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Techniques & Tools Spectroscopy, Clinical, COVID-19, Food, Beverage & Agriculture, Forensics, Proteomics

What’s New in Spectroscopy?

More than a portal. Studies employing cryogenic electron microscopy (cryo-EM) have previously failed to fully characterize TMEM16F – a membrane protein involved in many physiological processes and COVID-19 pathogenesis. An international research team successfully identified its native structure and function using a combination of single-molecule force spectroscopy (SMFS) and high-speed atomic force microscopy (HS-AFM) imaging. Their work demonstrated the structure, dynamics, and mechanical properties of the protein – results that contradict the current theory that TMEM16F functions as a simple cell gate.  “Thanks to this innovative technique, we were able to successfully study the structure of the TMEM16F protein. Our pioneering work is now yielding tangible results, and this publication in Nature Communications is an example,” said Nicola Galvanetto, co-author of the paper, in a press release.

Running on… Cranberry. Cranberries contain high levels of antioxidants and polyphenol, with many considering them a “superfood” – believed to improve physical health and performance. Recently, a research team from Concordia University, Quebec, Canada, conducted a study to test if such theories are actually true. The scientists assessed lactate levels of runners prior and after the consumption of cranberry extract supplements, as well as their oxygenation levels – using a portable spectroscopy device. Findings suggest that the cranberry extract enhanced the performance of the runners – slowing dowing deoxygenation and enhancing lactate clearance.

Monitoring childhood obesity. What biochemical changes are associated with childhood obesity? Researchers from the Gaziantep University of Science and Technology, Turkey, used Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy to analyze and compare serum samples from obese and healthy children. In the childhood obesity group, they found an increase in insulin, glucose, LDL, cholesterol, and triglycerides, with a decrease in HDL levels, and structural changes in proteins and lipids – suggesting potential disruptions in cellular transport and metabolic processes.  “The study’s findings suggest that FTIR spectroscopy can be a promising tool for the early detection and monitoring of obesity-associated chemical and molecular changes in blood, thus aiding in the development of effective treatments and preventive measures,” concluded the authors.

Smoking Gun. The firearm “memory effect” refers to impact of a weapon’s entire shooting history on the elemental composition on gunshot residue – a phenomenon that complicates forensic analysis. Guns can be cleaned in an attempt to reduce the memory effect, but does it make a difference? A research team at the Italian Carabinieri evaluated the effectiveness of a number of gun cleaning procedures by analyzing samples collected from the shooters’ hands and from cotton targets set nearby the gun muzzle with SEM-EDS and ICP-OES. They found that the number of old residues recovered from the shooter's hands did not follow any predictable trend, concluding that “all internal components of a gun, and not just the barrel, play a role in memory effect.”


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In Other News…

RMIT University, Australia, researchers develop non-invasive near-infrared (NIR) spectroscopy-based optical glucose sensor with a detection limit as low as 10 mg dL−1, following in vitro assay tests. Link  

New method combining spectroscopy and molecular docking predicts pesticide toxicity to humans and the environment, potentially laying the foundation for developing low toxicity pesticides. Link

Researchers quantify the impact of sample, instrument, and data processing on biological signatures in modern and fossil tissues detected with Raman spectroscopy and captured in the ChemoSpace. Link

Researchers apply Raman spectroscopy to trace lymphocytes activation following contact with the Epstein–Barr virus (EBV), finding that around a week after diagnosis, new spectral features appear – which could help clinicians predict the severity of the infection. Link

Rapid and label-free 3D chemical imaging in cells and tissue could be achieved with newly developed Raman scattering tomography (PM-SRST), suggests recent research on plant roots. Link 

Allison Scarbrough and colleagues introduce a reliable and “use-error robust” machine learning algorithm for analysis of diffuse reflectance spectroscopy – potentially enhancing early cancer diagnosis. Link

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About the Author
Markella Loi

Associate Editor, The Analytical Scientist

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