Posts Tagged ‘works’

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.

The needle free vaccine, how Nanopatch works

// April 22nd, 2010 // 4 Comments » // How Things Work, Recent Research


Researchers from Queensland University have discovered a new way to administer vaccines, a Nanopatch. Smaller than a postage stamp, the patch puts the vaccine through your skin. No need for an injection.

So how does it work?

The Nanopatch is full of micro-nanoprojections containing antigen – part of the bacteria or virus you are immunising against. These nanoprojections puncture the skin and deliver the antigen into your epidermis. The puncture is a breadth of a hair deep.

In your epidermis are Langerhans cells, members of the immune system. Their role is to pick up antigens from infecting nasties, or in this case the Nanopatch. Once they have collected something, they physically move from the skin to your lymph nodes. Lymph nodes are the hub of the immune system. Once there, the Langerhans cells mature and display the antigen to passing naïve T-cells.

T-cells are specialised cells which specifically recognise one type of antigen. It’s like a policeman with a picture of just one criminal. A naïve T-cell doesn’t have a picture yet. It collects one from a Langerhans cell and other cells in the lymph nodes. With that the T-cell matures, looking out for the antigen. Next time it sees it, it will be armed and ready.

T-cells, along with B-cells, protect you from getting the same disease twice. T-cells in particular are needed to clear infections like HIV and malaria, and needle vaccines don’t stimulate them enough. The nanopatch focuses on T-cells specifically. It gives them their first look at the disease, without the pesky side-effect of getting traumatically ill.

According to Queensland University, the latest research shows that the Nanopatch can provide a similar level of protection to a needle delivery, but uses 100 times less vaccine. The Nanopatch is still being trialed on mice.

No more screaming kids on injection day isn’t the only benefit. The Nanopatch will be cheaper to produce than normal vaccines and doesn’t need to be refrigerated or administered by a trained nurse. Lead researcher Mark Kendall said “it is easy to imagine a situation in which a government might provide vaccinations for a pandemic such as swine flu to be collected from a chemist or sent in the mail.” It would be perfect for developing countries, where administering needle vaccines can be difficult and expensive.

ResearchBlogging.orgCrichton, M., Ansaldo, A., Chen, X., Prow, T., Fernando, G., & Kendall, M. (2010). The effect of strain rate on the precision of penetration of short densely-packed microprojection array patches coated with vaccine Biomaterials, 31 (16), 4562-4572 DOI: 10.1016/j.biomaterials.2010.02.022

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