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Biochemistry and Medicines

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Summer bugs. February 9, 2015 Issue - Vol. 93 Issue 6. The Chemical Structure of DNA. Click to enlarge.

The Chemical Structure of DNA

The Chemistry of Oral Contraceptives. Click to enlarge You may have read in the news over the past few days about the passing of Carl Djerassi, the chemist (and later, novelist) who is best known for his discovery of the first oral contraceptive.

The Chemistry of Oral Contraceptives

This discovery led to something of a social revolution, putting the power of contraception firmly in the hands of women, as well as changing sexual attitudes. This graphic looks at the some of the common chemicals used in oral contraceptives, and how they work. Before the advent of oral contraceptives, it was already well known that sex hormone levels could suppress or prevent ovulation. A Summary of Common Vaccine Components. Click to enlarge The recent measles outbreak in the US has once again provoked discussion over vaccinations, and why some parents choose not to vaccinate their children despite the benefits of doing so.

A Summary of Common Vaccine Components

Whilst not the only factor, part of the blame lies with misinformation about the chemical composition of vaccines and the effects these compounds can have. This graphic summarises some of the key components in vaccines, as well as clarifying their purpose and safety in the concentrations present. Active Components Generally, vaccines have several major components. Some vaccines use an inactivated form of a virus; this is accomplished by treating the virus with a chemical that kills portions of it, and renders it unable to replicate. Other active components will constitute only parts of the bacteria or virus which cause immunity to develop – other portions of the pathogen which cause disease symptoms are removed.

Adjuvants Antibiotics Stabilisers Preservatives Trace Components Diluents Like this: Major Classes of Antidepressants. Click to enlarge You might have noted that yesterday was ‘Blue Monday’ – lauded as the most depressing day of the year.

Major Classes of Antidepressants

You might also be aware that Blue Monday was actually the construct of a Sky Travel marketing campaign several years ago, and is complete pseudoscience. Still, it seemed like as good an excuse as any to throw together this graphic, which looks at some of the different classes of antidepressants, and to discuss a little of how they work. Before even considering the antidepressants, it makes sense to discuss what causes depression itself. Of course, there can be numerous personal reasons for depression, but what’s actually going on in the brains of those suffering from the condition?

The Chemistry of Decongestants. It’s that time of year where a fair few of us (in the Northern Hemisphere, at least) are probably suffering from a cold of some description.

The Chemistry of Decongestants

The common symptom, that of a blocked nose, is probably one of the most irritating, but thankfully, nasal decongestants exist to provide relief. But how do they work? Generally, decongestants exert their effects by constricting blood vessels. They act on alpha-adrenergic receptors in the nose and sinuses in order to cause this vasoconstriction, which subsequently helps to reduce inflammation and the formation of mucus in the nose. Teixobactin: A New Antibiotic, and A New Way to Find More. Click to enlarge If you’ve read any science news over the past day or so, you’ll have noticed it’s been dominated by stories about the discovery of a new antibiotic, teixobactin.

Teixobactin: A New Antibiotic, and A New Way to Find More

There’s a reason that the scientific community is so excited by its discovery, but in truth, it’s the method which was used to discover it as much as the compound itself that’s drawn attention. Today’s graphic gives you a run-down of the key points. The Chemical Structures of Vitamins. Click to enlarge Vitamins are an important part of our diet, but you probably haven’t given a great deal of thought to their chemical structures.

The Chemical Structures of Vitamins

This graphic shows chemical structures for all 13 vitamins; though there can be some variability in these structures in sources of the vitamins, these are generally representative. They perform a range of roles in the body; below is a brief discussion, and a look at the evidence for taking vitamin supplements. First, it’s worth discussing what makes a chemical compound a vitamin. The Chemistry of Asthma Inhalers.

If you’re an asthma sufferer, you likely need at least one inhaler to keep your symptoms in check – or maybe even two different types.

The Chemistry of Asthma Inhalers

Commonly, those afflicted with asthma will have both a blue and a brown inhaler. Acetaminophen - Chemistry Encyclopedia - structure, name. Trial Drugs for Treatment of the Ebola Virus. Click to Enlarge The current ebola virus epidemic in West Africa has dominated the news in recent months, and in the past week, several medical organisations have announced their intention to commence trials with possible treatments for the virus in the coming months.

