Archive for the ‘Science Communications’ Category

RSC Advances Science Communications: Photothermally triggered nanoplatform based on IR780-encapsulated PLGA nanoparticles – A plausible remedy for breast cancer metastasis to bones

Among different types of malignant diseases, breast cancer is the most prevalent one among women throughout the world. Breast cancer patients often face bone metastasis at middle and late stages of malignancies, causing various skeletal diseases (e.g. bone loss, extreme pain, hypercalcaemia, pathological fracture etc) as well as mortality. The conventional therapies for breast cancer metastasis to bone include surgery and chemotherapy, which involve several limitations. For instance, surgery is not suitable for eliminating poorly defined and small metastases. Then again, chemotherapy is associated with adverse toxicity, side effects, drug resistance, tumour recurrence, tumour targeting issue etc. Therefore, it is urgently required to develop some alternative approaches for the treatment of breast cancer and associated bone metastasis by solving the aforementioned limitations. In this context, nanomedicine might play a pivotal role, considering its potent biomedical applications in drug delivery, radiotherapy, gene therapy and photothermal therapy (PTT) to treat different types of cancers. Of late, near-infrared (NIR) laser light-based PTT involving biocompatible nanomaterials has been immense popular, due to the minimized invasiveness approach with enhanced safeguarding of adjacent tissues and potent anti-cancer efficiency, by producing high temperature in tumour tissues locally upon absorbance of light, ultimately leading to cancer cell death in a targeted manner. Even though, PTT has been widely studied for the treatment of superficial tumours, there is scarcity of reports related to its application for the therapy of deep tumors including bone metastasis of breast cancer.

In this scenario, Wang and co-workers have recently developed an NIR-triggered nanoplatform based on IR780 (NIR absorber)-encapsulated biocompatible poly-lactide-co-glycolide (PLGA) nanoparticles (IR780@PLGA NPs) and investigated its PTT potential for the treatment of bone metastasis of breast cancer. The researchers established a bone metastasis model of tumours in BALB/c mice by inoculating 4T1 cells (mice breast cancer cells) into right tibia of mice through intraosseous infusion. The intra-tumoural administration of IR780@PLGA NPs to the tumor containing mice in presence of NIR light exhibited better tumor growth inhibition than the PBS control group and IR780@PLGA NPs group without NIR radiation, suggesting that the nanoplatform could effectively suppress the breast cancer cell metastasis to bone through PTT. Additionally, histopathology study revealed that tumor containing legs administered with IR780@PLGA NPs and NIR light illustrated less damage of bone and more number of healthy tissues around it as compared to the control groups. Overall, the study provides the basis for potent clinical application of IR780@PLGA NPs-based PTT for the treatment of bone metastasis of breast cancer in near future.

Reference

Near-infrared-induced IR780-loaded PLGA nanoparticles for photothermal therapy to treat breast cancer metastasis in bones, Li et al., RSC Adv., 2019, 9, 35976-35983

About the Web Writer:

Dr. Ayan Kumar Barui received his Ph.D. degree from CSIR-Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (CSIR-IICT), India in 2017. Then he worked as a postdoctoral research associate in Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST), South Korea for more than two years. Currently, he is associated with an R&D institute based in India. His research focuses on the development of nano/bio-materials for pro- and anti-angiogenic therapy, targeted drug delivery, cancer therapy, vascular disease therapy, wound healing, and bio-imaging. He possesses 37 peer-reviewed international publications and several international conference awards. He is recognized as a member (MRSC) of the prestigious Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC), UK. He also serves as an invited reviewer for various international journals including Nanoscale, Biomaterials Science, Journal of Materials Chemistry B, Materials Science and Engineering C, RSC Advances, Food & Function etc.

