Archive for the ‘METALS’ Category


Monday, May 19th, 2014

An academic at the University of Texas at Arlington believes his research team may have unintentionally stumbled upon a more efficient way to treat cancer through nanotechnology.

Copper-based experiment leads academic to find new way to treat cancer

Wei Chen. (Credit: U of T at Arlington)

Physicist Wei Chen, who is co-director of UT Arlington’s Center for Security Advances via Applied Nanotechnology, or SAVANT, was working to create a light-emitting nanoparticle for use in security-related radiation detection. Instead, he found that when the copper-cysteamine complex he created in his lab was exposed to X-rays, it started emitting a toxic by-product called “singlet oxygen,” which can be used to damage cancer cells in photodynamic therapy.

More testing led him to find that the nanoparticles, called Cu-Cy, significantly slowed tumour growth when combined with X-ray exposure in lab studies involving human breast and prostate cancer cells, according to UT Arlington, which has filed a provisional patent application on the complex.

Chen, who is also leading federally, funded cancer research, called the findings promising.

“This new idea is simpler and better than previous photodynamic therapy methods. You don’t need as many steps. This material alone can do the job,” he said in a press release issued by the university.

The new nanoparticle has low toxicity to healthy cells, according to Chen’s research.

The full paper is scheduled to appear in the August edition of the Journal of Biomedical Nanotechnology.

Henry Sapiecha


Saturday, November 23rd, 2013


copper water pipes image

Copper’s bad reputation seems to be growing. The metal, already framed as one of the main environmental factors that trigger the onset and enhance the progression of Alzheimer’s, is now being linked to the accelerated growth of cancer cells.

According to a study led by Douglas Hanahan, researcher at the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne and holder of the Merck Serono Chair in Oncology, copper in drinking water – given at the maximum levels permitted in public water supplies – accelerated the growth of tumours in mice.

The research, published at Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), provides direct evidence that copper can enhance the proliferation of cancer cells in humans as well.

“The biggest surprise was that a small amount of copper added to drinking water accelerated the growth of tumours, indicating that copper is an essential nutrient for them, said Seiko Ishida, one of the paper’s authors.

Tap water coming through copper pipes, red meat and shellfish as well as fruit and vegetables are all sources of dietary copper, which is vital to keep a healthy body. The catch is, says the researchers, that over certain levels it can also cause accelerate the growth of tumours.

The researchers, however, do not think that copper causes cancer. Exposure of healthy mice to the same amount of copper provided via drinking water to sick mice, for up to two years, did not result in an increased incidence of cancer. The authors suggest their findings show that copper levels should be monitored in cancer patients as a way of controlling the expansion of the disease.

They propose that minimizing copper in the patient’s system may be beneficial in cancer therapy, especially when combined with certain drugs in order to starve cancer cells, which tend to require much higher amounts of energy than normal ones.


rainbow line


Saturday, November 20th, 2010

Lead poisoning may now kill off Frodo

Kym Agius

November 20, 2010

A baby koala fights for life after being shot.Baby koala Frodo fights for life after being shot. Photo: Australia Zoo Wildlife Warriors

Veterinarians fear a baby koala that survived a gunshot will succumb to lead poisoning.

The joey, named Frodo, was found on November 5 in Kenilworth, in the Sunshine Coast hinterland, with 15 shotgun pellets lodged in her head and body, an Australia Zoo spokeswoman said.

Frodo’s skull was fractured and her stomach and intestines damaged in the attack.

She underwent two operations, but eight pellets are still lodged in her body.

Doctor Amber Gillett from the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital said some of the pellets were lodged in Frodo’s stomach and intestinal tract which they feared would lead to toxicity.

“The lead pellets are still a concern, although at this stage there is no evidence that poisoning has occurred, it is still our highest priority and will continue to be monitored,” Dr Gillett said.

Dr Gillett, who operated on Frodo, said the pellets were too hard to reach and won’t be operated on at this stage.

“I think we will leave them to see if they pass,” she said.

“If they don’t pass then she will go on treatment to prevent toxicity.”

The other pellets lodged in Frodo’s body are superficial and won’t cause any problems.

Despite the poisoning fears, Dr Gillett said Frodo was making good progress, and was even eating eucalyptus leaves on her own.

She also enjoys an enclosure with another baby koala, and the two often play.

“She’s climbing around the trees, looking like a normal koala now,” Dr Gillett said.

“She has a real fighting spirit in her.”

“Frodo is a very alert little girl and has been moving around freely by herself.”

