Discovering The Mystery Of DNA

Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), is sometimes called the most important chemical on earth, because it makes up our genes. But did you know the tale of its discovery was a long journey, involving many scientists?

Father Mendel and the hunt for the ‘gene’
Father Gregor Mendel, a Catholic monk, carried out experiments in the 19th century which laid the principles of modern genetics. His findings were later confirmed and extended by Hugo de Vries, Carl Correns, Erich von Tschermak and Thomas Hunt Morgan. The most critical finding was that different traits were inherited independently, as if each was a particle (now called a ‘gene’). This set off a hunt to find the chemical nature of the gene.

The chromosome theory
Theodor Boveri was a biologist who showed that chromosomes were necessary for inheritance in sea urchins. Walter Sutton demonstrated this in a grasshopper. Soon evidence mounted that chromosomes were the bearers of heredity, and it was established beyond doubt in 1915.

Chromosomes are very complicated structures in the cell, and contain both proteins and DNA. For a long time, it was a matter of hot debate as to which was the actual carrier of heredity. The debate was finally put to rest in 1944 by Oswald Avery, Colin MacLeod, and Maclyn McCarty, who showed that it was DNA and not protein that caused heredity.

The structure of DNA
A race began to determine the structure of DNA and the chemical basis of how genes work. It was already known that DNA is made of four ‘bases’ – adenine, guanine, thymine and cytosine. In 1950, Erwin Chargaff demonstrated that the total amount of adenine in any DNA molecule equals the total amount of thymine. He showed that the amount of guanine equals that of Cytosine. These are now called Chargaff’s rules.

At the same time Rosalind Franklin, Maurice Wilkins, James Watson and Francis Crick were using a new method for determining chemical structures – X-ray diffraction. Rosalind Franklin carried out many experiments and obtained many X-rays that showed a distinct, repetitive pattern. From this, Crick (who was originally trained as an engineer) deduced that DNA existed in two intertwined strands – called the double helix. The discovery was announced in 1953.

The foundation of a new science
The double helix made it clear how Chargaff’s rules apply. Each strand is a chain made of a combination of the four bases. Every adenine on one strand pairs with a thymine on the other strand, while guanine pairs with cytosine.

Since then, a very large number of advances have been made and a whole science has emerged at the interface of chemistry and genetics. Called molecular biology, it has led to discoveries as to how genes work physically, the basis of genetic disorders and the new fields of gene therapy and genetic engineering.

Onion Can Soak Up Heavy Metal

Onion and garlic waste from the food industry could be used to mop up hazardous heavy metals, including arsenic, cadmium, iron, lead, mercury and tin in contaminated materials, according to a research paper published in the International Journal of Environment and Pollution.

Biotechnologists Rahul Negi, Gouri Satpathy, Yogesh Tyagi and Rajinder Gupta of the GGS Indraprastha University in Delhi, India, explain how waste from the processing and canning of onion (Allium cepa L.) and garlic (Allium sativum L.) could be used as an alternative remediation material for removing toxic elements from contaminated materials including industrial effluent. The team has studies the influence of acidity or alkalinity, contact time, temperature and concentration of the different materials present to optimize conditions for making a biological heavy metal filter for industrial-scale decontamination.

They have found that at 50 Celsius (122 Fahrenheit), the efficiency of the clean-up process is largely dependent on pH (acidity or alkalinity) and equilibration time usually occurs within half an hour; a pH of 5 was optimal. They demonstrated the maximum extraction was achievable for lead, one of the most troublesome metallic environmental pollutants. They could extract more than 10 milligrams per gram of Allium material from a test solution containing 5 grams per liter of mixed metal ion solution, amounting to recovery efficiency of more than 70%. The absorbed metals can be released into a collecting vessel using nitric acid(HNO3, the CAS number is 7697-37-2) and the biomass reused.

The team experimented with Allium biomass to demonstrated effective removal of heavy metals from both simulated and actual industrial effluents. “The technique appears to be industrially applicable and viable,” they suggest. “This may provide an affordable, environmental friendly and low maintenance technology for small and medium scale industries in developing countries,” they conclude.

