Researchers design treatment to protect bones during cancer therapy

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US high schoolers design low-cost filter to remove lead from water

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Using 3D printing and high-school level chemistry, a team of students and their teacher has produced a working prototype of an affordable and environmentally friendly filter to remove lead from water.

When the pandemic forced schools into remote learning, Washington-area science teacher Rebecca Bushway set her students an ambitious task: design and build a low-cost lead filter that fixes to faucets and removes the toxic metal.

Using 3D printing and high-school level chemistry, the team now has a working prototype—a three-inch (7.5 centimeter) tall filter housing made of biodegradable plastic, which they hope to eventually bring to market for $1 apiece.

“The science is straightforward,” Bushway told AFP on a recent visit to the Barrie Middle and Upper School in suburban Maryland, where she demonstrated the filter in action.

“I thought, ‘We have these 3D printers. What if we make something like this?'”

Bushway has presented the prototype at four conferences, including the prestigious spring meeting of the American Chemistry Society, and plans to move forward with a paper in a peer-reviewed journal.

Up to 10 million US homes still receive water through lead pipes, with exposure particularly harmful during childhood.

The metal, which evades a key defense of the body known as the blood-brain-barrier, can cause permanent loss of cognitive abilities and contribute to psychological problems that aggravate enduring cycles of poverty.

A serious contamination problem uncovered in Flint, Michigan in 2014 is perhaps the most famous recent disaster—but lead poisoning is widespread and disproportionately impacts African Americans and other minorities, explained Barrie team member Nia Frederick.

Rebecca Bushmay (R), assisted by 18-year-old student Erin Osterman, demonstrates the use of the lead water filter.

“And I think that’s something we can help with,” she said.

The harms of have been known for decades, but lobbying by the lead industry prevented meaningful action until recent decades.

President Joe Biden’s administration has pledged billions of dollars from an infrastructure law to fund the removal of all the nation’s lead pipes over the coming years—but until that happens, people need solutions now.

A clever trick

Bushway’s idea was to use the same chemical reaction used to restore contaminated soil: the exposure of dissolved lead to calcium phosphate powder produces a solid lead phosphate that stays inside the filter, along with harmless free calcium.

The filter has a clever trick up its sleeve: under the calcium phosphate, there’s a reservoir of a chemical called .

Rebecca Bushway with students in her high school science class at Barrie Middle and Upper School, in Silver Spring, Maryland.

When the is used up, dissolved lead will react with potassium iodide, turning the water yellow—a sign it is time to replace the filter.

Student Wathon Maung spent months designing the housing on 3D printing software, going through many prototypes.

“What’s great about it was that it’s kind of this little puzzle that I had to figure out,” he said.

Calcium phosphate was clumping inside the filter, slowing the reaction. But Maung found that by incorporating hexagonal bevels he could ensure the flow of water and prevent clumping.

The result is a flow rate of two gallons (nine liters) per minute, the normal rate at which water flows out a tap.

Next, the Barrie team would like to incorporate an instrument called a spectrophotometer that will detect the yellowing of the water even before it is visible to the human eye and then turn on a little LED warning light.

Up to 10 million US homes still receive water through lead pipes, with exposure particularly harmful during childhood.

Paul Frail, a chemical engineer who was not involved in the work, said the group “deserves an incredible amount of credit” for its work, combining general chemistry concepts with 3D printing to design a novel product.

He added, however, that the filter would need further testing with ion chromatography instruments that are generally available in universities or research labs—as well as market research to determine the demand.

Bushway is confident there is a niche. Reverse osmosis systems that fulfill the same role cost hundreds to thousands of dollars, while carbon block filters available for around $20 have to be replaced every few months, which is more often than her group’s filter.

“I am over-the-Moon proud of these students,” Bushway said, adding that the group hoped to work with partners to finalize the design and produce it at scale.

© 2022 AFP

US high schoolers design low-cost filter to remove lead from water (2022, May 22)
retrieved 23 May 2022

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Hexbyte Glen Cove Researchers design a flexible system that sidesteps copper-protein binding

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The structure of the designed metalloprotein with selective metal binding sites. Credit: Chung-Jui Yu

It may seem counterintuitive to many, but metal ions play a critical role in life, carrying out some of the most important biological processes. Think of hemoglobin—a metalloprotein responsible for carrying oxygen to the body’s organs via red blood cells. Metalloproteins are proteins bound by at least one metal ion. In the case of hemoglobin, that metal is iron.

For metalloproteins to work properly, they must be paired with the correct —hemoglobin can only function with iron Yet, protein-metal binding is normally governed by a strict order, called the Irving-Williams Series, which dictates that should bind to proteins over other metals.

In other words, if a cell contained equal amounts of different metal ions, most cellular proteins and other components would bind to , clogging up cellular machinery in the process. This is why organisms spend considerable energy keeping very strict controls over how much free copper is present in cells.

Now researchers in the University of California San Diego’s Division of Physical Sciences have reported a new protein-design strategy to sidestep the Irving-Williams Series. The findings were published earlier this week in the journal Nature.

Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry Akif Tezcan and postdoctoral scholar Tae Su Choi designed a flexible protein that selectively binds other metal ions over copper, paving the way for the design of novel functional proteins and metal sequestration agents. Choi and Tezcan discovered that selective binding to non-copper metals required the artificial protein to present a very specific combination of amino acids and geometries to discriminate against copper. This discovery required an uncommon design approach.

“Protein design typically involves trying to craft a discrete protein structure that can perform a certain function, such as catalysis. This approach is inherently deterministic and follows the sequence of one design-one structure-one function,” stated Tezcan. “Best case scenario, you obtain the structure and function that is designed. However, this approach doesn’t leave much room for the discovery of new design principles or unexpected outcomes, which are potentially more significant than what was originally planned.”

Tezcan and Choi took a probabilistic approach instead. At the outset, their designed protein wasn’t engineered to possess a singular structure that selectively binds to a certain type of metal. They created a flexible system that could arrange itself in multiple ways to bind different metal ions in different geometries. It was this flexibility that led them to an outcome they did not originally plan for.

“In analyzing these systems, we saw that proteins were binding to cobalt and nickel ions ahead of copper, which is not the natural order of things,” stated Choi. “We created an hypothesis and tested new variants. After extensive analysis, we realized we could construct a protein environment where copper was disfavored.”

“This is an example of designing a pathway rather that a target,” explained Tezcan. “I personally think that this is a more exciting way to go about the protein design problem. By incorporating an element of flexibility into the design, we leave open the possibility of different outcomes and new design principles we couldn’t have known beforehand.”

Research on selective binding and design has importance beyond a better understanding of the fundamentals of life. It can also lay the foundation for more efficient processes during environmental remediation, such as when certain metals need to be sequestered in contaminated water. Protein design is also a critical part of pharmaceutical research and development.

“We were intrigued by the question ‘Can we proteins that can selectively bind to metals or have catalytic reactions in ways that evolution has not yet invented?'” said Choi. “Just because biology doesn’t do it, it doesn’t mean it’s not possible.”

More information:
Tae Su Choi et al, Overcoming universal restrictions on metal selectivity by protein design, Nature (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s41586-022-04469-8

Researchers design a flexible system that sidesteps copper-protein binding (2022, March 4)
retrieved 5 March 2022

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Hexbyte Glen Cove Good accessibility is good web page design thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Good accessibility is good web page design

Hexbyte Glen Cove

Accessibility isn’t something that should be added onto a web page, it should be baked in.

With yesterday being International Day of People with Disability, accessibility advocates were been out in force to fight the good fight. My tip: for another twelve months, the message will go unheeded, again.

But this year, at least one castle have fallen to the forces of properly accessible web sites: Telstra announced that it is removing CAPTCHA from its web sites and will start to include accessibility requirements in tenders that the company issues for IT solutions in the future.

Kudos to Telstra for making the move, and I look forward to seeing what actions the giant Australian telco takes to handle spam in its comment threads and forums. Finding a replacement for CAPTCHA that keeps spam low, and is fully accessible, has been to this point as successful as attempting to locate a Lost City of Gold.

One article that passed by my eyes is found on the pages of AusRegistry, in it are ten website accessibility tips that should be done for every site that you work on.

In the list are basic tenets such as using valid markup, descriptive links, text to convey any meaning set out in images or colour, and adding useful alt tags for images; as well as some more useful tips such as using form labels so that screen readers can understand the context of a form, and making sure that there is enough contrast between foreground and background colours to cater for users that are colour blind.

A prime example of good web design being good accessibility practice is the recommendation to use semantic markup to structure HTML content. Not only does it help assistive technologies understand the structure of your content, properly organising a page with a hierarchical structure will make styling it with CSS easier, and allow the full usage of CSS clauses and selections.

One way to test the accessibility of your web site is to try to use it in a console browser, such as Lynx. Looking at your page in text-only mode has the added benefit of showing how your page looks to search engine spiders and bots. Need to know why it is best to show your main content up front and as much of the right/left hand columns, headers, and footers to the end? Lynx will show you why.

Another good test of accessibility, and one that is more often a never-ending vain of frustration, is trying to navigate a web site using only the keyboard. I did this on one of my machines for a number of months, and it showed that many designers decided that the humble taborder is not worth worrying about. Worry about it, you’ll never know when you’ll need it, and you’ll be helping out people that rely on it everyday.

To finish off the accessibility suggestion list were a couple of great ideas: captioning videos, a great idea, but one that can be painful in practice to implement; and providing alternate versions of PDF documents in HTML or RTF, as browsers such as Firefox and Chrome embed quick and simple PDF viewers, the accessibility extras offered by Adobe’s Reader software often to not make the switch.

The really annoying part with many of these suggestions though, is that they should not be part of an attempt to make sites accessible, they should be an ingrained technique for creating good web sites.

These simple ideas to create an accessible, structured, and valid w

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