Simple, Inexpensive Electrochemical Diagnostics

A team of chemists from the University of Montreal have developed a DNA-based electrochemical diagnostic test that is inexpensive and can provide results in just a few minutes. This development has the potential to lead to point-of-care medical devices that can provide results for diagnoses ranging from cancer to autoimmune diseases in just minutes.

Not only is this development exciting for the advancement of the scientific community, it also has the potential to impact global health due to the low cost and ease of use of the test. The new development could help cut lag time and expenses between diagnosis and treatment for both communicable and non-communicable diseases on a global level.

Molecular Diagnostics at Home

“Despite the power of current diagnostic tests, a significant limitation is that they still require complex laboratory procedures. Patients typically must wait for days or even weeks to receive the results of their blood tests,” Alex Vallée-Bélisle said, head of the research team.

At the core of the DNA-based device is one of the simplest forces in chemistry: steric effects. Essentially, the new development focuses on the phenomenon of atoms getting too close to one another and using force to push off each other. This reaction allows researchers to detect a wide array of protein markers.

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The new solar cell developed by the University of Texas at Arlington team is more efficient and can store solar energy at night.
Image: UT Arlington

A research team from the University of Texas at Arlington comprised of both present and past ECS members has developed a new energy cell for large-scale solar energy storage even when it’s dark.

Solar energy systems that are currently in the market and limited in efficiency levels on cloudy days, and are typically unable to convert energy when the sun goes down.

The team, including ECS student member Chiajen Hsu and two former ECS members, has developed an all-vanadium photoelectrochemical flow cell that allows for energy storage during the night.

“This research has a chance to rewrite how we store and use solar power,” said Fuqiang Liu, past member of ECS and assistant professor in the Materials Science and Engineering Department who led the research team. “As renewable energy becomes more prevalent, the ability to store solar energy and use it as a renewable alternative provides a sustainable solution to the problem of energy shortage. It also can effectively harness the inexhaustible energy from the sun.”

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Polymers to Stop Deadly Blood Loss

Blood clots treated with PolySTAT (second from right) had denser fibrin networks, which helps reinforce and strengthen the clots.Image: University of Washington

Blood clots treated with PolySTAT (second from right) had denser fibrin networks, which helps reinforce and strengthen the clots.
Image: University of Washington

University of Washington researchers have developed a new injectable polymer that could keep soldiers and trauma patients from bleeding to death, called the PolySTAT.

The new polymer works to strengthen blood clots once administered into the patient’s bloodstream in a simple shot. The polymer then finds unseen internal injuries and starts working to stop the bleeding.

Researchers believe this could become the first line of defense for anything from battlefield injuries to car accidents. With testing already underway, the polymer has the potential to reach humans in as few as five years.

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Metrohm Announces Young Chemist Award Winner

MetrohmMetrohm USA and Metrohm Canada have announced Chad Atkins as the winner of the 2015 Young Chemist Award for his research in Raman spectroscopy to assess the degradation of stored red blood cells.

Atkins is currently completing his Ph.D. at the University of British Columbia where he works under the supervision of Robin Turner and Michael Blades. Here, he conducts his research in red blood cells to confirm viability prior to transfusion, which leads to a more successful patient outcome.

This is the third year Metrohm USA and Metrohm Canada have awarded the $10,000 Young Chemist Award.

“Metrohm has a history of giving back to the scientific community,” said Edward Colihan, President & CEO of Metrohm USA. “This year we saw a record number of applications for this award, demonstrating ingenuity and a passion for solving very practical problems. We are proud to support the next generation of scientists.”

Atkins will present a short overview of his work at Metrohm’s press conference at Pittcon 2015 in New Orleans. Take a look at his abstract.

The Young Chemist Award is open to all graduate, post-graduate and doctorate students residing and studying in the U.S. and Canada, who are performing novel research in the fields of titration, ion chromatography, spectroscopy and electrochemistry. For more details, click here.

The Science of Love

Best-selling American author Julia Quinn once said, “Love works in mysterious ways.” Well, it turns out love isn’t quite as mysterious as we once thought.

With countries across the world celebrating Valentine’s Day on February 14th, we figured we’d take a look at the science behind romantic love.

However, the answer to the age old question, “What is love?” really comes down to what aspect of science you’re looking at. Here at ECS, we’re going to delve into the chemical reactions that occur to make a person feel sensations associated with love.