A sad tale to TEL

You may have heard an elder asking for unleaded petrol at a pump. Do you know why lead was once added to petrol? And why it was discontinued later?

The problem of ‘knocking’ in engines
In the early days of automobiles, ‘knocking’ was a major problem. In a car’s engine, the petrol is injected into a ‘fuel chamber’, where it mixes with air. A spark plug then creates an electric spark, which causes the fuel-air mixture to burn and produce heat. This causes the air to expand and push a piston, which drives the wheel.

However, one problem was that the fuel would catch fire even when the spark was not provided. This often led to engine problems; sometimes it even exploded!

The search for an anti-knock
Many people tried to find a solution. One way was to find a chemical that could be added to petrol, so that it would not combust until the spark was provided. In 1921, Thomas Midgley discovered that a compound called tetra-ethyl lead (TEL) prevented knocking when added to fuel. Midgley is also famous as the discoverer of CFCs.

TEL was soon adopted by fuel companies around the world as an additive to fuels. However, it soon proved to be one of the world’s biggest chemical disasters.

TEL and Lead poisoning
Lead is very dangerous to human beings. It causes anaemia, memory loss, abdominal pain, bone weakening, depression and finally death. It can be identified by ‘lead hue’, i.e. pale colouration of the skin. As the use of TEL spread around the world, it led to lead poisoning among petrol pump workers as well as users.

Lead also poisons the ‘catalytic converters’ that all modern car engines must be fitted with. This is a small device that removes dangerous substances like carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides. However, even tiny amounts of lead can damage the converter.

Sadly, TEL continued to be used for a very long time as there was no other alternative available. However, many improvements were made to engine design over the years, reducing or eliminating ‘knocking’. With the need for leaded fuel slowly decreased. Lead poisoning causes anaemia, memory loss, abdominal pain, bone weakening, depression and finally death.

A lesson learnt
has since been banned in many countries around the world. India banned the use of it in 2000. Alongside, the government introduced rules called the Bharat Stage standards. These rules require car manufacturers to implement technologies that reduce or eliminate the need for unleaded fuels.

The story of TEL highlights the nature of chemistry. What seems like a reasonable solution to a problem can unfortunately create terrible problems. Luckily, scientists today have adopted many methods to make science safer. In chemistry, such methods are called Green Chemistry.

Gluten Free and Tasty!

Cereals are good for you, supplying the body with carbohydrates, proteins and vitamins. Yet some people are intolerant to the gluten protein they contain. Now, researchers are developing new recipes for tasty, gluten-free pasta and pastries.

Not every person can eat what they like; far from it, one in every 250 people in Germany is intolerant to the protein gluten, which is chiefly found in the cereals wheat, spelt, barley and rye. Experts call this intolerance coeliac disease. For those affected, this means giving up bread, pizza, pasta and cakes, while ice cream wafers, dumplings and pretzels also pass onto the list of banned foods. Those suffering from coeliac disease, a chronic bowel disorder, must keep to a strict diet if they are to avoid diarrhea, stomach ache, vomiting and other symptoms. Accordingly, only gluten-free products make it onto the menu.

Indeed, demand for these food products, mainly offered by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), has risen steadily over the past years. Nevertheless, many consumers dislike gluten-free pasta and bakery products because they are unappetizing, lacking in texture and leave a disagreeable sensation in the mouth. This is a view confirmed in consumer tests involving coeliac disease sufferers and healthy volunteers. Partners include ingredient providers and food producers as well as research institutes from Germany, Ireland, Italy and Sweden. The aim of the project is to enable SMEs to develop premium, tasty gluten-free products that the consumer will eat with real enjoyment and satisfaction. The focus is primarily on bread and pasta, and on improving their taste, smell, appearance, texture and sensation in the mouth.

Gluten is good for baking because it holds the dough together. Hydrocolloids like xanthan gum, HPMC(the full name is Hydroxypropyl methyl cellulose and CAS No. is 9004-65-3) and dextran have all been examined carefully, as well as seeds taken from cereals and pseudocereals like amaranth, quinoa and buckwheat. In addition, scientists analyzed protein isolates taken from potatoes and pulses like lupins, broad beans and peas, as well as investigating the interaction of a variety of recipe ingredients during the production process, and the ways in which this affected texture, sensory properties and aroma profile. A whole range of recipes were tested; for example, researchers combined proteins with soluble fibers like xanthan gum and HPMC or with insoluble citrus fibers.

