NMR allows structure determination of biomolecules in their natural environment

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sattler_02-10-sScientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum München and the Technische Universität München (TUM) under the direction of Professor Michael Sattler have developed a new strategy allowing them to determine the spatial structure of biomolecules in solution based around NMR spectroscopy. The method is flexible and generally applicable to obtaining structural information for signal forwarding pathways in the cell or in the regulation of gene expression. Their work is reported in Angewandte Chemie.

Read more: NMR allows structure determination of biomolecules in their natural environment


Near-field microscope offers 17 nm resolution

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near_field_microscope-sScientists in the research group of Professor Dr Alfred Meixner and Dr Dai Zhang from the Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry at the University of Tübingen, Germany, have developed a near-field microscope that can measure the optical properties of, for instance, semiconductor thin films with a spatial resolution and sensitivity long thought unachievable due to fundamental physical laws (the diffraction limit). Both the optical spectrum and the topography of a surface can be mapped simultaneously with nanometre precision.

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Spectral subtraction reveals exoplanet chemistry

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planet_spec-2-sChemical studies of exoplanets—planets that orbit not the Sun, but distant stars—rely on spectroscopy. Such studies used to be the domain of space observatories and of the world's largest ground-based telescopes. Now, a new data analysis technique successfully pioneered by a group of astronomers from the US, the UK and Germany has brought exoplanet spectroscopy to a much smaller (and more wide-spread) class of ground-based telescopes.

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MR spectroscopy may help diagnose, determine aggressiveness of prostate cancer

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Magnetic resonance (MR) spectroscopy may in the future be able both to pinpoint the precise location of prostate cancer and to determine the tumour's aggressiveness, information that could help guide treatment planning. In Science Translational Medicine (doi: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3000513), Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) researchers report how spectroscopic analysis of the biochemical makeup of prostate glands accurately identified the location of tissue confirmed to be malignant by conventional pathology.

Read more: MR spectroscopy may help diagnose, determine aggressiveness of prostate cancer


NIR shows babies' brains tuned to sharing attention with others

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baby-sChildren as young as five months old will follow the gaze of an adult towards an object and engage in joint attention, according to research at Birkbeck, University of London, funded by the Wellcome Trust and the Medical Research Council. The findings, published in Biology Letters (doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2009.1069), suggest that the human brain develops this important social skill surprisingly early in infancy.

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Raman sheds new light on cancer

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Researchers at the University of St Andrews have developed a powerful technique that could allow earlier cancer detection. In a joint venture between the Schools of Physics & Astronomy and the Bute Medical School, the St Andrews researchers have advanced new technology that relies on Raman spectroscopy.

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Range of spectroscopies used in catalyst research

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Espinosa Alonso, a chemist from Utrecht University, The Netherlands, used four different spectroscopic techniques to study catalysts in the course of their preparation: UV-vis-NIR-microspectroscopy, IR microspectroscopy, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and tomographic energy dispersive diffraction imaging (TEDDI). Whilst MRI and TEDDI are already frequently used in other research fields, but they are not commonly used to study the preparation of catalysts.

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Pittcon 2010 Awards

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The winners of the 2010 Pittcon Awards include a good number of spectroscopists, and names that will be familiar to readers.

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Instantaneous trace gas fingerprint with laser frequency combs

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high-finesse-cavity-for-laser-frequency-combs-sTrace gas spectroscopic detection has drawn much interest in recent years, as it both allows a better understanding of the molecular spectra of weak overtone transitions and in situ non-intrusive sensing of compounds at low concentration. However, recording a broadband spectrum within a very short measurement time and with high sensitivity remains a challenge. Now, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics have recorded ultrasensitive absorption broadband spectra within tens of microseconds by combining cavity enhancement and frequency comb spectroscopy.

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Faster biopsies thanks to NMR

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Press release from Nature News - under embargo for Monday 14 December 1800 London time (GMT) Chemical fingerprints of tissue samples taken from patients during operations could soon help surgeons to decide quickly where to make their incisions. Nature News has reported that two groups are leading efforts to use nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy to analyse the metabolites in biopsies and relay information back to theatre within minutes.

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Understanding protein transitions

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protein-dynamics-sUnderstanding the extremely fast atomic mechanisms at work when a protein transitions from one shape to another has been an elusive scientific goal for years, but an essential one for elucidating the full range of protein function. How do proteins transition between distinct shapes without unfolding in the process? Until now, this question has been a hypothetical one, approached by computation only rather than experimentation. In a study in Cell (doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2009.11.022), researchers reveal for the first time computationally and experimentally the molecular pathway that a protein takes to cross the energy barrier. The study reports how folded proteins can efficiently change shape while avoiding unfolding, a critical requirement for any protein in the cell.

Read more: Understanding protein transitions


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