Agilent Contributes to an Antibiotic Breakthrough

Scientists have discovered the first new class of antibiotics in 25 years

Scientists have discovered the first new class of antibiotics in 25 years

An Agilent HPLC, LC/MS/MS and MassHunter software have helped scientists discover the first new class of antibiotics in 25 years.  The announcement was made this month by a joint team of researchers from Northeastern University in Boston, the National Institutes of Health and the German government.

Last year, the World Health Organization published a sobering report on the future of medicine.  Bacteria, parasites and fungi are becoming increasingly resistant to all known antibiotics.  Within decades, even routine surgical procedures could become impossible as patients increasingly die from drug-resistant infections.  The report warns that “a post-antibiotic era – in which common infections and minor injuries can kill – is a very real possibility for the 21st Century.”

One problem is that current antibiotics are overprescribed and overused, leading to increased antimicrobial resistance.  Another problem is a lack of new antibiotics entering the market.

While most antibiotics are developed from bacteria or fungi in soil, only 1 percent of those microorganisms can be grown under laboratory conditions.  But scientists have developed a new method for growing the other 99 percent.  IChip (isolation chip) uses fine membranes to isolate individual microbes while still allowing them to receive chemical nutrients.

Among the 25 compounds recently discovered using the iChip technique, teixobactin is the most promising.  This new antibiotic works by attacking the cell walls of bacteria, blocking their ability to reproduce or mutate.  Experiments on mice show that teixobactin can kill such “superbugs” as MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus) and tuberculosis, which have become increasingly drug resistant.

The researchers used Agilent equipment to analyze the pharmaceutical effects of teixobactin on the test mice.  The new antibiotic was able to kill pathogens “without detectable resistance.”

It will be several years before these new antibiotics are approved for human use.  But researchers hope that iChip will lead to an explosion of new candidates.

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All About Trans Fat

Are you harming your body with these foods?

Are you harming your body with these foods?

Have you heard of “trans fat,” “saturated fat” or “partially hydrogenated fat”?  You can thank Wilhelm Normann, a 19th-century German chemist and geologist whose birthday was celebrated last Friday.

Unsaturated compounds have more complex chemical bonds than saturated compounds, so their molecules cannot pack themselves together as tightly.  As a result, unsaturated fats tend to be liquid at room temperature, and are thus also referred to as “oils.”

In 1901, Dr. Normann successfully converted an unsaturated (liquid) fatty acid into a saturated (solid) one by using hydrogen gas and nickel.  He had invented fat hydrogenation, or fat hardening.  By enabling oils and fats to be solid at room temperature, Normann had revolutionized the food industry.  Today, more than 15 million tons of hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils and fatty acids are produced every year.  In addition to margarine, shortening and other edible fats, hydrogenated fats are also used in lubricants, cosmetics and soaps.

Partial hydrogenation can extend the shelf life of food products and reduce their need for refrigeration.  But it also results in the creation of trans fat, which can cause long-term health problems because it lowers “good cholesterol” (HDL) and raises “bad cholesterol” (LDL).

Since 2006, countries have required food labels to include specific trans fat content.  In 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a preliminary determination that trans fat is “no longer generally recognized as safe.”  The United Kingdom predicts that 40,000 cardiovascular disease deaths per year could be prevented by eliminating industrial trans fat and lowering saturated fat intake.  But the elimination of trans fat remains a voluntary practice by the food industry.

Agilent is a recognized leader in solutions for food quality and food safety.  Agilent has developed an analytical column specifically for the detection and analysis of trans fat in foods.

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“BPA-free”: The Alternative May Be Just as Dangerous

Think “BPA-free” means you’re safe?  Think again…

Think “BPA-free” means you’re safe? Think again…

Bisphenol A is a synthetic compound used in the manufacture of plastics, CDs, DVDs, thermal paper and other consumer goods.  BPA can mimic the hormone estrogen, leading several countries to ban its use in baby bottles.  BPA’s long-term effects on people are still unknown, so industries are trying to reduce or eliminate its use.

Many manufacturers now use Bisphenol S as an alternative, advertising their products as “BPA-free.”  Because BPS is less well known to consumers, they assume it is safer.  But BPS has been shown to have estrogenic activity similar to that of BPA.

Moreover, scientists recently found that both BPA and BPS cause alterations in embryonic brain development in zebrafish.  (Zebrafish have long been used to study embryonic brain development, as they have similar development processes and an 80-percent genetic counterpart to humans.)  When exposed to levels of BPS consistent with its current environmental presence, zebrafish developed hyperactivity and other behavioral changes.

Agilent equipment is being used to study BPA and BPS in the environment.  Scientists in Spain used an Agilent GC/MS to compare different methods for detecting bisphenols in food cans.  Scientists in the U.S. and China used an Agilent HPLC to detect BPS in paper products, including thermal receipts, paper money, newspapers and toilet paper.

Using an Agilent HPLC-MS/MS, an international team of researchers examined urine samples from the U.S. and seven Asian countries.  BPS was detected in 81 percent of the samples, with the highest concentrations in Japan, the U.S. and China.  There were no significant differences in BPS concentrations between different genders or age groups.

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