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News Spectrum

Volume 24, Issue 3


The Coblentz Society announced that Professor Takeshi Hasegawa of Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo, Japan) was selected as the recipient of the 2009 Craver Award in recognition of his creation of a novel spectroscopic technique for analyzing molecular orientation in a polymeric thin film deposited on a solid substrate, which can be carried out on a conventional FT-IR. Dr. Hasegawa's development of the technique of multiple-angle incidence resolution spectrometry (MAIRS) is one of the more important advances in surface chemistry in the last decade.

The Coblentz Society created the Craver Award in 2006 to recognize the efforts of young professional spectroscopists who have made significant contributions in applied analytical vibrational spectroscopy. The award was named for Clara D. Craver in recognition of her pioneering efforts in promoting the practice of infrared vibrational spectroscopy and her many years of service to the Coblentz Society.

The Craver Award will be presented at the 2009 FACSS Conference, to be held October 18–22, 2009, at the Marriott Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky.

• Researchers with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (Chevy Chase, Maryland) used mass spectrometry to compare the levels of more than 1,000 metabolites in healthy prostate tissue, clinically localized prostate cancer, and metastatic prostate cancer. Sixty metabolites were present in tumor cells but not in benign tissue. Of these, 10 became more abundant in prostate cells during cancer progression. Their studies showed that one of these chemicals, sarcosine, helps prostate cancer cells invade surrounding tissue. An increase in sarcosine levels can be measured in both tumor cells and urine samples. It is hoped that this discovery will aid in noninvasively diagnosing the disease and perhaps even allow researchers to design drugs that manipulate the sarcosine pathway and inhibit the spread of prostate cancer.

• A2 Technologies (Danbury, Connecticut) has received a three-year research contract from the Federal Aviation Administration to study the effectiveness of Fourier transform–infrared spectroscopy (FT-IR) for determining damage to composite materials used in civilian aircraft applications.

The project will focus on three main tasks. A2 Technologies' handheld FT-IR system will be used to develop the methodology for determining thermal, UV, and chemical damage to composites. Once this is developed, it will be used to detect the full extent of damage in composite panels and to monitor and aid in bonding and repair processes. These methods will then be implemented to enable the system to be used by qualified nondestructive evaluation personnel in field trials. Collaborating on this project is The Center for Composite Materials at the University of Delaware.

According to Jon Frattaroli, CEO of A2 Technologies, "We are delighted that the FAA has seen the potential value of FT-IR spectroscopy as a nondestructive analysis technology for use in aircraft manufacturing and maintenance. We are excited to work with our outstanding collaborators to prove the value of this technology."

• A team of researchers at Northwestern University (Evanston, Illinois) and NorthShore University HealthSystem may have found a way to spot cancer in the pancreas before it even begins. Vadim Backman, a biomedical engineer at NU, and his colleagues developed a technique called partial wave spectroscopy, or PWS, which enables researchers to peer into a cell's inner architecture on a nanoscopic level, observing cellular "disorder" building in cells before they become cancerous. PWS focuses one-dimensional light inside the cell. The light waves bounce off intracellular structures and generate a signal researchers can record, allowing the study of cellular structures 10 to 20 times smaller than can be observed with normal microscopes.

"When we look in a microscope, we see the house of a cell, its roof and walls," Backman said. "When we look with (the new method), we see the individual bricks, and we might find some cracks that tell us the house is going to collapse at some point later." Currently, a patient's best chance of surviving pancreatic cancer is if doctors find a tumor by accident. In the recent case of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a follow-up scan based on her history of colon cancer found a 1-cm pancreatic tumor, for which she underwent surgery earlier this month.

Doctors occasionally can spot early signs of cancer in cells taken from the pancreas in a biopsy, but limitations of microscopes mean that even this method might not see the cancer forming until it is too late.

When PWS was applied to pancreatic cell samples taken from patients previously diagnosed as healthy or cancerous, the method revealed a clear increase in the "architectural disorder" of cells from people who developed cancer. Even more promising, the method detected elevated disorder in cells from six patients who were misdiagnosed as normal but later developed cancer, suggesting that PWS can identify cancer cells earlier and more accurately than the standard method.

"Our thinking right now is that this could be useful in (screening) high-risk patients," such as those with a family history of pancreatic cancer, smokers, and heavy drinkers, said Dr. Hemant Roy, director of gastroenterology research at NorthShore and part of the research team.

The technique also has potential to be applied to the detection of other cancers. Research published in December by the same team used PWS to detect early colon cancer in animals.


Pittcon 2009, which is being held from March 9–13, 2009, at McCormick Place (Chicago, Illinois), will feature a full-day symposium on nanotechnology for the first time. The symposium will introduce the application of the research of nanotechnology using state-of-the-art analytical instruments in electron microscopy and spectroscopy, such as multielemental STEM tomography and display type analyzer for direct observation of 3-D atomic and electronic structures. Speakers include Hiroshi Daimon, Xiao Feng Zhang, Michael Kersker, David Surman, and Adam Gilmore.

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