SpectroscopyNOW – February

  • Valentine’s Day science – Spring may not quite be in the air, but Valentine’s Day is on the way and love is certainly on the minds of researchers in the US. A small functional magnetic resonance imaging has been used to investigate love. The study revealed brain activity in 10 women and 7 men when they looked at photos of their spouses to whom they had been married an average of 21 years. The results? Apparently, love lasts.
  • Grapes of worth – The position in which a grape in a bunch matures on the vine seems to influence the production of different metabolites more than the specific genetic clone from which the vine is raised, according to new NMR data. Researchers have turned to NMR spectroscopy to help them analyse and characterise the chemistry of grape berries. The work could have important implications for agriculture and wine growers as it reveals that position in the bunch rather than grape clonal type affects metabolomics more.
  • Beyond the genome – Epigenetics is the field of science aimed at understanding how some genes are regulated without changes to the underlying DNA code occurring. Now, work that helps decipher some of the ways in which enzymes act on the proteins that surround DNA within cells reveals through X-ray diffraction how an acetylation complex fits like a halo over a histone substrate.
  • Popping, a question of nanoscience – Gold nanoparticles that resemble tiny popcorn kernels can be produced using a simple two-step process. Researchers at Jackson State University in the US have used these particles in SERS (surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy) experiments to detect malignant prostate cancer at just the 50-cell level. The same particles can also be activated to kill the cells.
  • Infra-red breath test – Trace analytes can be detected in the breath using near infrared Fourier transform broadband cavity enhanced absorption spectroscopy. This could open up a whole new area of medical diagnostics and health research.
  • Caffeinated carcinogens – Alkaloids, such as caffeine, have been implicated as a risk factor in several forms of cancer. Now, UV-vis spectroscopy and other techniques have been used to reveal a possible mechanism that demonstrates they may have the opposite activity – protecting us from aromatic mutagens and carcinogens by stacking up and blocking their detrimental activity.

From David Bradley Science Writer – SpectroscopyNOW – February 1 issue