You can find him on Twitter @AYANBARUI

 

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RSC Advances Science Communications: Catalytically active centers of transition metal phosphides and chalcogenides for water oxidation

The continuous depletion of limited reserved fossil fuels and corresponding environmental concerns due to their combustion strictly demands the exploration of alternative energy resources for sustainability. Although solar and wind energies are harvested, the seasonal intermittence restricts their broad application. In this regard, the scientific community has developed the fuel cell using gaseous fuels like oxygen (at the cathode half-cell) and hydrogen (at the anode half-cell) that can produce electricity with better specific energies without compromising efficiency. The scalable production of these gaseous fuels (i.e. H2 and O2) has become a great challenge for energy researchers. Among the many processes and technologies developed, a green process for the production of these molecular fuels is the electrochemical splitting of water in an electrolyzer. The smooth running of the electrolyzer depends on both the cathodic and anodic half reactions. Whereas the cathodic half reaction (hydrogen evolution reaction; HER) is very straight forward, the multiproton-coupled electron transfer steps cause OER to face sluggish reaction kinetics demanding additional potential (overpotential) to overcome the reaction barrier. Hence, the HER is greatly hampered and thereby the overall electrolysis process. Since the efficiency of the half-cell strictly adheres on the catalytic efficacy of the electrocatalyst, researchers are focusing on the design of new catalyst materials. Among them, the transition metal based dichalcogenides (TMDs) and phosphides (TMPs) are the recent topics of study. Although these electrocatalysts catalyze OER efficiently, phase and composition changes during the course of reaction raises questions about the catalytically active centers of the electrocatalysts.

The in-depth characterization of post catalytic sample as well as in situ sample analysis clearly demonstrates the surface transformation of the TMDs and TMPs. In a particular study by Dutta and Samantara et al. have demonstrated the OER performances of Co2P nano needles in alkaline electrolytic conditions (1). As per the report, a significant broad peroxidation peak was observed in the linear sweep voltammetry signifying the surface oxidation of Co2P to corresponding oxides (CoOx). The interface of Co2P-CoOx facilitate carrier transportation from the core Co2P to oxides on the surface, thereby improving the electrocatalytic performances. Likewise, the core-shell Au@Co2P nanostructures derived via the wet chemical synthesis method were found to act as precursor catalysts for OER. However, the surface oxidized forms, i.e. Co-phosphates and Co-oxides/hydroxides, act as the real active centers of the electrocatalysts in alkaline conditions. The surface transformations were monitored by the X-ray photoelectron study of the post OER sample (2).

P 2p of Au@Co2P after OER tests in comparison with those before OER tests.

Similar surface transformations have been noticed also in case of TMDs. During the course of the OER, the surfaces of metal sulphides and selenides transform to their corresponding oxides and oxy-hydroxides and perform as active electrocatalysts to catalyze the water oxidation. Moreover, these surface transformed oxidized functionalities are more catalytically active than the parent TMDs, TMPs and the respective oxides alone. It is therefore imperative to characterize and define the real active centers of the catalysts used for water oxidation, particularly in alkaline electrolytic conditions.

References

  1. Anirban Dutta, Aneeya K. Samantara, Sumit K. Dutta, Bikash Kumar Jena, and Narayan Pradhan, ACS Energy Lett., 2016, 1, 1, 169–174.
  2. Xiaofang Zhang, Aixian Shan, Sibin Duan, Haofei Zhao, Rongming Wang and Woon-Ming Lau, RSC Adv., 2019,9, 40811-40818.

About the Web Writer:

Dr. Aneeya K. Samantara is Doctor in Chemical Sciences and currently has a Postdoctoral position (NPDF) in the School of Chemical Sciences, National Institute of Science Education and Research, Bhubaneswar, Odisha, India. Recently he joined as Community Board Member of the “Materials Horizon” of Royal Society of Chemistry, London. He pursued his PhD at the CSIR-Institute of Minerals and Materials Technology, Odisha, India. Before joining the PhD program, he completed his master of philosophy in chemistry at Utkal University and master in science in advanced organic chemistry at Ravenshaw University, Cuttack, Odisha, India. Dr. Samantara’s research interests include the synthesis of transition metal based electrocatalysts and graphene composites for energy storage and conversion applications. You can find him on Twitter at @cmrjitu.