Bez considers the project a success, pointing to project partners’ success in producing a range of new and improved gluten-free breads, including toast bread, leavened bread and oat wholemeal bread, ciabatta, baguettes and pizza dough. Four of the baked goods producers involved in the project are already using the recipes for ciabatta, wholemeal bread and pizza dough. Furthermore, researchers were able to produce tasty, gluten-free spaghetti with a high fiber and protein content. Bez is confident that it won’t be long now before we see some of the new products lining bakery and supermarket shelves.

Benzene and Its Alternative Solvents

A solvent is a liquid, solid, or gas used to dissolve another solid, liquid, or gaseous solute for making a solution.  Benzene, as a chemical that is formed as a result of incompletely burned natural products, is a non-polar solvent used in the manufacture of such products as polymers and plastics, phenol for resins and adhesives, rubber, lubricants, dyes, detergents, drugs, explosives, napalm, and pesticides. According to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, it is a carcinogen.

Main Uses
Until it was classified a carcinogen, benzene was added to gasoline to boost its octane rating and reduce knocking. Today, it is primarily used as an intermediate in the production of styrene (used to make polymers and plastics), cumene (used to make phenol for adhesives) and cyclohexane (used to make nylon). Toluene, which is less hazardous, is now commonly used as a solvent in chemical reactions instead of benzene.

It is toxic. Exposure to benzene can cause serious problems by damaging your DNA. High levels can result in benzene poisoning. Symptoms include headaches, dizziness, confusion, drowsiness, tremors and unconsciousness. At extremely high levels it can result in death. Long-term complications, in addition to cancer, can include excessive bleeding and anemia due to its effect on the bone marrow and blood.

Alternative Solvents
is a colorless flammable liquid. It is a non-polar solvent like benzene, which means it is insoluble in water and soluble in non-polar substances such as alcohol, ether, acetone, benzene and ligroin. It is manufactured by reacting benzene with hydrogen. It is a major raw material for producing adipic acid and caprolactum. Cyclohexane is also used in electroplating, rubber manufacturing, and in the production of varnish solvents.

Toluene is a clear, water-insoluble non-organic solvent with the typical smell of a paint thinner. It is capable of dissolving a number of inorganic chemicals such as sulfur and occurs naturally as a component of crude oil. It is commercially produced in petroleum refining because it is a major constituent of gasoline. 

What Are the Benefits of Diosmin?

Diosmin is a natural flavonoid that is extracted from various plant sources and sold as a daily supplement either by itself or combined with similar flavonoids. People use this chemical to make medicine.

Diosmin might help treat hemorrhoids by reducing swelling (inflammation), and restoring normal vein function. It is used for treating various disorders of blood vessels including hemorrhoids, varicose veins, poor circulation in the legs (venous stasis), and bleeding (hemorrhage) in the eye or gums. It is also used to treat swelling of the arms (lymphedema) following breast cancer surgery, and to protect against liver toxicity. It is often taken in combination with hesperidin, another plant chemical.

Companies throughout the world offer diosmin in pill form. According to some experts, diosmin is often combined with a similar compound called hesperidin to maximize its effects.

Diosmin improves blood circulation and strengthens vein walls by improving the elasticity of blood vessels while inhibiting certain pro-inflammatory lipids. It helps your blood to flow against gravity and return from your legs to your heart. This has the effect of reducing or eliminating varicose and spider veins, while preventing recurrence by treating their cause.

Citrus fruits, especially lemons, are rich sources of diosmin, according to “Food Chemistry.” Lemons produce a number of useful flavonoids, including diosmin, in both the mature fruit and the leaves. Buddha’s finger, a type of citron, is also rich in diosmin. According to the “Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry,” green Meyer lemons and Buddha’s finger fruits contain the highest diosmin levels, especially when treated with hormones during the early growth stages.

