Skip to content. Skip to navigation
Personal tools
You are here: Home Alchemist The Alchemist Newsletter: Aug 30, 2011
Document Actions

The Alchemist Newsletter: Aug 30, 2011

by chemweb last modified 09-19-11 07:58 AM
The Alchemist - August 30, 2011
The Alchemist Newsletter Logo
August 30, 2011


special message from ChemWeb
issue overview
geochem: An early breath of oxygen
pharma: A spoonful of sugar...
nano: Micro onions
environmental: Nitrous explanation is a gas
bio: Thermochromics for beer drinkers
award: Bio protection

To Our Site Visitors,

To all of you who have responded thus far, we thank you. We at ChemWeb appreciate your interest in our site and the Alchemist Newsletter, and hope you find it useful and of value to your professional activities. However, we would welcome the feedback from as many members of our audience, as possible.

To help us stay relevant to your changing needs, we'd be grateful if you'd share with us the chemical/chemistry specialties and/or techniques which are of particular interest to you, as well as any features you'd like to see added to our site. Please e-mail your thoughts to us at

If this copy of the Alchemist Newsletter was not addressed to you, we invite you to sign up for your own free subscription here.

Thank you!

arrowback to top



Ancient oxygen levels were higher than The Alchemist thought, but they existed in submarine oxygen oases rather than in the atmosphere. We also learn this week that a sweet solution to modulating pharmaceutical activity is possible, that micro-onions could serve as magnetic ink for digital displays, that there is more sulfur involved in the nitrogen cycle than we thought and how cat litter has the key to a productive sex life for the Toxoplasma parasite that infects rats. Finally, NIH is funding new research to protect us from viral-based bioweapons.

arrowback to top



An early breath of oxygen

Researchers at MIT have demonstrated that oxygen gas may have been present on Earth hundreds of millions of years before its debut in the atmosphere, locked in submarine "oxygen oases." The team has published evidence that tiny aerobic organisms, akin to yeasts, may have evolved to survive on extremely low levels of the gas in this environment eons before the "Great Oxidation Event," the GOE, which occurred almost nearly 2.3 billion years ago and allowed aerobic life to thrive on land. The results might reconcile a split in the earth sciences community that arose with the discovery about a decade ago of oxygen-rich molecular fossils present in sedimentary rocks, hinting at much older oxygen-using life before the GOE.

arrowBreathing new life into Earth

arrowback to top



A spoonful of sugar...

Sugars attached to drugs can enhance, change or neutralize their effects, according to Jon Thorson and colleagues at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. They have now developed a new approach to help them exploit this phenomenon. Their simple process separates sugars from carrier molecules and allows them to attach them to a drug. The process also involves a color change in those molecules that accept the sugary payload, which could be used in screening. "One can put 1,000 drug varieties on a plate and tell by color how many of them have received the added sugar," Thorson explains. He adds that, "If we can build a toolbox that allows us to make these molecules on demand, we can ask, 'What will sugar A do when it's attached to drug B?'"

arrowSweet Insight: Discovery Could Speed Drug Development

arrowback to top



Micro onions

US researchers have developed a relatively simple method for making microscopic capsules that have the layered appearance of an onion, but on a much smaller scale. They used microfluidics to synthesize the tiny layered objects in a single step. Possible applications include magnetic inks for display technologies. A black inner core remains at the center of the particles so the outer transparent layers scatter light making the particle appear white. Applying a magnetic field pulls the black cores towards the surface, so "writing" on the screen. Related particles could be used as transport systems for multicomponent pharmaceuticals and controlled release delivery of a cocktail of drugs in a specific sequence one released as each layer peels away within the body or at the target site of the disease.

arrowMicro-onions and Magnetic Ink

arrowback to top



Nitrous explanation is a gas

The greenhouse gas nitrous oxide undergoes partial decomposition depending on environmental conditions. Now researchers in Germany have determined the structure of an enzyme that breaks down the gas. Surprisingly, the team found that the active center of the N2O-reductase enzyme is made up of four copper atoms and two sulfur atoms, whereas biochemists had assumed incorrectly that it had only a single sulfur atom. The revelation has now led to a new mechanism that explains the decomposition of N2O. Nitrous oxide and nitrogen production on farmland and in forests depends on a multitude of opposing effects, the new study helps fill a gap in our understanding of the nitrogen cycle.