 

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RSC Advances Science Communications: LatinXChem: Towards greater inclusivity and diversity in scientific conferences

Lockdown measures due to COVID-19 and bans on international travel have imposed many changes of plans for scientific conferences. However, for many researchers and students across Latin America, traveling to international conferences for oral and poster presentations was already challenging even before the COVID pandemic, given the limited funding available to principal investigators. Often times, when scientific research is underfunded, the decision to support a student’s conference participation occurs at the cost of other necessary laboratory resources (1). Moreover, while the use of English as lingua franca in the sciences helps knowledge dissemination, it has also become a barrier to science communication for non-native English speakers (2). Creating multilingual and accessible fora needs to be a key component of efforts towards greater inclusivity and diversity in scientific research.

For these reasons, Latinx student exposure to networking and learning opportunities at scientific conferences remains a challenge, further magnifying disparities in academic research among Latin American and other Western scientific communities. Taking example from the successful #RSCPoster Twitter conferences organized by the Royal Society of Chemistry, LatinXChem has emerged in the face of these challenges as the first event of its kind: a trilingual poster conference in the chemical sciences held entirely on Twitter, allowing for presentations in Spanish, Portuguese, and English. This collaborative effort is spearheaded by Latinx researchers in Mexico, Chile, Brazil, the US, Canada, Belgium, the UK, and Germany, who have ensured participation by stellar Latinx researchers as evaluators.

The involvement by distinguished Latinx evaluators is key, as they enrich the event not only with their academic expertise, but also by allowing for multilingual poster presentations and increasing Latinx representation in the chemical sciences, thus encouraging underrepresented students to pursue a scientific career. Latin American and Latinx students and trainees from around the world can participate in this event at no cost to them, sharing their research in any of 11 different categories within the chemical sciences.

We hope initiatives like LatinXChem keep growing, as they strive for greater inclusivity and diversity in chemical research, helping to break down economic and linguistic barriers to science communication in the Latinx community.

Register before August 25, 2020 at latinxchem.org. LatinXChem will be held on September 7, 2020 with the generous support of the Royal Society of Chemistry.

References:
(1) D. Solis-Ibarra. Chem. Mater. 2020, 32, 3, 913–914.
(2) M.C. Márquez and A.M. Porras. Front. Commun. 2020, 5, 31.

 

About the Web Writer:

Gerardo Cedillo-Servin received his BSE from the University of Pennsylvania and is currently a MSc student in materials science and engineering at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, under the supervision of Dr. Ricardo Vera-Graziano. He is working on functional polymers for protein release and dynamic cell-material interactions. In addition to biomaterials research, he seeks to contribute to science communication and advocacy. You can find him on Twitter @gecedillo.

 

 

 

 

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RSC Advances Science Communications: Solar-driven photoredox catalysis – A step towards a sustainable synthesis future

One needs to seek nature in order to get the idea of sustainability either in daily life or in the chemistry lab. We have been learning since our childhood about plants survival via photosynthesis and humans survival by oxygen. The sun has been the ultimate powerhouse for all the beings on earth.

Photosynthesis is the apotheosis of sustainable chemical reactivity and the sun is one of the main pinnacles towards the target of green chemistry. In the context of sustainable synthetic approaches, photoredox chemistry has emerged as a scientific toolbox for organic transformations due to the tremendous ability to generate reactive intermediates under mild reaction conditions.

Photoredox catalysis depends upon the photoexcitation with visible light to facilitate single electron transfer (SET) and the generation of other intermediates. Sunlight energy could be the essential source for this cause owing to its free, non-toxic and environmentally benign nature. These benefits make photoredox catalysis valuable when designing new catalytic systems with sustainable approaches. However, there are other sources for the photoexcitation although they pose limitations due to high energy requirements and formation of side products. Even though photoredox catalysis has provided powerful methods in synthesis, the cost of photocatalysts and cost of light sources and environmental aspects on the synthesis are yet to be considered.

