Posts Tagged ‘Chemistry’

OpenLab10 – best of the blogs for 2010

// December 16th, 2010 // Comments Off on OpenLab10 – best of the blogs for 2010 // Science Communication

Last years edition of OpenLab

Quick note and heads up to check out OpenLab10, which has published a list of some of the best blogging efforts from 2010. A good bunch in anyone’s book!

From this epic list they will narrow down to a mere 53, which will be published in an anthology on actual REAL paper, like the kind you see on TV.

Me own blog is listed for two posts. Firstly, How aqua regia saved Nobel Prize medals from the Nazis, a fiction based on a true science story and lively tale of chemistry trickery (chemitrickery) and bravery. Secondly may favourite monotreme, the weird, the wonderful, the Platypus. A poisonous, egg laying mammal with ten sex chromosomes.

I would invite you (nay, beg you) to vote for me, but it’s not that kind of thing so you’re off the hook.

But if you want to read some truly amazing examples of scientific writing, check out the submissions for OpenLab10! (Bookmark me first so you can come back later. You have me on RSS, right? Just checking.)

Happy reading!

Noble Prize in Chemistry – Palladium catalysed reactions

// October 6th, 2010 // 1 Comment » // How Things Work, Science Communication

Image adapted from Jurii

The winners of this years Nobel Prize in Chemistry goes to Richard F. Heck, Ei-ichi Negishi and Akira Suzuki, for their work in palladium catalysed reactions.

Ah, a subject close to my own heart! As a student of Molecular and Drug Design, we studied this shizz in lectures. Hell, I think I even did a Suzuki reaction! That pretty well makes me famous IMHO.

SO – palladium catalysed reactions. What are they, I hear you say? Oh, dear gentle reader, how long do you have for me to BLOW YOUR MIND WITH CHEMISTRY AWESOME? Three minutes? K.

Carbon to carbon bonds are super important in the human body, which is pretty much made of carbon. Nitrogen, hydrogen and oxygen get a look in, but carbon is where it’s at.

There’s a big trend at the moment, has been for years, in designing small molecules as drugs. Some small molecules mimic the molecules naturally inside the body. Basically it’s telling the body what you to do in a language it can understand.

To make a carbon-based small molecule, you need to make some carbon to carbon bonds. The sad part is that carbon is a chiller, and isn’t keen on making friends with other carbons. Put a carbon and another carbon in a test-tube and they just won’t get it on. They don’t care to so much as hold hands.

HOWEVER, chuck some palladium catalyst into the mix and ba-zing! You’ve got yourself a sweet, sweet reaction that’s controllable and would otherwise have taken a zillion years to happen. Now we can create new molecules and drugs to benefit peeps everywhere!

Words cannot describe how nerdy and happy I am right now to write about palladium catalysed reactions. Maybe I’ve missed my calling as a chemist after all.

Science Lab Cookie Cutters

// September 24th, 2010 // Comments Off on Science Lab Cookie Cutters // Just for Fun, Science Art

Science Cookies Nothing says nerdy and delicious like a set of science cookie cutters. You can buy a set here, the site is in America but they ship internationally.

I think they’re pretty cool nerdy cool. On the other hand I like my cookies chock full of chocolate and they might look weird in beaker shapes. Like poorly cleaned glassware. And there is nothing cool about that.

Still they look awesome, I’m filing it under Science Art.

Now I’m hungry for cookies.

Apothecary bottles found in a collectibles shop

// August 21st, 2010 // 2 Comments » // Drugs

About a week ago I was in Gulgong, a small town in New South Wales near the wine region of Mudgee. The main road was spelled Mayne Road, and was brown stone rather than tarmac. Along the footpaths were old stone troughs for watering horses. Key landmarks included the Ten Dollar Motel and the Gulgong Butchers Cafe. It was an old gold mining town which had lost its gold but kept its rural charm.

Wandering the streets I came across a collectibles shop filled with coloured glass jugs and gold rimmed plates. Amongst the copper kettles I found these old bottles from an apothecary, dated around the 1800’s I believe.

Old Apothecary Bottles

The craftsmanship is stunning, and they teased my imagination. What were these drugs used for? What did they look like, when those bottles were filled, and who was the chemist who filled them?

I have since looked into some of the medicines written on the bottles.

Iodoformum is now called tri-iodomethane (CHI3). The crystals are lemon yellow and have a disagreeable odour and taste. I think it was used to treat tuberculosis, and is still used in homeopathy for a range of ailments. Hexamine may have been mixed with hippuric acid to make methenamine hippurate, which was used to treat lower urinary tract infections. Salol was a white powder derived from salicylic acid, the active ingredient in willow bark, which we take as acetylsalicylic acid in asprin. It was used to reduce pain and fever. Menthol you probably recognise from chest rubs. It comes from mint oil, though it can be made synthetically. As well as clearing sinuses it can ease sore throats and muscle pains, and is one of the ingredients in tiger balm.

While researching I found an issue of the British Medical Journal from September 5, 1885 which is an interesting read.

World’s sweetest antibiotic? The five ways honey kills bacteria.

// July 13th, 2010 // 5 Comments » // Drugs, How Things Work, Recent Research, Science at Home

HoneyYou’re at the doctors with a suspected infection, but instead of offering penicillin or erythromycin, they prescribe honey. Would you switch toast toppings? Take a honey pill? How about letting the doctor smear medical grade honey over the infected area?

People have been using honey (not mad honey) as medicine since ancient times, but until now we have never fully understood how it works. Research lead by Dr. Paulus Kwakman from the University of Amsterdam and his team have finally identified the key elements which give honey its antibacterial activity.

Bacteria are becoming resistant to drugs faster than we’re developing them. Honey might help because it works when other drugs don’t. Studies show it has good activity in vitro against antibiotic-resistant bacteria. An older study reports successful treatment of a chronic wound infections not responding to normal medicine.

So how does it work? It’s a combination of five factors.

1. Hydrogen peroxide, a kind of bleach. The honey enzyme called glucose oxidase makes hydrogen peroxide when honey is diluted with water. We clean toilets with bleach, and it’s pretty good at killing bacteria.

2. Sugar. Honey has so much sugar there’s hardly any water for bacteria to grow in.

3. Methylglyoxal (MGO), an antibacterial compound found in New Zealand Manuka honey a couple of years ago. It’s also found in medical grade honey which is made in controlled greenhouses, albeit in smaller amounts.

4. Bee defensin 1, a protein found in royal jelly (special food for queen bee larva.) This report is the first time bee defensin 1 has been identified in honey, and it works as an antibiotic.

5. Acid. Diluted honey has a pH of around 3.5, the acidic environment slows down bacterial growth.

These five things work together to provide a broad spectrum activity against bacteria. For example, S. aureus is vulnerable hydrogen peroxide, while B. subtillis is challenged only if MGO and bee defensin 1 are working simultaneously. Honey has the right mix for maximum destruction.

So that’s how bees keep their honey fresh and unspoiled by bacterial growth. Perhaps with this information we’ll create enhanced honey to guard against infection, improving on nature like we did with penicillin. Until then, I know what I’m having on my toast.

A Schooner of Science could be named Australia’s best science blog. If you enjoyed reading, please vote for me.

ResearchBlogging.orgKwakman, P., te Velde, A., de Boer, L., Speijer, D., Vandenbroucke-Grauls, C., & Zaat, S. (2010). How honey kills bacteria The FASEB Journal, 24 (7), 2576-2582 DOI: 10.1096/fj.09-150789






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