Anti Cocaine, Heroin Test, and Excited Brains

heroin-userThe latest issue of my SpectroscopyNOW column is now online. In this issue, having sampled a little cannabis chemistry last month, I turned to cocaine, and enzymes to beat addiction, and new techniques for testing the purity, or otherwise of street heroin.

Anti cocaine – A mutant enzyme that breaks down cocaine in the bloodstream 2000 times faster than the body’s natural enzymes could lead to a rapid-response treatment for acute overdose or lead to a new therapeutic approach to treating drug addiction.

Testing times for street heroin – Impure forms of illicit drugs are almost as big a problem as the drugs themselves. Now, researchers in Spain have used diffuse reflectance near-infrared spectroscopy (DR-NIR) to quickly determine the purity of heroin.

Sooty balloons – Nothing more sophisticated than a lump of graphite, a roll of sticky tape, and a wafer thin sliver of silica are needed to inflate ideas about nanochemistry. Raman spectroscopy and other techniques have been used to reveal the details of the DIY construction of a balloon-like membrane of graphene.

Stellar chemistry – Astroscientists are using various spectroscopic techniques to root out relatively complex molecules lurking in the interstellar medium. The complexity of naphthalene, discovered in space, and corannulene, could provide new evidence of a cosmic origin for the precursor molecules of life on Earth

Analytical compromise reveals protein folding secrets – A new X-ray technique, time-resolved wide-angle X-ray scattering (TR-WAXS) could defeat even high-field NMR spectroscopy in allowing researchers to monitor very fast, nanosecond-scale movements in the context of the overall three-dimensional protein structure.

Finally, this week, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has revealed a reason why the excitement of unwrapping presents dwindles as our brains get older and more jaded. According to a new study, a biochemical pathway is responsible for mellowing our expectations. I cannot say I’ve noticed to be honest, I still get just as excited as the kids at Christmas unwrapping presents…although I’ve moved on from playing with the packaging now, most times.

To effectively reverse any harmful heroin addiction, a patient must undergo detoxification and treatment.