Trial Drugs for Treatment of the Ebola Virus

Two of these treatments are the anti-viral drugs brincidofovir and favipiravir, chosen due to some promising data on their potential efficacy against the virus, as well as their non-prohibitive costs. Here, we take a look at them in a little more detail. This is Your Body on Weed. Why Do We Get Allergies? - Reactions. What causes morning sickness? - Reactions. How does Tylenol work? The truth is, we don't know... - Reactions. The Science of Caffeine: The World's Most Popular Drug - Reactions. Does stress cause pimples? - Claudia Aguirre. What is fat? - George Zaidan. A Brief Summary of Inhalational Anaesthetics. Click to Enlarge If you’ve ever needed a tooth out, or had surgery of any kind, chances are you’ll have experienced use of an inhalational anaesthetic.

A Brief Summary of Inhalational Anaesthetics

All of the compounds shown above can induce general anaesthesia, and a range have been utilised since the initial discovery of nitrous oxide in the mid-1800s. Often, intravenous drugs will be used for induction of anaesthesia, but inhalational agents may then be used to maintain this – this graphic looks at how the drugs in use for this purpose have varied over the years. The mechanism by which these anaesthetics act is, strangely, one about which we know comparatively little. It is seemingly unrelated to chemical structure, with a range of varied compounds capable of inducing anaesthetic effects. Whilst we may know little as to how they work, the stages of anaesthesia when these agents are administered are well-defined. The third stage, ‘surgical anaesthesia’, is the stage at which muscles relax, and breathing rate decreases.

Like this: A Brief Guide to Common Painkillers. Click to enlarge Following on from the previous post on antibiotics, it seemed logical to also take a look at the drugs we take to relieve pain. Painkilling drugs, or analgesics, come in a number of forms, but fall broadly into two main classes: non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and opioids. This graphic takes a look at a selection of common painkillers, their common brand names, and how they work.

The mechanism of action is in many cases not fully understood, but we have a broad idea of how the two classes exert their effects. NSAIDs Non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs include analgesics such as aspirin and ibuprofen, shown in the graphic, as well as naproxen. The Chemistry of The Colours of Blood. Click to enlarge. A Brief Guide to the Twenty Common Amino Acids. Click to enlarge The proteins that make up living organisms are huge molecules, but they’re composed of tinier building blocks, known as amino acids. There are over 500 amino acids found in nature, yet, of these, the human genetic code only directly codes for 20. Every protein in your body is made up of some linked combination of these amino acids – this graphic shows the structure of each, as well as giving a little information on the notation used to represent them. Broadly, these twenty amino acids can be sorted into two groups: essential and non-essential.

Non-essential amino acids are those which the human body is capable of synthesising, whereas essential amino acids must be obtained from the diet. Amino acids can’t be stored by the body in the same manner as fat and starch, so it’s important that we obtain those that we cannot synthesise from our diet. (Note: Another manner in which the amino acids can be divided up is based upon their physical properties. Like this: Related. The Chemistry of Body Odours – Sweat, Halitosis, Flatulence & Cheesy Feet. Today’s graphic looks at the chemical compounds behind a variety of body odours – all of which we all experience at one point or another.

Each is a cocktail of many different chemicals, but there are a select few that are major contributors to the distinctive aroma of each – here’s a look at some of the main players. Halitosis In the majority of cases, the cause of bad breath, or halitosis, is the product of bacteria in the mouth. These bacteria produce waste products, and it’s these chemical compounds that contribute towards halitosis. The main offenders are volatile sulfur compounds, or VSCs; hydrogen sulfide has a smell of rotting eggs, methanethiol (also known as methyl mercaptan) has the odour of rotting cabbage, and dimethyl sulfide has similarly pleasant likeness to rotting cabbage, or garlic. Everyday Compounds – Salicylic Acid. This is the first in a series of graphics planned to look at the chemistry and uses of some everyday chemical compounds you can find in a variety of products around your home. The series was inspired by conversation with @chemtacular on twitter, as well as the ongoing chemophobia discussion (about which you can read more here, and here).

To kick off the series, this graphic takes a look at salicylic acid, and its uses in acne creams, shampoos, toothpastes and the synthesis of aspirin. Natural Occurence. A Brief Overview of Classes of Antibiotics. Click to enlarge. The Chemical Behind Catnip’s Effect on Cats. Click to enlarge Everyone knows cats go crazy for catnip. It’s an effect that’s been noted in scientific literature as far back as the 18th Century, when scientists observed that cats seemed to be attracted to catnip when the plant was withered or bruised. Chemical Structures of Neurotransmitters. Click to enlarge. This is Your Brain On Love. Why does Grapefruit Interact with Drugs? – The Chemistry of a Grapefruit.

The Chemistry of Hay Fever – How Do Hay Fever Medications Work? Click to enlarge.