Science, Health & Recalls October 13
California Enacts Green Chemistry Bills
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed two bills into law that will put California on the path towards a comprehensive green chemistry program to reduce or eliminate hazardous industrial chemicals, GCI Magazine reports. A.B. 1879 gives the California Department of Toxic Substances Control the authority to identify and monitor chemicals in consumer products, while the accompanying bill S.B. 509 requires the creation of an online database where consumers can increase their knowledge of the hazards of everyday chemicals. The goal is to work with scientists to evaluate the health effects of chemicals and possible alternatives through a science-based approach.
MIT Engineers Research Smell
Biological engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have found a way to mass-produce smell receptors in the laboratory, and are at work on an artificial nose. The technique involves a cell-free synthesis using wheat-germ extract and the isolation of the protein through purification steps. This method can rapidly produce large amounts of protein and paves the way for future research on the enigmatic nose. Noses can discern thousands of distinct odors and a good electronic nose could replace drug- or bomb-sniffing dogs, and have a medical applications.
Harvard Prof Researches Non-AIDS HIV Patients
Bruce Walker, a Harvard University professor and head of the Partners AIDS Research Center, is working to uncover the secrets in an international study of people whose bodies control the HIV virus without medical help, Harvard Gazette reports. The roughly 2000 “controllers” are deemed either “elite controllers” whose body is so efficient it shows no sign of the virus, or “viremic controllers,” whose body keeps the virus at a low level that does not cause disease. Walker discussed his ongoing research and the progress for a vaccine at Harvard University’s Science Center and said that while although immediate prospects for a vaccine are dim, the existence of HIV controllers inspires long-term optimism.
Mixed Metal Particles Faster, MIT Says
A team made up of engineers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and two other institutions have taken the first atomic-scale compositional images of fuel-cell nanoparticles, MIT News reports. Researchers used a technique known as abberation-corrected and scanned Transmission Electron Microscopy to research why nanoparticles made of platinum and cobalt catalyze some of the chemical reactions behind fuel cells faster than platinum alone. The team proposes that these combined nanoparticles are up to four times more active than platinum because the platinum atoms on the surface are constrained by the cobalt atoms underneath. Research shows promise in making nanoparticles more effective in chemical reactions that are key to fuel cells.
Nobel Prize Lauds Jellyfish Research
Two Americans and one Japanese researcher won the 2008 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the discovery of a glowing jellyfish protein that makes cells, tissues and organs light up, NPR reports. The prize recognizes Osamu Shimomura with the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory in Massachusetts, Martin Chalfie of Columbia University in New York, and Roger Tsien of the University of California at San Diego. Green fluorescent proteins allow scientists to see the growth of cancer and study Alzheimer’s.