Seeing bonds

Peering at molecular structures is what chemists do. Technology that can improve the way that they see this world can have a huge impact on the field. In one such leap, researchers in China report the first visualisation of a hydrogen bond using atomic force microscopy (AFM).

First pictures of hydrogen bonds unveiledChemistry World, 26 September 2013.

Image credit: Xiaohui Qiu

Seek and destroy

Eric Drexler may get the credit for popularising the idea of nanotechnology in his books of the 1980s, but chemists have been dreaming of manipulating molecules to do their bidding ever since they found out that all matter is made of atoms. While Drexler’s self-assembling molecular machines may remain a dream, in the last decade chemists have already achieved a more practical version of that dream. Nanoparticles have found use in manufacturing, materials, energy, electronics and medicine. Now, a newly emerging field is using them to do two things at once diagnose and treat diseases.

Seek and destory.  Chemistry World, 1 October 2013.

Chemical brewers

Microbes are principally used by industry to turn larger organic compounds into smaller, more useful ones – fermenting corn sugars to produce ethanol, for instance. More desirable, though, is direct conversion of carbon dioxide into organic compounds. But current methods that use blue-green algae are not attractive.

Now US researchers have engineered a heat-loving microbe to produce a bulk chemical from carbon dioxide and hydrogen. Their results may provide a viable industrial alternative to blue-green algae, which have a much lower efficiency for such chemical transformations.

Engineered extremophile brews bulk chemicalChemistry World, 10 April 2013.

Image credit: Chemistry World

Molecular cages to the rescue

X-ray crystallography has shaped modern chemistry. It is arguably the most powerful tool for molecular structural analysis. But it suffers from one big drawback: it can only analyse materials that form well-defined crystals. This may now be about to change. Researchers in Japan have used ‘crystal sponges’ to hold molecules that can’t be crystallised, allowing them to be analysed using x-ray crystallography.

Molecular cages to end crystallisation nightmareChemistry World, 27 March 2013.

Image credit: Yasuhide Inokuma

Longevity enhancer

Since 2005 a controversy has been raging about the role of nitric oxide (NO) in increasing the lifespan of various organisms. Now, US researchers may have direct evidence for NO’s apparent special powers, at least in the nematode model organism Caenorhabditis elegans.

NO for longevityChemistry World, 21 Feb 2013.

Image credit: Chemistry World

Free drugs for the poor

The government of India has announced a $5 billion (£3.2 billion) plan to provide more than half of the country’s 1.2 billion people with free generic drugs. In a country that has among the lowest healthcare spending per capita in the world, this is welcome news. But there are fears that the pharmaceutical industry, looking to the emerging markets to make up for declining sales in the developed world, will suffer as the plan will only cover generic medicines.

Free generics for India’s poor but big pharma misses out – Chemistry World, 25 July 2012

Image from here.

India’s new anti-malarial drug

Indian pharmaceutical firm Ranbaxy has launched the drug Synriam, which it claims will prove a more efficient and simpler treatment for malaria. With its affordable price, Synriam may well be a step towards achieving the WHO’s goal of eradicating malaria by 2050, but Ranbaxy cannot take all the credit for it.

Ranbaxy launches new anti-malarial Synriam – Chemistry World, 3 May 2012

A list of main references for the article is here.