With the help of a broad range of molecules synthesized in our lab, modeling and utilization, we have been able to understand the potential of molecules for their photoredox catalytic activity. Considering this situation, my recent research focuses on the synthesis of molecules with strong visible range absorption and utilization of sunlight for photoexcitation to carry out various organic transformations via photoredox chemistry. By smartly incorporating the donor and acceptor groups, we are able to synthesize molecules with absorption in the visible region (Fig. 1).

My focus is on understanding the potential of the molecules to catalyze reactions with low energy radiations i.e. solar-driven. The synthesized molecules have been subjected to various experiments and found to be active towards aggregation-induced emission enhancement (AIEE) and solvatochromism phenomenon, reactive oxygen species generation as well as displayed catalytic activity towards reactions such as (i) oxidative homocoupling of benzyl amines (ii) additive free oxidative amidation of aldehydes and (iii) hydroxylation of boronic acids under the presence of sunlight. All you need to get a good transformation is chemicals, a stirrer and the sun. Our group continue to address challenges in this field, exploring more solar-driven chemical transformations.

To find out more, please read:
AIEE Active Nanoassemblies of Pyrazine Based Organic Photosensitizers as Efficient Metal-Free Supramolecular Photoredox Catalytic Systems
Scientific. Reports,2019, 9:1114.

About the Web Writer:

Shruti Dadwal is a Ph.D. candidate in organic chemistry under the supervision of Dr. Vandana Bhalla at Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, India; where she also completed her B.Sc and first class M.Sc in Hons. School Chemistry. Her research focuses on developing new and better donor-acceptor based molecules for sensing, photocatalysis and nanocatalysis. She enjoys music, writing and travelling. You can find her on Twitter @DadwalShrutii.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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RSC Advances Science Communications: The online conference experience

Conference organisers all over the world have unfortunately had to cancel or postpone their plans in response to the deadly COVID-19 pandemic. However, some conference organisers made last-minute decisions to hold their conferences online. I have managed to attend two online conferences during lockdown; CEMWOQ 6.5 (The 6.5th Crystal Engineering and Emerging Materials Workshop of Ontario and Quebec) and CEFMC2020 (Crystal Engineering: From Molecule to Crystal 2020), which were held virtually via zoom from Canada and India respectively. Both conferences were attended by participants interested in crystals and crystalline materials from all parts of the world. Overall, they were extremely welcoming, well-organised and the feedback both during the conference and afterwards on twitter has been very positive.

Twitter has been extremely useful during lockdown to keep up with literature, discover useful webinars and it is where these online conferences were mostly advertised. It also provided a platform for posters to be presented prior to CEFMC2020, allowing participants and judges to browse at their own pace. In contrast, CEMWOQ 6.5 organisers made use of breakout rooms on zoom, which allowed the presenters to discuss their posters with other interested participants.

Whilst it is easier to network at normal conferences and meeting in-person is nice, online conferences have the potential to play an important role in improving diversity and inclusivity in science. Both CEMWOQ 6.5 and CEFMC2020 were completely free to attend and anyone who wanted to participate could register until capacity was reached. This provides an opportunity for postdocs, PhD students like me and even keen undergraduates to attend conferences and become inspired by incredible talks that they may have otherwise been unable to attend for financial or personal reasons. Even speakers with poor internet connections were able to present by providing pre-recorded talks.

One of the only negatives of the online conference is the time-zone difference. Depending on where you are based, a very early start or late night may be required, but that’s a reasonable sacrifice to learn about the fantastic research being done within the community.

Online conferences may become more commonplace post-COVID-19 now that they have been tried and tested. Whilst normal (in-person) conferences shouldn’t be completely replaced, switching between the online and in-person formats will allow for wider, more inclusive participation and less air travel is always a positive to help protect our planet.

About the Web Writer:

Lee Birchall has recently started his PhD under the supervision of Dr. Helena Shepherd at the University of Kent, where he also completed his MSc under the supervision of Dr. Stefano Biagini. He obtained a first class BSc at University College London. He enjoys music, languages and windsurfing and you can find him on Twitter at @LTBIRCH.

