Colour MRI, Agent Prion, Testing Testosterone

Martian minerals, courtesy of NASAI’ve got some wide-ranging research to report in this week’s SpectroscopyNOW, including mineral tests, colour MRI, the Agent Smith of prions, and a new approach to spotting doped athletes.

New insights offered by near infrared spectroscopy into the mineralogy of carbonate rocks could help improve the outlook for carbon capture and storage in efforts to reduce the effect of carbon dioxide emissions on the global climate. Although, personally I think the real relevance of this work will be in understanding the mineral found on Mars or other planets rather than some spurious and potentially misguided efforts to control the atmosphere.

Not everything is black and white, perhaps with the exception of MRI. Aside from the artificial colours that can be added by computer, MRI is a technique of contrasts and greyscales. However, that could all change soon thanks to the ongoing development of microscopic magnetic particles by researchers in the US who hope to bring a little colour to MRI.

Meanwhile, NMR spectroscopy (the original molecular MRI) has revealed significant difference between the infectious and non-infectious form of prions, errant proteins that replicate by converting other proteins into copies of themselves. The finding could lead to new insights into how prions cause brain diseases, such as CJD and may one day lead to a way to stop their spread.

Faster and more accurate testing of complex systems such as skin and other turbid media could soon be possible thanks to a laser boost for Raman spectroscopy. The technique has potential applications in pharmaceutical research, forensic science and security screening.

Another analytical boost comes with work being done at Argonne National Laboratory to develop a new super bright source of X-rays that are one hundred million times brighter than any currently operating laboratory source. The sources will open up new avenues in materials science such as the faster and more detailed analysis of high-temperature superconductors.

Finally, in the current specNOW issue, a new analytical approach to testing for testosterone and related steroids in body fluids could spot illicit doping of athletes at coming sports events.

6 thoughts on “Colour MRI, Agent Prion, Testing Testosterone”

  1. Harmon, thanks for spotting that. It was a single missing ” from the prions link. Fixed now. Thankfully, no spectroscopic techniques are infectious, yet.

  2. David,
    Paragraph 4 is mangled. I expected something about Prions and get Raman instead. (I never knew that Raman was infectious!)

  3. Slevi, interesting point about doing retrospective tests. I guess there’s a whole industry just waiting in the wings to apply tests to yesterday’s gold medallists…

  4. Yeh, the old fashioned taking steroids definitely isn’t done that much anymore. With exception of course by the huge range of amateurs out there who want to bulk up as well. The more professional it gets the more medicalized it gets and what tends to be aimed at is stimulating the natural production or slowing down the break down.

    For example finasteride is one of those drugs which slows down the break down of testosteron to DHT. In the medical scene the drug is used for prostate hyperplasia and prostate cancer, it was also found to be effective for male pattern baldness.

    In the world of sports, well they either want to do something about their male pattern baldness as a skeleton racer claimed during the winter olympics 2 years ago or as an obvious booster of testosterone.

    As new drugs come and go their doctors usually are quick enough to pick up on what isn’t tested for yet and to begin using that. It’d be interesting to see blood and urine preserved and tested once more say 5~10 years later to see who actually was clean.

  5. I believe there are several compounds out there that are found naturally in the human body that can affect testosterone levels and so may be used illicitly to help build strength, bulk and raise pain thresholds during training. As with all such cat and mouse battles, the technology seems like a tortoise chasing a hare, to mix a metaphor or two…

  6. The new PF-MEKC-UV method to test testosterone sounds very promising, I am working in the sporting industry and seen athletes with “abnormal muscle growth” , up to 20 kg of solid muscles in 2 years training from day one!. it just leaves you wondering what they are taking to ‘mask’ their excessive use of testosterone.

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