ChemWeb Newsletter

Not a subscriber? Join now.September 20, 2005


In this week's issue of The Alchemist, we report on Russian research that could save garden ornaments from frost and conserve ancient statuary. Chemical clues underpinning chronic asthma are also revealed as is a model system that could be made into electronic ink. The problem of saying NO to fertility arises, and finally a new way to make quantum dots.

A new approach to treating severe, chronic asthma has been discovered by researchers at Southampton General Hospital in the South of England. Stephen Holgate and his team have discovered that patients with severe asthma had higher levels of tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF alpha) than other sufferers. "Our study provides further evidence for a role for TNF alpha in severe asthma and is the first study to evaluate the effects of TNF blockade in patients with severe asthma," Holgate said in a study reported in the journal Thorax. The finding could inspire a new method of pharmaceutical intervention to treat the disease.

Physicists in the Netherlands have used colloidal particles to create artificial crystal systems that could help explain real ionic crystal structures and even lead to applications such as electronic ink. Mirjam Leunissen, Christina Christova and colleagues at Utrecht University found a solution to the vexing problem of modeling long-range ionic interactions by developing a novel colloidal system that side-steps the problem of irregular aggregation seen in previous colloidal models. The team were able to study known systems as well as more exotic crystals they had simulated on the computer using a fluorescent tag and confocal microscopy. The team also realized that the colloids themselves were not only keen models but their controlled and ordered behavior might be exploited in display applications, as an e-ink.

Nitric oxide, NO, appears to slow or reverse the aging of eggs in mouse ovaries, according to researchers at Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit. Anuradha Goud and colleagues gathered more than 1500 eggs from mouse ovarian ducts one to two hours or four to six hours after ovulation. Mouse eggs that aren't fertilized within hours of ovulation begin to age rapidly. They exposed the eggs to varying concentrations of nitric oxide, a biological signaling molecule and found that this delayed egg aging. If an egg is not fertilized within about six hours, then chromosomal abnormalities can occur after subsequent fertilization. The researchers suggest that because NO can slow the egg aging process, it might be useful in fertility treatment.

An efficient approach to synthesizing quantum dots has been developed by University of Buffalo researchers. Quantum dots are tiny semiconductor particles generally no larger than 10 nanometers that can be made to fluoresce with different colors depending on their size; they have potential bioimaging and photovoltaic applications. Paras Prasad and colleagues have developed a rapid-solution synthesis method to prepare robust, water-dispersible quantum dots for bioimaging and a second technique that allows them to prepare organically soluble quantum dots ready to be sequestered into a polymer host.

Polyacrylates can be used to protect ancient frescos, terracotta statuettes, and stone garden ornaments, as well as other porous objects according to D.N. Yemelyanov and colleagues at the Nizhni Novgorod State University in Russia. By tailoring the polymer blend to particular materials, whether clay, stone, or concrete, the researchers suggest that those hoping to conserve artifacts and ornaments will be more successful in their endeavors.