 

 

 

 

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RSC Advances Science Communications: Recycling ideas – from the ionic liquids to the reuse of agricultural waste

When I set out to write this blog, I thought of a laboratory story to be able to share with readers the experience from the generation of ideas to the final results, but I decided to share how my desire to work in a laboratory, my little “scientific history”, to introduce you from the beginning the theme that I am beginning to develop today. It all started in the year 2000 when at school we carried out a project called “Proyecto Ecológico”, which aimed to treat solid household waste, to reduce urban pollution in my hometown of Villa Valeria and raise awareness among the population that the waste generated can be reused.

This project lasted only two years, but for me it lasted a lifetime, because it was the reason why I chose a profession related to the natural sciences and the environment. My first scientific steps were in the area of green chemistry, studying ionic liquids, but in the search to develop a more applied theme and to solve environmental problems that currently concern my country, I decided to work with dairy farm wastes to generate organic amendments, which enable the recovery and improvement of productive soils.

Considering that dairy activity is very important in Argentina, ranking as 2nd producer of milk in Latin America and 11th worldwide, but it generates a lot of waste, so that it is a constant concern. Only 17% of these are disposed as fertilizer to some kind of crop or pasture, while the rest is discarded without being treated, being very dangerous for the environment, since they contaminate both to the ground and to the watersheds. But if these wastes are treated, they can add value, and instead of being pollutants, they become recuperators and soil improvers. In this way, said agricultural production would be more sustainable.

The objectives of my research work are to compost with the solid fraction of dairy farm wastes, for the generation of organic amendments of agricultural quality. Then determine the physicochemical characteristics, the composition and classify the quality of the amendments generated, and evaluate the effect of its application to agricultural use soils. And finally, to generate areas of dissemination of the results obtained, both with producers, technicians, professionals and companies in the agricultural sector, as with the scientific community, so I started writing this blog. I wanted to start by sharing my little “scientific history”, to show that the dreams and vocations that one has been building since childhood should never be abandoned because they forge us as professionals. Soon I will be sharing the first results obtained from this research.

About the Web Writer:

Cristian M. O. Lépori is Doctor in Chemical Sciences and currently has a postdoctoral position at the “Enrique Gaviola” Institute of Physics, CONICET, National University of Córdoba (Argentina). He works in the area of nuclear magnetic resonance studying hybrid materials formed with porous matrices and ionic liquids for use in lithium batteries. He likes to plan, organize and carry out science dissemination activities. You can find him on Twitter at @cristianlepo.

 

 

 

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RSC Advances Science Communications: Mechanochemistry – Grinding towards a PhD

I have recently started my PhD – studying spin-crossover complexes, and my synthetic approach is largely focused on the use of mechanochemistry (1). The general response to me saying that I’m busy is: ‘don’t you just grind stuff?’, and the answer is no because I have analysis to do like everyone else. As mechanochemistry is a (mostly) solid state technique, powder X-ray diffraction is a go-to technique for product analysis. Comparison to starting materials can give an indication that a reaction has taken place, and then the detailed analysis can begin.

Elucidation of the structure of novel compounds which are not compatible with NMR, is often facilitated by single crystal XRD (SCXRD). The data from SCXRD can be used to simulate powder patterns for comparison with the mechanochemically synthesized powders.

Colour changes during grinding can also be indicative of reaction success. Therefore, mechanochemistry can allow for rapid screening of a huge number of different reactions in the search for interesting materials. However, don’t be too quick to dismiss an unsuccessful reaction if you haven’t tried liquid-assisted grinding (LAG). Whilst mechanochemistry is typically a solid-state technique, the addition of a small quantity of appropriate solvent (< 1 equiv. in µL per mg) (2,3) can be useful to get the reaction started.

My first experience with mechanochemistry quickly taught me that retrieving powder from a mortar is not easy, no matter how much it is scraped by a spatula. In the spirit of minimizing waste, the un-scrapeable powder is dissolved in a small amount of appropriate solvent and divided up into numerous vials, where techniques such as vapour diffusion and slow evaporation are used to harvest crystals.