arrowHow the N2O Greenhouse Gas Is Decomposed

arrowback to top



Sex and cats and rats that roll

Toxoplasma gondii has sex in the feline gut and nowhere else. But, how does this kissing cousin of malaria find its way to the parasitic love nest inside a cat? Apparently, it finds its place to make baby T gondii from infected rats. A new study published in Plos One, suggests that infection of the rats disturbs their normal response to particular odors causing them to effectively lose their fear of cats by mistaking the warning smell in cat urine for a sexually-arousing chemical that hints at good times ahead for the rat, but brings about its early demise if cornered by the cat. The researchers explain that Toxoplasma infection alters neural activity in limbic brain areas necessary usually reserved for innate defensive behavior in response to the cat urine odor and causes the rats to fail to turn tail. This is a remarkable example of a remarkable example of a parasite manipulating a mammalian host for the benefit of its life cycle.

arrowFatal Attraction: Sex, Death, Parasites, and Cats

arrowback to top



Bio protection

Pejman Naraghi-Arani of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory will receive $2.4 million from the National Institutes of Health under its Partnerships for Biodefense Program to help him develop tools for detecting biological weapons and protecting against their effects. Naraghi-Arani and colleagues at the University of Texas Medical Branch, the University of California San Francisco and NanoString Technologies Corp., will use the funding to develop assays for detecting 35 category A, B and C viral pathogens, including Ebola, Marburg, Dengue and Chikungunya. The platform being developed will be able to test more than 100 samples each day with only five minutes of patient contact each and return results within 24 hours.

arrowLLNL researcher awarded $2.4 million from NIH

arrowback to top



ACD/Spectrus Processor

Smarter Software for Chemists

All-in-one analytical chemistry processing platform does the routine analytical data handling for you - leaving more time for what really matters.

Learn More

Free Newsletters's Newsletter Center invites you to subscribe to newsletters of your interest - free of charge.

Click here for details

Previous Issues

Aug 19, 2011
Jul 27, 2011
Jul 14, 2011
Jun 29, 2011
Jun 17, 2011
May 26, 2011
May 12, 2011
Apr 29, 2011
Apr 15, 2011
Mar 25, 2011
Mar 11, 2011
Feb 25, 2011
Feb 10, 2011
Jan 26, 2011
Jan 12, 2011
Dec 29, 2010
Dec 14, 2010
Nov 23, 2010
Nov 12, 2010
Oct 27, 2010
Oct 13, 2010
Sep 30, 2010
Sep 15, 2010
Aug 25, 2010
Aug 11, 2010
Jul 28, 2010
Jul 14, 2010
Jun 23, 2010
Jun 8, 2010
May 26, 2010
May 17, 2010
Apr 28, 2010
Apr 16, 2010
Mar 23, 2010
Mar 9, 2010
Feb 24, 2010
Feb 9, 2010
Jan 26, 2010
Jan 12, 2010
Dec 23, 2009
Dec 13, 2009
Nov 24, 2009
Nov 11, 2009
Oct 28, 2009
Oct 14, 2009
Sep 21, 2009
Sep 9, 2009
Aug 26, 2009
Aug 11, 2009
Jul 29, 2009
Jul 14, 2009
Jun 24, 2009
Jun 10, 2009
May 27, 2009
May 12, 2009
Apr 28, 2009
Apr 15, 2009
Mar 25, 2009
Mar 10, 2009
Feb 24, 2009
Feb 11, 2009
Jan 27, 2009
Jan 13, 2009
Dec 24, 2008
Dec 10, 2008
Nov 25, 2008
Nov 13, 2008
Oct 28, 2008
Oct 14, 2008
Sep 25, 2008
Sep 10, 2008
Aug 26, 2008
Aug 12, 2008
Jul 23, 2008
Jul 09, 2008
Jun 24, 2008
Jun 11, 2008
May 28, 2008
May 14, 2008
Apr 24, 2008
Apr 9, 2008
Mar 25, 2008
Mar 12, 2008
Feb 27, 2008
Feb 13, 2008
Jan 22, 2008
Jan 08, 2008


The Alchemist is published under the copyright of Inc. ©2011. For additional information including contact information and sponsorship opportunities, please contact Rick Whiteman <> or visit our web sites at and

For assistance with your account or general support, please visit

Web Search

Powered by Plone CMS, the Open Source Content Management System

This site conforms to the following standards: