Engineering improved­ heart fibres from stem cells

BIOTECHNOLOGY

Chemical engineers from the University of Toronto have created a set of mini-bioreactors that act as a kind of training gym to turn human stem cells into functional heart tissue. And like any training regimen, they’ve discovered that pushing the cells to their limits yields better results. Because mature cardiomyocytes (heart muscle cells) rarely divide,...

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Total synthesis­ of Quebecol­ accomplished­

MATERIALS

Chemistry doesn’t get more Canadian than this. Researchers at Université Laval have reported the total synthesis of Quebecol, a molecule isolated from maple syrup which may have anti-cancer properties. A 2011 paper in the Journal of Functional Foods describes how a novel phenolic compound was isolated from maple syrup by a team from the University...

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Iron nanoparticles provide greener hydrogenation

GREEN CHEMISTRY

Researchers from McGill University and Japan have developed a system of polymer-embedded iron nanoparticles that provide a cheaper and more sustainable way to catalyse a wide variety of hydrogenation reactions. Current catalysts for hydrogenation — commonly used in the synthesis of many pharmaceuticals — are based on metals such as palladium and platinum, which are...

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Functional microparticles created by ultrasonication

NANOTECHNOLOGY

Researchers from McGill University have discovered that ultrasonication — normally used to tear materials apart — can instead stick them together to form porous, functional microparticles with potential applications in medicine, alternative energy and more. Two years ago, PhD student David Basset was using high-frequency sound waves to blast apart a porous ceramic material coated...

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Cranberry compounds could prevent infection

HEALTH

Unlike many so-called health foods, the purported ability of cranberries to fight infections — especially urinary tract infections — is actually backed up by science. Now, a team of chemical engineers from McGill University has demonstrated that cranberry-derived compounds could be incorporated into catheters and other implantable materials to fight off bacterial pathogens. Traditionally, the...

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Polymer nano-devices provide­ advanced biosensing­

POLYMERS

A group at the University of Alberta is using a unique thermo-sensitive polymer to create devices that could one day provide quick, visual detection of disease biomarkers. Michael Serpe, a chemistry professor at U of A, has been working with poly (N-isopropylacrylamide) (pNIPAm) since graduate school. “You can imagine it as a spaghetti strand floating...

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Ancient fracture fluids could support life

GEOCHEMISTRY

The discovery that billion-year-old water collected from a Timmins, Ont. mine has the right chemistry to support life could have important implications for the habitability of other planets. Barbara Sherwood Lollar holds the Canada Research Chair in Isotope Geochemistry of the Earth and the Environment at the University of Toronto. Sherwood Lollar has been studying...

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DNAzyme could silence bad genes

BIOCHEMISTRY

Researchers at the University of British Columbia (UBC) have developed an improved system for finding sequences of DNA that can selectively bind and destroy certain RNA sequences. The new molecules could be used in ‘gene silencing’ therapies to combat cancer or HIV. DNAzymes — short sequences of DNA with the ability to catalyse reactions such...

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World’s largest green machine

SEQUESTRATION

In May, the National Research Council (NRC), Ontario-based Pond Biofuels and Alberta-based Canadian Natural Resources Limited announced the construction of a $19 million facility that will use algae grown on industrial flue gas to create value-added products, from bio-oil to fertilizer. The algae will be grown on emissions from natural gas burners, used to produce...

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