I am still new to the world of mechanochemistry and have a lot to improve on, but it has opened my eyes to a synthetic approach that isn’t regularly seen in undergraduate studies and even research labs. It’s a promising area with a lot of applications, where the methodology could easily be manipulated for manufacturing purposes. However, if you are interested in trying some mechanochemistry, it is important to be aware of the potential hazards associated with the neat grinding of certain compounds, especially those which may explode!

References:

1              J. H. Askew and H. J. Shepherd, Chem. Commun., 2017, 54, 180–183.
2              T. Friić, S. L. Childs, S. A. A. Rizvi and W. Jones, CrystEngComm, 2009, 11, 418–426.
3              D. Tan and F. García, Chem. Soc. Rev., 2019, 48, 2274–2292.

About the Web Writer:

Lee Birchall has recently started his PhD under the supervision of Dr. Helena Shepherd at the University of Kent, where he also completed his MSc under the supervision of Dr. Stefano Biagini. He obtained a first class BSc at University College London. He enjoys music, languages and windsurfing and you can find him on Twitter at @LTBIRCH.

 

 

 

 

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RSC Advances Science Communications: Protonic ionic liquid used in lithium batteries

Global energy demand grows very fast, while fossil fuel reserves decrease. For this reason, enormous efforts are focused on the production of new renewable, clean, safe and reliable forms of energy to ensure a sustainable future. At the same time, it is necessary to include energy vectors that allow storing and transporting said energy to be used when and where it is required. Lithium-based batteries are currently presented as one of the best systems to meet this need. Although its use in portable electronic devices is already established, the implementation in stationary energy accumulation and in the electric vehicle sector demands a notable increase in its energy density. That is why these new demands make a primary aspect, and which is currently a topic of study worldwide, to the development of materials with which the components for rechargeable lithium batteries are produced.

In the case of lithium-sulfur batteries, metallic lithium is used as the active material for the anode and sulfur for the cathode. After several electrochemical charge and discharge cycles, small branches form on the surface of the lithium metal electrode, called dendrites. These ramifications can cause a short circuit leading to spontaneous discharges, causing rapid heating and even fire, making them unsafe. Therefore, new investigations have found promising alternatives to avoid these drawbacks, based on the deposition of protective polymers on the surface of the metallic Li anode and the study of its effect on the degradation of the material properties. The polymers to be used are polymeric ionic liquids. Ionic liquids are molten salts whose melting temperature is less than 100°C. Considering the non-flammability and non-volatility properties of ionic liquids, they make reasonable alternatives as part of electrolytes because they offer important improvements, for example, in terms of safety. For this reason, the imim-DEHP protic ionic liquid synthesized for the first time by me and reported in the paper RSC Advances, 2017, 7, 44743 will be used, since we have observed that, with small amounts of water, imim-DEHP has the ability to form a gel, so it will be used in lithium batteries to coat the lithium anodes. Thus showing the versatility of this amphiphilic ionic liquid, since it forms organized systems in water and in non-polar organic solvents, as well as gels with a small amount of water.

Find out more:

Improvement of the amphiphilic properties of a dialkyl phosphate by creation of a protic ionic liquid-like surfactant
Cristian M. O. Lépori, Juana J. Silber, R. Darío Falcone and N. Mariano Correa
RSC Adv., 2017, 7, 44743

About the Web Writer:

Cristian M. O. Lépori is Doctor in Chemical Sciences and currently has a postdoctoral position at the “Enrique Gaviola” Institute of Physics, CONICET, National University of Córdoba (Argentina). He works in the area of nuclear magnetic resonance studying hybrid materials formed with porous matrices and ionic liquids for use in lithium batteries. He likes to plan, organize and carry out science dissemination activities. You can find him on Twitter at @cristianlepo.

 

 

 

RSC Advances Royal Society of ChemistrySubmit to RSC Advances today! Check out our author guidelines for information on our article types or find out more about the advantages of publishing in a Royal Society of Chemistry journal.

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