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Invisible Fishnets and Baby Boomer Pain

fishnetsIt’s that time of the month again, so here’s the latest round-up from my column over on SpectroscopyNOW, covering a whole range of science and medical news with a spectral twist from magnetic resonance to Raman by way of fishnets and infra-red.

Fishnet invisibility cloak – It is what fans of science fiction and technologists have been waiting for since HG Wells’ Invisible Man first came into view – or not, as the case may be. Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, have engineered three-dimensional meta materials that can reverse the natural direction of visible and near-infrared light, which could one day lead to an invisibility device.

Bending MRI to diagnose joint disease – Osteoarthritis has turned out to be the bane of the Baby Boom generation, causing joint pain and disability for millions of people, more than half of those over the age of 65 in fact. Unfortunately, current approaches to diagnosing the disease cannot provide definitive results until the disease is in the advanced stages. This is often when symptoms have become severe and irreversible joint damage may already have occurred. Magnetic resonance imaging could provide an early diagnosis of osteoarthritis (OA), the most common form of arthritis, according to scientists speaking at the recent ACS meeting.

Universal detector – A team in Japan has used UV spectroscopy and microscopy to study the interaction between liposome clusters and endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) as a model of how living cell plasma membranes might be affected. The work could lead to the development of a universal detector for EDCs

Dance of the xenons – An NMR study of xenon atoms has demonstrated a fundamental new property – what appears to be chaotic behaviour in a quantum system ? in the magnetic spin of these frozen atoms. The work could lead to improvements in our understanding of matter as well as in magnetic resonance imaging.

Handling chirality with X-rays – X-rays are rather useful in determining the structure of materials and biomolecules, but are relatively insensitive to chirality. Now, a team of scientists in Japan has shown that circularly polarized X-rays at an appropriate wavelength can distinguish ‘left’ from ‘right’ in alpha-quartz. The work could have implications for studies of other inorganic organometallic materials, including industrial catalysts, liquid crystals, biomolecules, and pharmaceutical products.

Hybrid technology – Surface-Enhanced Raman Scattering (SERS) was first used in 1977 and since the has proven itself as an extremely sensitive analytical technique requiring only small volumes of sample and with wide application. Researchers have suggested that it is so sensitive that it could be used as a new tool in single molecule detection to augment or even displace techniques such as laser-induced fluorescence, frequency-modulated optical absorption at low temperature, and electrochemical detection of redox-active species. SERS of silicon nanostructures coated with a gold-silver substrate can be used to detect DNA hybridisation for taxonomic, biomedical and medical diagnostics purposes, according to a new study by researchers in Singapore.

Oh, and speaking of fishnets…anyone been thinking about the modelling career of John McCain’s running mate Sarah Palin?

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