New Method To Detect Metals Could Help Scientists

MILWAUKEE, June 1-- Contamination by metals in our nation's waterways, as well as in the human body, is a step closer to being easily detected. Research presented here today at the Great Lakes Regional Meeting of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society, explains a new technique to measure free metal ions more quickly and accurately than ever before. This process of measurement is seen as a revolutionary way to find sources of pollution in waterways, as well as to detect metals in the brain like zinc, which has a known association with strokes and Alzheimer's disease.

Richard Thompson, Ph.D. of the University of Maryland Medical School and colleagues at Duke University and the University of Pennsylvania, have developed a device which can detect trace levels down to parts per trillion. It uses fluorescence polarization, an optical technique previously used to trace drug levels in substance abuse patients, and could be engineered into something as small as a hand-held instrument, Thompson said.

Free metal ions are nutrients for plankton in the ocean, but toxic to some shellfish, and speculation has been that metal ions may play a role in recent Pfisteria outbreaks in coastal waters. Variations in these levels can result in drastic ecological changes. Current methods to measure free metal ions require testing in the laboratory, which can lead to inaccuracy, and in the case of source point investigation, a loss of crucial time. "Other methods for testing free metal ions are costly, and frequently result in measurement inaccuracies from contamination," said Thompson.

This work was supported by the Office of Naval Research, the National Science Foundation, and the National Institutes of Health. Microfab Technologies, of Plano, Texas, is currently creating the clinical applications for this process.


Contact: Chris Demers
American Chemical Society

Page: 1

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