Tag archive for cool

MotW 15: Promising Ruthenium Complexes as Anticancer Drugs

Organoruthenium complexes, of the form of [(η6-arene)RuII(YZ)X]+ (Inorg. Chem., 2008, 47, 11470–11486, DOI: 10.1021/ic801361m), are increasingly being studied for use in medicine. The arene is usually a phenyl derivative, YZ is usually a chelating ligand, and X is usually a halide, such as Cl. This type of compound has been studied to be used against cancer. Using the exmple with x=Cl, the Ru-Cl bond can be hydrolyzed and then act as a binding site for DNA, while the arene is a hydrophobic site of the complex, which protects the RuII from oxidizing to RuIII. The chelating ligand provides stability and as the size of the arene increases, the cytotoxicity to the cancer cells increases.

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The complex pictured, [(η6-Tha)Ru(bipy(OH)O)(9-EtG-N7)][PF6], contains the bipy(OH)O chelating ligand, and showed a large increase in the cytotoxicity toward human ovarian and human lung cancer cells. The tetrahydroanthracene (tha) “faces” protect the RuII against oxidation. Examining the crystal structures shows CH/π interactions between the bipyridine ligand and tetrahydroanthracene are important for stabilizing the interaction between [(η6-Tha)Ru(bipy(OH)O)(9-EtG-N7)][PF6] and proteins. Although this complex was not tested for activity against ovarian and lung cancer cell lines, A2780 and A549 respectively, other complexes with the tetrahydroanthracene (tha) moity were tested and proved to be most active against the ovarian cancer cell line. Ruthenium complexes such as [(η6-Tha)Ru(bipy(OH)O)(9-EtG-N7)][PF6] have been shown to mimic iron binding in the human body and the ligand, bipy(OH)O, helps the complex bind to DNA in ways that another antitumor compound, cisplatin, cannot. This shows extreme promise as a therapeutic as cisplatin tumor toxicity is not as high with some types of tumors.

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First images of atomic orbitals

images of the atomic orbitals of a carbon atom

This comes soon after IBM researchers imaged a single molecule using AFM.

To create these images, the researchers used a field-emission electron microscope, or FEEM. They placed a rigid chain of carbon atoms, just tens of atoms long, in a vacuum chamber and streamed 425 volts through the sample. The atom at the tip of the chain emitted electrons onto a surrounding phosphor screen, rendering an image of the electron cloud around the nucleus.

[insidescience via slashdot]

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The Empire State Building is Going Green

empire state buildingRenovations should start this summer in an effort to reduce the amount of energy being consumed by the skyscraper. Reduction is aimed at 38% a year by 2013. Although costing a bit upfront ($20 million), they will see savings of $4.4 million a year… so the renovations will be sure to pay for themselves in no time. It’s great to see energy guzzlers are making efforts to reduce consumption! [New York Times]

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Hi! My name is Barry, and I kill coral

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This isn’t my new pet, rather it is a giant sea worm that was recently ‘found’ in a living reef exhibit at Newquay’s Blue Reef Aquarium in the UK. Seems the curator could not figure out why their prize reef exhibit was being destroyed. On dismantling the exhibit, this sweet guy was found and named Barry. Barry is over 4 feet long and is no longer allowed near the coral. [via zooillogix]

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Northern Lights and a ‘pro’ blogger we know!

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and our very own, Dr. Amanda Grannas, is now a ‘pro’ blogger for the Discovery Channel’s earthlive blog!

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The Wii’s Shows Potential for U.S. Military Applications

wiiClearly my videogame nerd tendencies brought this article to my attention. The Wii, the console system designed to provide fun games and activities for the entire family, is being studied closely by military engineers and scientists at the Idaho National Laboratory for potential uses in the military. Its easy to use wireless controller is what is currently being studied in relation with bomb robots. As it stands now, the current equipment used to control these robots requires detailed knowledge of over 50 buttons and requires the operator to devote a lot of time to watching a computer screen. This leaves the operator open to attack, making it crucial to have a second officer to guard him. If the Wii-mote could be programmed to control the robot with just a few simple buttons and an infared trigger, the operator would have a better awareness of his surroundings, making him less vulnerable to surprise attacks. Unfortunately, they will have to improve the programming of these robots to prevent them from being hacked, so it will be some time before we see any Wii-bots on the field.

And you thought the Wii was all fun and games?

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Lifestyle Clues

fingerprintI found a pretty interesting article in C&EN about information that can be obtained from fingerprints.  We know that fingerprints can be used as clues to a person’s identity, and recently researchers have found that they can also be used to discover a person’s drug habits and potentially his or her medical history.  Chemists are reporting that they have discovered ways to detect different types of drugs and their metabolites, such as marijuana, cocaine, etc., in fingerprints.  A team at the University of East Anglia, in England, attached antibodies which recognize drug metabolites to iron oxide magnetic particles, which could be used to dust for fingerprints.  Another antibody was added to fluoresce which will help recognize drugs and metabolites.  Test fingerprints were taken from volunteer drug users at a local clinic and the team was able to successfully identify the drugs in their fingerprints.

I found this article and technique very interesting.  I think that it could have applications in forensic science and even in drug testing at sporting events such as the Olympics.  The article also stated that at some point it will be possible to known a person’s medical history from his or her fingerprint.  This, as well as its drug testing applications, raises some questions about privacy laws.  I think that this technology, if used for the correct purposes and not for exploitation, can be a convenience tool for forensic scientists.

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The year in science

msnbc has a nice review of the top science stories of 2008 as well as a roundup of the best roundups!

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Appetite Supression Using Hormones

An article I saw recently on Yahoo! News, discusses the discovery of a new appetite supressing hormone found in mice.  The study focuses on a molecule known as N-acylphosphatidylethanolamine or NAPE for short.  The compound was found by examining the blood of mice using LCMS after the ingestion of large amounts of lipids.  It was found that the levels of NAPE increased dramatically and the physiological effects of NAPE had never previously been studied.  The hormone is released by the small intestine after the ingestion of fat.

It was found that the food intake of mice could be controlled though injections of NAPE.  In large doses (1000 mg/kg body weight), the mice would almost completely stop eating.  The effects of the NAPE injection was found to last for 12 hrs for this high dose of NAPE.  It was found that the NAPE acumulates in the hypothalamus, and it is believed that this direct interaction with the central nervous system is how the NAPE reduces appetite.  It was determined that NAPE treatment supresses the neurotransmitter neuropeptide y, which is involved in stimulating the desire to eat.  It was also found that a high fat diet reduced the ability of the mice’s body to produce NAPE.

This research could lead to a new insight into reasons for obesity in humans.  It also may lead to a novel treatment for obesity using injections of NAPE and related compounds.  However, the research is still years away from human application.

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A Greener MacBook

enviroappleI don’t know if many of you have seen the new Macbook commercials yet, but Apple has released a new “greener” laptop. The new notebook is free (less than 900ppm Br and Cl, as defined by Apple) of brominated flame retardants (BFRs), which are present in many industrial products.  The toxicity of many of these compounds has not yet been extensively studied and BFRs are currently showing up increasingly in the environment and in humans (Birnbaum, L; Staskal, D. Brominated Flame Retardants: Cause for Concern? Environmental Health Perspectives, Vol 112, 1, January 2004).  In addition, all internal cables in the laptop are free of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), the LED glass display is free of arsenic and mercury and uses 30% less power than traditional laptop displays, the computer is encased in less packaging, and the battery is free of lead, cadmium, and mercury.  (A more detailed analysis can be found here.)

The notebook has been rated at the highest level by the EPEAT, an agency that helps electronics manufacturers environmentally evaluate their products.  Apple seems to explain a lot of the information regarding the new Macbook’s environmental safety well to the average consumer, but I think the sales pitch of environmentalism still comes into play a bit.  Although the notebook can’t be free of all harmful materials whatsoever, it seems like a better (and cooler) option than most of the other notebook computers on the market.

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Science is welcome in the White House

I could write something snarky about the blatant anti-intellectualism displayed by the outgoing administration for the last 8 years, but I’m going to resist and remain hopeful that we are turning a corner and moving forward.

The president-elect said his administration is interested in “elevating science once again, and having lectures in the White House where people are talking about traveling to the stars or breaking down atoms, inspiring our youth to get a sense of what discovery is all about.” [huffington post via cosmic variance]

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MotW09 – Catalytic Decomposition of Water

The molecule of the week comes from ongoing research by Dr. Randolf Thummel at the University of Houston (Zeping Deng, Huan-Wei Tseng, Ruifa Zong, Dong Wang, and Randolph Thummel. Inorg. Chem. 2008, 47, 1835 – 1848).  The article focuses on research done in the catalytic decomposition of water into hydrogen and oxygen using diruthenium complexes.  One of the major hurdles which must be overcome in order for hydrogen is the large scale production of hydrogen in an environmentally friedly way.  Currently, hydrogen is produced from hydrocarbons or through the electrolysis of water.  Using hydrocarbons does not solve the problems of oil dependency and using electrolysis requires large amounts of electricity, which would likely be produed by burning coal.  The ultimate goal of the Thummel group is to produce a photocatalyst which will use UV- light to carry out the redox reaction converting water into hydrogen gas and oxgyen gas. The ability to catalyze the decomposition of water is partly due to the presence of the two ruthenium centers so close to one another.  A molecule of water binds to each metal center and hydrogen is release through an oxidation process.  The oxgyen atoms are then within close enough proximity to react to form diatomic oxygen.  Currently, the diruthenium complex is able to catalyse the decomposition of water only in a highly acidic (pH=1) solution in the presence of Ce(IV).  The role of the Ce(IV) is as a sacrificial oxidant.  Future research by the Thummel group will focus on further understanding the specific mechanism involved in the catalysis reaction with the eventual goal of using UV-light to drive the reaction.

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World Records for eating baked beans and haggis! [Updated]

You wanted it and here it is! Micah Collins (aka Wing Kong) and his baked bean eating world record. When there is something available for Steakbellie and his haggis eating world record, I’ll add it!

Update (10/15/08) – Eric ‘Steakbellie’ Livingstone has updated his post on Micah’s world record along with pictures and links to the video and podcast. Steakbellie is also going to be interviewed on BBC Radio 2 this Friday to talk about his haggis eating world record!

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Seeing Green…. Buildings

We have been hearing a lot about alternative energy sources, such as wind power, solar power, ethanol, and hydrogen fuel cells; however, there are tons of other green technologies out there.

One such technology, green roofing, has been growing in popularity over the past few decades. This environmentally friendly building technique takes advantage of normally wasted roof space to grow vegetation. The plants also have the added benefit of collecting rainwater and preventing it from washing human pollutants into nearby rivers and streams. A new movement gaining popularity is the green wall. A green wall can be as simple as vines and other fast growing plants held against the facade of a building by a metal scaffold. Newer techniques use small modular panels which are made of small polypropylene containers that the plants can grow from or a geotextile. The geotextile is a woven material formed into small pouches which contain soil or some other growing medium. These modular panels allow sections of the green wall to be easily replaced.

Besides from the obvious benefit the plants have in capturing carbon dioxide and producing oxygen; green walls have a host of other benefits. The plants act as insulation, reducing the heating and cooling costs of the building. In the summer, the plants have the added advantage of evaporative cooling as water transpires from the leaves of the plants. Irrigation systems collect rainwater and deliver it to the plants, preventing rainwater runoff from polluting water sources. These green walls and roofs can even be used to grow edible crops. Creating a more environmentally friendly future is going to take more than just alternative energy sources. Green roofs and walls are just one way to tap into, what is currently, a wasted resource.

For more information and images see this article on Verdant Surfaces.

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And the 2008 Nobel Prize in Chemistry goes to…

gfp - jellyfish.jpgOsamu Shimomura, Martin Chalfie and Roger Y. Tsien for their discovery of the green fluorescent protein.

Since 1962, when the protein was first discovered, it has developed into one of the most imperative tools used in present-day bioscience. With the help of GFP, researchers have improved techniques to observe processes that were previously invisible, such as the occurrence of nerve cells in the brain, or how cancer cells spread. [via slashdot ]

One of the more, uh, dubious products of the discovery is Alba, the green fluorescent bunny.

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From Handle Bars to Energy Storage?

I’m all for wind and solar power, but the main obstacle to moving away from fossil fuels and toward these renewable energies is the ability to store the energy when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing. There are two ways to store energy: rechargeable batteries and ultracapacitors. Research is being done at the University of Texas at Austin on the possibility of using graphene as an ultracapacitor. Graphene’s high surface area and high number of ions allow a very high level of charge to be stored.

The amount of electrical charge stored per weight of the graphene material has already rivaled the values available in existing ultracapacitors, and modeling suggests the possibility of doubling the capacity.

The pros of using ultracapacitors include longer life, higher energy storage, and lower maintenance. This new technology can be applied to the electrical grid of cities so that renewable technologies can begin to be installed nearby, as well as the powering of electric and hybrid cars.

The question, however, is which should be implemented or invested in first – the technology that will supply the clean power, or the ability of a city to incorporate the new flow of energy through its grid? The problem of energy transmission also arises, as wind farms are usually located far away from cities. It’s interesting how a string of molecules can have so many uses, from harmful gas sensors, to mountain bike handle bars, and now a way to store renewable energy.

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More images to ponder

Given the underwhelming response to the last ‘what in the world is it’ contest, why not try it again!

The answer we were looking for in the first contest was L. ehrenbergii (a diatom) clinging to the marine invertebrate Eudendrium racemosum. I thought it was pretty obvious (insert sarcasm here). While Nicole’s guess was kind of in the ballpark, the judges didn’t feel it was close enough to award a prize.

As with the last contest, 10 points extra credit for the first with a correct guess, and again, NO PEEKING! Leave your guesses in the comments…

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[via wired]

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Are you ready for a backyard reactor?

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It looks like these may be ready in the next 5 years or so. Now if I only had the $100 million to put one in my backyard. I may have to ask for a raise…

Hyperion Power generation is trying to make a factory mass produced uranium hydride molten core reactor which will generate 70 MWt and 27-30MWe. [via nextbigfuture]

The reactor uses a low (10%) enriched Uranium Hydride, is no-maintenance and completely self contained, runs for 8-10 years powering approximately 20,000 homes, produces a football sized mass of waste, and can be fully refurbished and redeployed. What’s not to love? In contrast, using electricity from a traditional coal fired plant, an INDIVIDUAL would account for enough waste, including CO2, to fill Mile-High Stadium! Could this be the future of power generation?

see also

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