The relief that diosmin offers from poor circulation, varicose and spider veins, and hemorrhoids can enable you to enjoy more physical activity and less interruptions in your social life.  It does cause some side effects, including digestive discomfort and headache. More time can be spent with family and friends, enjoying your favorite activities without the discomfort caused by poor circulation.

Have A Nice Cup Of Tea

Tea is the most famous beverage enjoyed by almost every person in the entire world. Each morning as we wake up, we need our perfect cup of tea. Almost every part of the world has people enjoying their perfect cuppa of tea. Have you ever thought when and how did this tea evolve?

Know Its Origin
Around 4000 years ago, it is said that people in China first started drinking tea. Then after 300 years ago, tea was introduced in Europe. After this, tea became popular in countries like North America and Europe around the 18th century. And China was the only country selling tea to other countries. In this way, China’s tea business started soaring.

Countries like Sumatra, Java and Formosa also started growing tea plantations. It was later discovered that the tea plants grew only up to one metre in China, whereas in India the plants grew up over six metres in height in India. Tea business now shifted to India.

How is Tea processed?
The leaves and small buds are plucked from the tea plantations. The tea plant needs to be at least three years old for the leaves to be plucked. We find two types of tea leaves, green and black. The plucked leaves and buds are pressed, dried and packed.

In order to prepare black tea, the leaves are pressed between the rollers and are left for fermentation. Once the leaves are fermented, again they are pressed between the rollers and are kept in hot rooms in order to dry.

Later the leaves are packed and sent to the desired places. Here is a video to help you understand the entire process of how tea is made.

Benefits of tea
Tea helps in preventing blood clotting in our body; it helps in lowering the cholesterol levels and also deactivates cancer promoters. Tea also contains natural fluoride that helps in maintaining the bones and teeth.

Known as the “wonder drink”, tea is packed with nutrients that are essential for our health. Tea is known to have certain polyphenols, natural organic chemicals that offers many benefits to our health.

In 1989, a study conducted by the Japanese Journal of Nutrition revealed that tea producing regions had a lower stomach cancer mortality rate as compared to non-tea producing regions.

In short, tea is anytime better compared to coffee and it will help you reap many benefits as compared to any other drink.

Is Prandin Useful For Weight Loss?

Prandin is the brand name for repaglinide. Diet, exercise and possibly other medications are used together with Prandin for people with Type II diabetes as a way to decrease blood sugar levels. Be aware of the precautions regarding Prandin and take the drug only on the advice and guidance of a physician. The medication causes the pancreas to produce insulin, thus helping to lower blood sugar.

Prandin works to decrease blood sugar levels by spurring the pancreas to create insulin. This drug is specifically for non-insulin dependant patients with Type II diabetes only. The drug may cause a drastic decrease in blood sugar, so you should be familiar with the symptoms of hypoglycemia, which include nausea, hunger, anxiety, numbness and irregular heartbeat. If you experience these symptoms, you should drink or eat something with sugar or take a glucagon injection as instructed by your doctor.

Hypoglycemia is a potential side effect of taking Prandin. Hypoglycemia can occur from prolonged exercise, alcohol, stress or missing meals. Symptoms of low blood glucose include hunger, tremors, headache, irritability and difficulty concentrating. Test your blood sugar, and if your blood sugar is low, take a simple carbohydrate such as orange juice or hard candy or whatever is recommended by your physician. Seek medical attention if symptoms persist.

Check your blood sugar often when following a repaglinide(the CAS number is 135062-02-1) regimen. Check to make sure your blood sugar is not too high. While Prandin is not used specifically for weight loss, it is associated with it for two main reasons. The goal of a diabetic diet to provide nutrients to the body without all the fats and sugars associated with a higher calorie diet. By counting your carbohydrates and sugar intake, you naturally take in fewer calories and lose weight. When you couple this with the suggested exercise, weight loss is almost guaranteed.

Prandin is a prescription drug and should never be taken by anyone without Type II diabetes. If you use it wrongly as a weight loss drug, you may find yourself becoming hypoglycemic. One of the classic symptoms of hypoglycemia is a voracious hunger, so you will most likely gain weight if this happens.

The Facts About Vitamin K

Everyone knows the importance of taking Vitamin C to help strengthen the immune system and avoid scurvy, and that B complex vitamins help to combat stress, but other equally important vitamins are often overlooked. Vitamin K is one of these essential, but often ignored vitamins that perform many vital functions in the body.

There are many food sources that provide ample amounts of vitamin K, which aids in blood clotting and helps prevent bone fracture. Diets rich in broccoli, asparagus, green beans, Romaine lettuce and spinach will provide a person with 100 percent of the recommended daily value of vitamin K. There are also over-the counter options for vitamin K supplements.

There are three types of Vitamin K; two are natural, and one is synthetic. Vitamin K1, also called phylloquinone, is found in plants. Vitamin K2, known as menaquinone, is produced by the friendly bacteria that line the human digestive tract. A third type, vitamin K3, or menadione, is produced synthetically in a laboratory.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the foods highest in Vitamin K are kale, collards, spinach, turnip greens, mustard greens, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and onions. All leafy green vegetables contain high amounts of Vitamin K, as do blueberries, plums, black-eyed peas and lentils. Vitamin K is best absorbed when eaten with some amount of fat, such as butter or olive oil.

While there are numerous food sources and supplements readily available that provide vitamin K, too much of the synthetic form of vitamin K, known as menadione(the CAS number is 58-27-5), can lead to toxicity. Menadione can cause cell damage, especially in the kidneys and liver.

Although vitamin K toxicity is possible, it is extremely rare, and its benefits outweigh the risks. According to the National Academy of Sciences, the recommended daily intake for males 19 years and older is 120 micrograms, while females in the same age group have a suggested intake of 90 micrograms. Studies show that people have diets with a daily levels of 340 micrograms per day without causing toxicity. The potential for toxicity is minimal, and the benefits are significant, as vitamin K protects bones from fracture and helps clot blood.

How To Made Plaster Casts?

If any of your friends has had an accident, you’ll see the hurt arm covered in plaster. Why do doctors do this? Chemistry tells us why.

Why do casts work?
The best reason is that they are so hard, that the bone cannot go out of alignment again.
Also, they can be made to suit the shape of your arm, so they fit really snug and are not uncomfortable. And they are fairly cheap and quick to make.

There are some problems too. They are not waterproof, so you have some trouble while bathing or washing hands. If water got in, it would erode the cast. Also, they can be quite heavy. And as your wound heals, your arm needs more flexibility. Then you have to break the old cast and make it again.

How a cast is made
When you have a fracture, the doctor will first clean up the wounds, reset the bone and
apply medicine. He’ll then wrap some bandages to protect the wound. Now watch the doctor’s attendant carefully. He’ll take some packets of gypsum and mix them with water. He’ll dip bandages in them and wrap them around the fracture.

Does it feel warm? That’s because the gypsum in the plaster (which is really calcium sulfate) reacts with water to make an insoluble form. This is a sticky form that settles like cement. Over time, the plaster will become hard and dry, and make a firm case for your fracture. Now your body can take over the healing process.

Sometimes you may find that there is no alternative for true plaster of Paris. Because plaster is gypsum-based, it has applications that cannot be achieved by glue or flour methods. Fortunately, plaster of Paris mix is relatively cheap and just as easy to mix as any of its alternatives. Combine the mix with an appropriate amount of water, as specified by the packaging. Use a stick or heavy spoon to stir until well mixed; you will have a thick paste similar to the glue mixture but heavier. This plaster mix can then be poured into molds or sculpted over a rigid structure to create masks, figurines and so forth. Once molded or poured, it takes about an hour to dry into a solid, but it’s best to leave it for an entire day to dry completely through.

For added color to your projects you can stir a small amount of paint into the plaster mix. One colorful plaster project that’s fun for kids simply cannot be replicated with plaster alternatives, because it requires the chalky qualities of actual plaster of Paris. Add color to the plaster mix and pour it into molds made of toilet paper tubes. Once the plaster hardens, cut away the tube and the resulting product can be used as sidewalk chalk!

Nowadays doctors suggest you use a fibreglass cast instead. It’s much lighter, waterproof and flexible. But it is still expensive, and you cannot autograph it!