She is expected to remain in care for a minimum of six to eight months or until she has reached pre-release size of four kilograms.

“Our aim is to get her back into the wild. She came in as a wild koala and as the law states, they need to be returned to the wild,” Dr Gillett said.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha


Sunday, October 10th, 2010

High amounts of heavy metals found in China tobacco

By Tan Ee LynPosted 2010/10/07 at 7:55 am EDT

HONG KONG, Oct. 7, 2010 (Reuters) — Some Chinese cigarettes contain amounts of lead, arsenic and cadmium that are three times higher than levels found in Canadian cigarettes, a study has found.

While consuming such heavy metals is widely known to be harmful to health, there is little research done so far about their impact when inhaled into the body.

The researchers, who published their findings in the journal Tobacco Control on Thursday, said more investigation was needed.

“While the per-stick levels of metals are what we measured, the real issue is repeated exposure. Smokers don’t smoke just one cigarette, but 20 or so a day every day for years because cigarettes are addictive,” wrote lead author Richard O’Connor of the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York.

“These metals get into smokers along with a cocktail of other toxicants. The effect of cumulative exposure to multiple toxicants, including metals, is the public health question that needs to be sorted out.”

The researchers used Canadian cigarettes for comparison in their study because Canadian manufacturers and importers are required to test for metals content in tobacco, and Health Canada, the country’s public health agency, recently released data concerning this.

China has more than 320 million smokers and a million Chinese in the country die each year from tobacco-related illnesses. Smoking has been causally linked to hypertension, stroke, diabetes, cancer, heart and respiratory diseases, among others.

China has the world’s largest smoking population and is also the biggest producer of tobacco, manufacturing 2.16 trillion cigarettes in 2007, according to the Tobacco Atlas.

O’Connor and colleagues analyzed 78 varieties of popular Chinese cigarette brands and found significantly elevated levels of heavy metals, with some containing three times the levels of lead, cadmium and arsenic compared with Canadian cigarettes.

“The higher yields of cadmium and lead in cigarettes manufactured in China are worrisome given current smoking prevalence in China and China National Tobacco Company’s export ambitions,” the researchers wrote in their paper.

A member of the team, Geoffrey Fong from the University of Waterloo in Canada, said the heavy metals content was due to contaminated soil.

“Tobacco like other crops absorbs minerals and other things from the soil, so if the soil has cadium, lead or arsenic, they will be absorbed into the tobacco,” Fong said.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha


Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

Why Mercury Is

More Dangerous in Oceans

Science (June 28, 2010) — Even though freshwater concentrations of mercury are far greater than those found in seawater, it’s the saltwater fish like tuna, mackerel and shark that end up posing a more serious health threat to humans who eat them.

The answer, according to Duke University researchers, is in the seawater itself.

The potentially harmful version of mercury — known as methylmercury — latches onto dissolved organic matter in freshwater, while it tends to latch onto chloride — the salt — in seawater, according to new a study by Heileen Hsu-Kim, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering.

“The most common ways nature turns methylmercury into a less toxic form is through sunlight,” Hsu-Kim said. “When it is attached to dissolved organic matter, like decayed plants or animal matter, sunlight more readily breaks down the methylmercury. However, in seawater, the methlymercury remains tightly bonded to the chloride, where sunlight does not degrade it as easily. In this form, methylmercury can then be ingested by marine animals.”

Methylmercury is a potent neurotoxin that can lead to kidney dysfunctions, neurological disorders and even death. In particular, fetuses exposed to methylmercury can suffer from these same disorders as well as impaired learning abilities. Because fish and shellfish have a natural tendency to store methylmercury in their organs, they are the leading source of mercury ingestion for humans.

“The exposure rate of mercury in the U.S. is quite high,” Hsu-Kim said. “A recent epidemiological survey found that up 8 percent of women had mercury levels higher than national guidelines. Since humans are on the top of the food chain, any mercury in our food accumulates in our body.”

The results of Hsu-Kim’s experiments, which have been published early online in the journal Nature Geoscience, suggest that scientists and policymakers should focus their efforts on the effects of mercury in the oceans, rather than freshwater.

Her research is supported by the National Institute of Environmental Health Science.

In the past, most of the scientific studies of effects of mercury in the environment have focused on freshwater, because the technology had not advanced to the point where scientists could accurately measure the smaller concentrations of mercury found in seawater. Though the concentrations may be smaller in seawater, mercury accumulates more readily in the tissues of organisms that consume it.

