Author agrannas

Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover … Judge by Its Smell

OldBooksA recently published article in the journal Analytical Chemistry discusses the distinct “aroma” produced by old books and aims to better describe – at the molecular level – that musty smell you encounter in the back rooms of libraries.  Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are responsible for the odor … hundreds of them.  The exact combination of VOCs results from degradation pathways that are dependent on the original material composition – including the paper source, applied media (e.g. inks) and binding.  The exact composition of the off-gassing VOCs can hold valuable information regarding the condition of the materials and possible ways to aid in preservation.  Unfortunately, most testing methods used to date involve destructive sampling techniques.  The authors of this paper have devised a new approach that involves non-destructive head-space sampling of the emitted VOCs, combined with some advanced statistical analyses (a method termed “material degradomics” … a twist on more popular terms like proteomics or metabolomics).  Although hundreds of potential VOCs can be emitted, the authors focused in on 15 that can be used as markers to track the degradation of paper and help optimize its preservation.  Some of these markers include compounds such as benzaldehyde, nonanal, furfural, acetic acid, hexadecane, and 2-ethylhexanol (among others).

Now we can have a whole new appreciation for those leather-bound books and libraries that smell of rich mahogany (and VOCs)…

Anal. Chem., 2009, 81 (20), pp 8617–8622, DOI: 10.1021/ac9016049.

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Maybe you should rethink that all-nighter?

A new study published in Science hints at a connection between sleep (or lack thereof) and the development of Alzheimer’s disease.  In both mice and humans, amyloid-beta peptide levels rose during waking hours, but then fell again upon sleep.  Amyloid-beta plaques (like those found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients) formed more readily in sleep-deprived mice.  Although certainly not a smoking gun, this research may indicate poor sleep patterns are a risk factor for development of Alzheimer’s disease.

…I think I’ll turn in early tonight…

[via Science/AAAS]

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