids cells of Alzheimer protein debris – If you can't stop the beta-amyloid protein plaques from forming in Alzheimer's disease patients, then maybe you can help the body rid itself of them instead. At least that's what scientists from New York were hoping for when they found a drug candidate to do just that. Their work appears in a research report online in the FASEB Journal.
  • Psoriasis medication rises hope in the fight against Multiple Sclerosis – Fumaric acid salts have been in use against severe psoriasis for a long time. About ten years ago, researchers in Bochum speculated that they may also have a favourable effect on Multiple Sclerosis (MS) as a result of their TH2 polarizing mechanisms. In parallel to phase III studies, research is actively searching for the precise effective mechanisms. This has now been achieved by a neuroimmunological group at Bochum: fumaric acid salts detoxify radicals released during the inflammation process. In this way, they protect nerve and glial cells.
  • Radical dimers held together in molecular flask – Researchers in the US have succeeded in trapping pairs of unstable radicals of tetrathiafulvalene (TTF), a compound with potentially useful semiconducting properties. They used a catenane 'molecular flask', incorporating interlocking ring components, to restrain two TTF radicals in close proximity. This system opens a new way to investigate interactions between radicals, something that has so far proved difficult.
  • Breathe out for personalised medicine – Renato Zenobi at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich and co-workers have developed a method to measure valproic acid metabolite levels in breath using electrospray mass-spectrometry.
  • Molecules that walk, hop and jump – 'Two legged' molecules walk, hop and fly across a receptor surface, according to researchers in the Netherlands and Ireland. The findings could help us understand how viruses and bacteria interact with cell membranes, they say.
  • Sensitive TB diagnosis using sugar – For the first time, tuberculosis can be detected and tracked through the body, using a simple sugar based molecule. Using a sugar that is found in tuberculosis but not humans, Clifton Barry of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease in Bethesda, and Ben Davis from the University of Oxford, UK, have created the first probe to selectively label live tuberculosis (TB).

Robert Slinn scours the web for the latest chemistry news for Reactive Reports.

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