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Satisfying your curiosity

SN94_M_infectionLatest science news in my fortnightly column for Spectroscopynow.com, now online:

Steroid infection: Steroids are often injected into sites along the spinal column in treating back pain, but if a batch is contaminated serious infection can arise. Researchers have demonstrated that magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) at the site of injection could be used to identify fungal spinal or paraspinal infection, allowing early pharmacological or surgical intervention to reduce the risk of serious complications. via Back to basics.

Mars – The bigger picture: Images recorded by NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover and sent back to Earth have been composited into what is the equivalent of a 1000 megapixel photograph of the surface of the Red Planet. The image offers armchair astronomers and others an opportunity to examine the Martian landscape in much greater detail than ever before. via The bigger picture.

Liquid colour: Researchers in Japan have used NMR spectroscopy to study liquid materials with excellent light stability based on the skeleton of the organic fluorescent dye anthracene that could be used for full-colour tuneable luminescent systems. via Tuneable colours.

Portable detection: The optical technique of surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) has been used to detect signs of infection in tissue samples before patients even show symptoms of viral disease. The system could be further developed into a portable lab-on-a-chip (LoC) devices for use in the clinic with potential for applications in the developing world. via Portable infection: SERS detection.

Lip up: Fatty lipid molecules in the human body act not only as energy storage molecules and structural elements but are also important signalling compounds. Lipids with their head in a molecular cage have now been used to study such molecules and their roles in diseases such as atherosclerosis and diabetes. via Lip up: Fatty molecules investigated.

Fuel matters: Altering the crystalline structure of cellulose from its native form to another can lower its binding partition coefficient for fungal cellulose enzymes by 40-50% but surprisingly boost hydrolytic activity. This new finding could thus help open the road to more efficient enzymatic production of biofuels from biomass rather than petroleum. via Insights into enzymatic conversion.

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