controlled drugs could
minimize side effects
Potential side effects of many of today’s therapeu-
tic drugs can be alarming – just listen carefully
a drug commercial on television. These effects
en occur when a drug is active throughout the
dy, not just where and when it is needed. But
earchers are reporting progress on a new, tai-
ed approach to deliver medicine in a much more
geted way. The study on these new electronically
ntrolled drugs appears in the journal ACS Nano.
Xinyan Tracy Cui and colleagues note that in the lab, “smart”
dical implants can now release drugs on demand when exposed
arious cues, including ultraviolet light and electric current.
se advantages are largely due to developments in nanomateri-that can be designed to carry drugs and then release them at
cific times and dosages. Researchers have also experimented
h loading anti-cancer drugs on thin sheets of graphene oxide
), which have properties that are useful in drug delivery. But
ent techniques still need to be perfected before they can be
d as a part of routine medical treatments.
Cui’s team incorporated GO nanosheets into a polymer thin film
t can conduct electricity, loaded it with an anti-inflammatory
g, and coated an electrode with it. When they zapped the
terial with an electric current, they showed that it released the
g consistently in response. They could do this several hundred
es. Also, by experimenting with the sizes and thicknesses of the
sheets, the researchers could alter how much of the drug the
osheets could carry. Cui said this approach could be useful in
ting epilepsy, for example. In that case, medication already lying
wait inside the body could be released at the onset of a seizure.
Read more about the research: “Electrically Controlled Drug
very from Graphene Oxide Nanocomposite Films,” ACS Nano,
4, 8 ( 2), pp. 1834–1843.
Finally, a way to authenticate
For some, nothing can top a morsel of luxuriously rich,
premium chocolate. But until now, other than depending
on their taste buds, chocolate connoisseurs had no way of
knowing whether they were getting what they paid for.
In the ACS’s Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry,
researchers from the Department of Agriculture report
that they have found a method to authenticate the vari-
etal purity and origin of cacao beans, the source of choco-
late’s main ingredient, cocoa.
Dapeng Zhang and colleagues note that lower-quality cacao beans
often get mixed in with premium varieties on their way to becoming
chocolate bars, truffles, sauces, and liqueurs. But the stakes for policing
the chocolate industry are high. It’s a multibillion-dollar global enterprise,
and in some places, it’s as much art as business. There’s also a conserva-
tion angle to knowing whether products are truly what confectioners claim
them to be. The ability to authenticate premium and rare varieties would
encourage growers to maintain cacao biodiversity rather than depend on
the most abundant and easiest-to-grow trees. Research-
ers have found ways to verify through genetic
testing the authenticity of many other crops,
including cereals, fruits, olives, tea, and cof-
fee, but those methods aren’t suitable for
cacao beans. Zhang’s team wanted to
address this challenge.
Applying the most recent devel-
opments in cacao genomics, they
were able to identify a small set
of DNA markers called single-
(SNPs) that make up the
fingerprints of differ-
ent cacao species.
works on single
cacao beans and
can be scaled up
to handle large
“To our knowledge, this is the
study in cacao using molecular
markers,” the researchers state.
Read more about the research: “Accurate Determination of Genetic Identity of a Single Cacao Bean, Using Molecular Markers with a Nanofluidic System, Ensures Cocoa Authentication,”
J. Agric. Food Chem., 2014, 62 ( 2), pp. 481–487.