Browsing: in the news

A cocaine vaccine is more real than you think.

I find this absolutely fascinating, from a scientific point of view.  The social ramifications are far-reaching, but the science behind it is gold.

Drug abusers could quickly have a ‘remedy’ for their unhealthy addiction: scientists have actually successfully created a vaccine that completely prevents cocaine particles from reaching the brain and causing feelings of ecstasy, consequently assisting individuals in breaking their drug addiction.

“The vaccine consumes the cocaine in the blood like a little Pac-Man before it has a chance to reach the brain,” Dr. Ronald G. Crystal, the lead investigator of the Weill Cornell Medical College study said in a news release.

“We believe this approach is a win-win for those individuals, among the estimated 1.4 million cocaine individuals in the United States, who are dedicated to breaking their dependency to the medicine,” he further stated. “Even if an individual who gets the vaccine falls off the wagon, drug will have no affect on them.”

Cornell researchers have actually efficiently given the vaccine to non-human primates and are now much closer to launching human clinical trials. Human testing is anticipated to start within a year, Dr. Crystal thinks.  Many feel this would be a major breakthrough in immunology.

Cocaine blocks the recycling of dopamine– a neurotransmitter that is responsible for sensations of satisfaction. The medicine avoids the reuptake of dopamine by the neuron that launches it, triggering greater concentrations of dopamine to continue to be in the synapse and create a ‘high’.

“You get this massive flooding of dopamine which is the feel excellent part of the drug high,” Dr. Crystal said.

The new vaccine avoids dopamine buildup at the brain’s nerve endings. The vaccine consists of particles of the common cold virus and particles that resemble the structure of drug. Once the body receives an injection, it acknowledges the cold virus and creates an immune feedback against both the cold and the drug ‘impersonator’.

“The immune system learns to see cocaine as a burglar,” Dr. Crystals stated.

In order to feel the high that cocaine users seek, at least 47 percent of the dopamine transporter has to be occupied by cocaine. The Cornell analysts found that in immunized primates, cocaine occupied less than 20 percent of dopamine receptors– making it difficult for the animals to be impacted by the drug.

Analysts anticipate that the vaccine will work in people, however do not know how frequently it needs to be administered to preserve its impact. The vaccine remained to work efficiently for 13 weeks in mice and 7 weeks in primates.

“An anti-cocaine vaccination will need booster shots in human beings, however we don’t know yet how often these booster shots will be required,” Dr. Crystal said. “I believe that for those people who desperately wish to break their dependency, a series of vaccinations will assist.”.

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Detect Hydrogen Sulfide Using Nucleophilic Aromatic Substitution

This is some very cool chemistry.  And this post is dedicated to all of those who think that the organic chemistry you learned in your class was useless.

A professor and his graduate student at the University of Oregon have developed a hydrogen sulfide detector that can detect H2S in the parts per billion range (ppb).   This detector would be very important in the study of biologically contaminated water samples.  H2S is a colorless gas that smells like rotten eggs and is world-renown for its ability to make people sick.

This is very cool chemistry and it is performed using nucleophilic aromatic substitution.  Most of you are familiar with electrophilic aromatic substitution from second semester class, so some of you may recognize nucleophilic aromatic substitution.  Here is a quick example to refresh your memory.

In this reaction, methoxide anion is displacing fluorine in order to create the new aromatic ring.  The defining characteristic of nucleophilic aromatic substitution is that you need electron withdrawing groups on your aromatic ring to make the reaction occur.  In the above example, NO2 is our electron withdrawing group.  I am not sure what they are using in their probe (spoiler alert: i have not red the article yet), but i am sure it is something similar.

The crux of the reaction, said the study’s  graduate student Leticia A. Montoya, is the reaction process in which the probe reacts with H2S to produce a distinctly identifiable purple compound. “This method allows you look selectively at hydrogen sulfide versus any other nucleophiles or biological thiols in a system,” Montoya said. “It allows you to more easily visualize where H2S is present.”

The cite for JOC is: Leticia A. Montoya, Taylor F. Pearce, Ryan J. Hansen, Lev N. Zakharov, Michael D. Pluth. Development of Selective Colorimetric Probes for Hydrogen Sulfide Based on Nucleophilic Aromatic SubstitutionThe Journal of Organic Chemistry, 2013; :

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Some cool stuff that might be interesting to all….

Hi again.  I was cruising the news the other day and found a couple of articles that might be of interest to the undergraduate student.  The article on the molecular machine is particularly interesting to me.  Some day in the very near future, “old-fashioned” I/O chips will be a thing of the past.

The theory behind it is simple: In computer chips now, you have a voltage gate (a little wire) which if on is a “1” and if off is a “0”.  In molecular computers, the wire is replaced by a chiral molecule.  If the molecule is in the “R” configuration, that is a “1”.  Shine a light on it or pass a current through it and it goes to the “S” configuration which would be a “0”.  Presto, you have a computer that takes up a fraction of the space that the ones today do.  Read more below.

“Green Chemistry” (environmentally friendly) at the U of Oregon

The Downside of Getting High on Cough Syrup

5.5 Million Euro Project for Molecular Machine Research

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You can actually see molecules!?!

Hi everybody, we are back from the long summer break and I wanted to start the year with a very cool article which just came out.  They have taken a molecule of pentacene and provided a “clear as day” picture of it.  It is pretty fascinating to look at the ring structure and see how similar it is to the molecular models we have all been using since freshman chem.  Anywho, link is below, well worth a quick peek:

Remember, all your needs for organic chemistry can be found at organic chemistry


Good luck, and as always, happy reacting.

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