While the heart is the most common image associated with the idea of love, it’s really the brain that’s doing all the work. When we make a connection that falls along the path of romantic love, our brain releases a plethora of chemicals that cause us to experience excitement, euphoria, and bonding.

Chemicals such as adrenaline, norepinephrine, and dopamine are released in the early stages of love. Along with being able to see these chemicals at work on a brain scan, electrochemistry also offers us the option to track them and pick up patterns via sensors.

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Lab-on-a-Chip to Improve Clinical Diagnostics

The new method, which uses beads and microfluidics can change the way we study mixed populations of cells, such as those of tumors. Image: EPFL

The new method, which uses beads and microfluidics can change the way we study mixed populations of cells, such as those of tumors.
Image: EPFL

Scientist have developed a process that has the potential to make the study of tumor cells significantly more efficient.

They call it a “lab-on-a-chip,” and it’s allowing scientist to isolate single cells for study. The key here is in the difficulty that scientists typically face when attempting to study a single cell in a population. Due to factors such as variation of the isolated cell’s biochemistry and function, and technological and physical limitation dealing with size and fragility of the cells, studying at the single-cell level has always proven to be difficult.

In order to combat this issue, Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) scientists have combined affinity beads with microfluidics to produce an integrated, highly sensitive method for studying single cells – which has the potential to be adopted into clinical diagnostics.

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3D Printing Organs for Transplant

A two-part water-based gel made of synthetic DNA and peptide could bring the inventors of a 3D bioprinter closer to being able to print organs for transplant, or to replace animal testing.Image:Angewandte Chemie

A two-part water-based gel made of synthetic DNA and peptide could bring the inventors of a 3D bioprinter closer to being able to print organs for transplant, or to replace animal testing.
Image: Angewandte Chemie

Need a new pancreas? These scientists will print one right up for you.

Thanks to the development of a two-part water-based gel made out of synthetic DNA from Heriot Watt University, the 3D bio-printer is one step closer to reality.

The team from Heriot-Watt that engineered this developed is led by Prof. Rory Duncan and Dr.Will Shu of the University’s Institute of Biological Chemistry, Biophysics, and Bioengineering.

“The first challenge was that if we used a normal gel it was not possible to mix live cells with it for 3D printing. Colleagues at Tsinghua University in Beijing have developed a gel which, like some proprietary glues, comes as two separate liquids into which cells can be added. These do not turn into a gel until the two liquids are actually mixed together during the printing process,” said Prof. Duncan in a release.

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What Is Penta-Graphene?

The newly discovered material, called penta-graphene, is a single layer of carbon pentagons that resembles the Cairo tiling, and that appears to be dynamically, thermally and mechanically stable.Image: VCU

The newly discovered material, called penta-graphene, is a single layer of carbon pentagons that resembles the Cairo tiling, and that appears to be dynamically, thermally and mechanically stable.
Image: VCU

Researchers from Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in conjunction with universities in China and Japan have discovered a new structural variant of carbon that they are coining “penta-graphene.”

The new material is comprised of a very thin sheet of pure carbon that is especially unique due to its exclusively pentagonal pattern. Thus far, the penta-graphene appears to be dynamically, thermally and mechanically stable.

“The three last important forms of carbon that have been discovered were fullerene, the nanotube and graphene. Each one of them has unique structure. Penta-graphene will belong in that category,” said the paper’s senior author and distinguished professor in the Department of Physics at VCU, Puru Jena in a press release.

The inspiration for this new development came from the pattern of the tiles found paving the streets of Cairo. Professor at Peking University and adjunct professor at VCU, Qian Wang, got the inspiration that inevitably led to penta-graphene while dining in Beijing.

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The Science of Distilling

One brave man is distilling his own potent, yet drinkable, biofuel. Of course, there’s quite a bit of electrochemistry involved via this reflux still.

WARNING: Distilling alcohol is illegal in many places. (It can also be pretty dangerous for the novice distiller, so let’s leave this one to Hackett.)

The Real Science of an Alkali Metal Explosion

You may remember the classic alkali metal explosion demonstration in one of your early chemistry classes. Many educators use this experiment to show the volatile power of chemistry. The thought was that the unstable reaction was caused by the ignition of hydrogen gas, but scientists in the Czech Republic have found new information behind this classic demonstration by using high-speed video.

The researchers began investigating the science behind this experiment by dropping a sodium-potassium alloy droplet into water. From there, they recorded the explosion with a high-speed camera that is capable of capturing 10,000 frames per second.

Of course, there’s a video.

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