Category Archives: pharmacology

‘Hunting’ pharmaceuticals and removing them from water

Pharmaceuticals are not the first pollutants people think of when discussing water pollution but, for those who don’t know, it’s a big issue and scientists at the University of Surrey (UK) have developed a technology they believe will help to relieve the contamination. From an April 10, 2017 University of Surrey press release (also on EurekAlert),

The research involves the detection and removal of pharmaceuticals in or from water, as contamination from pharmaceuticals can enter the aquatic environment as a result of their use for the treatment of humans and animals. This contamination can be excreted unchanged, as metabolites, as unused discharge or by drug manufacturers.

The research has found that a new type of ‘supermolecule’, calix[4], actively seeks certain pharmaceuticals and removes them from water.

Contamination of water is a serious concern for environmental scientists around the world, as substances include hormones from the contraceptive pill, and pesticides and herbicides from allotments. Contamination can also include toxic metals such as mercury, arsenic, or cadmium, which was previously used in paint, or substances that endanger vital species such as bees.

Professor Danil de Namor, University of Surrey Emeritus Professor and leader of the research, said: “Preliminary extraction data are encouraging as far as the use of this receptor for the selective removal of these drugs from water and the possibility of constructing a calix[4]-based sensing devices.

“From here, we can design receptors so that they can bind selectively with pollutants in the water so the pollutants can be effectively removed. This research will allow us to know exactly what is in the water, and from here it will be tested in industrial water supplies, so there will be cleaner water for everyone.

“The research also creates the possibility of using these materials for on-site monitoring of water, without having to transport samples to the laboratory.”

Dr Brendan Howlin, University of Surrey co-investigator, said: “This study allows us to visualise the specific receptor-drug interactions leading to the selective behaviour of the receptor. As well as the health benefits of this research, molecular simulation is a powerful technique that is applicable to a wide range of materials.

“We were very proud that the work was carried out with PhD students and a final year project student, and research activities are already taking place with the Department of Chemical and Processing Engineering (CPI) and the Advanced Technology Institute (ATI).

“We are also very pleased to see that as soon as the paper was published online by the European Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, we received invitations to give keynote lectures at two international conferences on pharmaceuticals in Europe later this year.”

That last paragraph is intriguing and it marks the first time I’ve seen that claim in a press release announcing the publication of a piece of research.

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

A calix[4]arene derivative and its selective interaction with drugs (clofibric acid, diclofenac and aspirin) by Angela F Danil de Namor, Maan Al Nuaim, Jose A Villanueva Salas, Sophie Bryant, Brendan Howlin. European Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences Volume 100, 30 March 2017, Pages 1–8 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ejps.2016.12.027

This paper is behind a paywall.

Greener catalysts with iron nanoparticles

A research team at the University of Toronto has announced the discovery of a possible ‘green’ alternative to commonly used catalysts in the food, drug, and fragrance industries. From the March 27, 2012 news item on Nanowerk,

A chemistry team at the University of Toronto has discovered environmentally-friendly iron-based nanoparticle catalysts that work as well as the expensive, toxic, metal-based catalysts that are currently in wide use by the drug, fragrance and food industry.

“It is always important to strive to make industrial syntheses more green, and using iron catalysts is not only much less toxic, but it is also much more cost effective,” said Jessica Sonnenberg, a PhD student and lead author of a paper published this week in the Journal of the American Chemical Society (“Iron Nanoparticles Catalyzing the Asymmetric Transfer Hydrogenation of Ketones”).

The March 27, 2012 University of Toronto news release provides a quote from Sonnenberg which suggests there’s still a lot more work to be done before the toxic metal-based catalysts currently being used could be replaced,

… “Catalysts, even cheap iron ones developed for these types of reaction, still suffer one major downfall,” explained Sonnenberg.  “They require a one-to-one ratio of very expensive organic ligands – the molecule that binds to the central metal atom of a chemical compound – to yield catalytic activity. Our discovery of functional surface nanoparticles opens the door to using much smaller ratios of these expensive compounds relative to the metal centres.  This drastically reduces the overall cost of the transformations.”

This work at the University of Toronto reminded me of another team also working on green catalysts for chemical reactions and also based in Canada, this time at McGill University. The McGill team lead by Chao-Jun Li was mentioned most recently here in a Jan. 10, 2011 posting where their ‘nanomagnetics’ technology to replace the current toxic catalysts  is described.

Nanobiotechnology research cooperation between India and Australia

The Nov. 28, 2010 news item on Nanowerk features a nanotechnology project which seems to have been 120 years in the making,

Professor Den Hollander Vice-Chancellor and President of Deakin University was excited as well about this partnership and said, ‘Alfred Deakin first recognized the possibilities of India and Australia working together nearly 120 years ago. It is pleasing for everyone at Deakin and TERI [The Energy and Resources Institute] to be involved in a partnership that not only fulfils his prophecies but which has mutual benefits for both nations,” She further added, ‘For Deakin to be partnered with such an organization led by a man of Dr. Pachauri’s [TERI, Director-General] standing is a massive complement. We hope to use the agreement with TERI as a model for other partners.’

Dr. R. K. Pachauri is a world-renowned economist and the head of the Nobel Prize winning UN Climate panel. TERI, The Energy and Resources Institute in India, and Deakin University in Australia have recently signed a memorandum of understanding,

The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), India and Deakin University, Australia signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to announce the setting up of a Centre of Excellence, the TERI-Deakin Nano Biotechnology Research Centre in the field of Nano Biotechnology in India. This development is an outcome of TERI’s core capability of knowledge creation and development of efficient, environment friendly technologies and Deakin’s India Research Initiative (DIRI) which is committed towards establishing a lasting association with industry partners in India to chart a vibrant culture of research and scholastic excellence.

The initiative is also aimed at bridging the gap between industry and academia through research and collaboration of world leading experts, which will enable efficiency, effectiveness and provide solutions for a sustainable future through the utilization of biotechnology. The TERI- Deakin Nano Biotechnology Research Centre will bring to the fore Deakin’s expertise in the design and characterization of novel nanomaterials while TERI’s Biotechnology and Management of Bioresource Division (BMBD) will bring their wealth of experience in biotech applications in pharmacology, food, agriculture and environmental areas.