“Because sunlight does not break it down in seawater, the lifetime of methlymercury is much longer in the marine environment,” Hsu-Kim said. “However, the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency do not distinguish between freshwater and seawater.”

Mercury enters the environment through many routes, but the primary sources are coal combustion, the refinement of gold and other non-ferrous metals, and volcanic eruptions. The air-borne mercury from these sources eventually lands on lakes or oceans and can remain in the water or sediments.

The key to the sun’s ability to break down methylmercury is a class of chemicals known as reactive oxygen species. These forms of oxygen are the biochemical equivalent of the bull in the china shop because of the way they break chemical bonds. One way these reactive oxygens are formed is by sunlight acting on oxygen molecules in the water.

“These reactive forms of oxygen are much more efficient in breaking the bonds within the methylmercury molecule,” Hsu-Kim said. “And if the methylmercury is bonded to organic matter instead of chloride, then the break down reaction is much faster.”

Tong Zhang, a Ph.D. candidate in Hsu-Kim’s laboratory, was first author on the paper.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha


Monday, June 21st, 2010

Is Your Water Safe?

Physical Chemists Devise Quick

Spectrometry-Based Mercury Test

August 1, 2006 — Physical chemists have created a new, cheap test to detect mercury, an element known to harm the brain, kidneys, heart, lungs and immune system. A gold nanorod absorbs mercury from a sample and, then and an optical spectrometer measures changes in the nanorod’s light absorption. The process, which takes less than 10 minutes, can test mercury concentrations in liquids, gases, or solids.

ORLANDO, Fla. — Mercury … It’s in the ground, in the air, and in our water! We even have a little bit in our bodies. That’s normal. But too much mercury could cause health problems. What’s in your water? New tests may help detect if something dangerous is coming out of your faucet.

Courtney Hylton and her 2-year-old daughter Jordan enjoy their afternoon tea parties. Even though it tastes just right, what’s in the water could hurt them both.

“I really want to know what’s in there that shouldn’t be there,” Courtney says.

According to chemist Andres Campiglia, mercury attacks the nervous system. Too much mercury in your body can cause injury to your brain, kidneys, heart, lungs and immune system.

For pregnant women like Courtney, too much mercury can be toxic to their unborn babies. That’s why she is having her water tested.

Using gold to remove mercury from drinking water

University of Central Florida chemists Eloy Hernández and Campiglia have created a new quick, cheap test to detect mercury by using a very unlikely source — pure gold. Water is mixed with a solution containing gold nanorods, or solid gold bars 2,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair. Gold absorbs mercury. Then, scientists use an optical spectrometer to measure the light soaked up by the nanorods and reveal how much mercury is present.

“The more reddish it becomes, the higher the concentration of mercury,” Hernández tells DBIS.

The entire process takes less than 10 minutes. Results read out on a computer.

Courtney and Jordan’s water was safe, so for them it’s another cup of tea — with a little milk — and no mercury.

This mercury test works on not only liquids, but also on gases and solids. Scientists believe it can also be used in a larger capacity to clean up water and power plants. It could be available to the public within a few years.

BACKGROUND: Chemists are using an unusual technique to detect mercury in your water: gold nanorods, two thousand times thinner than a human hair The gold absorbs the mercury while the researchers monitor changes in the amount of light through a hand-held device called an optical spectrometer. This process can be used to create water filters and reclaim contaminated water.

HOW MERCURY GETS INTO WATER: Mercury is found in many rocks including coal, which when burned, releases mercury into the environment. Coal-burning power plants are the largest human-caused source of mercury emissions to the air in the United States, accounting for over 40 percent of all domestic human-caused mercury emissions. The EPA has estimated that about one quarter of U.S. emissions from coal-burning power plants are deposited within the U.S. Burning hazardous wastes, producing chlorine, breaking mercury products, and spilling mercury, as well as the improper treatment and disposal of products or wastes containing mercury, can also release it into the environment. Current estimates are that less than half of all mercury within the U.S. comes from U.S. sources. Mercury in the air eventually settles into water or onto land where it can be washed into water.

TOXIC MERCURY: Also known as “quicksilver,” mercury is heavy, silver-like metal, and one of five elements that are liquid at or near room temperature. Mercury is a neurotoxin, so it affects the central nervous system, causing personality changes, nervousness, trembling and in extreme cases, dementia. If mercury vapor is inhaled, as much as 80 percent of it may enter the bloodstream.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha