Wednesday 19 October 2016

Opinion of Spanish Consumers on Hydrosustainable Pistachios

Journal of Food Science 81, 2016, 2559-2563
DOI: 10.1111/1750-3841.13501

Fruits and vegetables cultivated under controlled deficit irrigation (CDI) are called hydrosustainable (hydroSOS) products and have its own personality and are environmentally-friendly. Focus groups helped in classifying key farming, sensory, and health concepts associated with CDI-grown pistachios. Besides, focus groups also helped in stating that a logo was needed for these special foods, and that a hydroSOS index is also essential to certify that the products have been controlled by a control board. Conjoint analysis was used to check which attributes could be helpful in promoting CDI-grown pistachios among Spanish consumers in a 1st step toward the European Union (EU) market. It was clearly proved that the main silo of properties driving the attention of Spanish consumers was that related to health. The most important attributes for pistachios were “product of Spain,” “rich in antioxidant,” and “crunchy”; this finding was clearly related to the popularity of regional foods, the preoccupation of European consumers for their health, and the joy related to the crunchiness of toasted nuts, respectively. The use of these 3 concepts, together with the use of the hydroSOS logo, will be essential to promote hydroSOS pistachios among Spanish and EU consumers. Finally, it is important to highlight that in general Spanish consumers were willing to pay an extra amount of 1.0 euros per kg of hydroSOS pistachios. These earnings will be essential to convince Spanish farmers to implement CDI strategies and have a sustainable and environmental-friendly use of the irrigation water.

The information generated in this study will be essential for farmers as a starting point for promoting their hydroSOS pistachios, and a similar strategy can be implemented for other hydroSOS vegetables and fruits. Nowadays, it is necessary to address consumers’ demands to ensure new products’ success in the market.

Sunday 16 October 2016

Removal of anionic pollutants by pine bark is influenced by the mechanism of retention

Chemosphere, 167, 2017, 139–145

The use of organic biosorbents for anion removal from water has been less studied than for cationic compounds. In this work, the removal capacity of pine bark for potential anionic pollutants (fluoride, phosphate, arsenate and dichromate) was assessed in column experiments, designed to study the process of transport. The results showed that pine bark has a very low retention capacity for phosphate, arsenate or fluoride, and in turn, very high for dichromate, with retention values close to 100% and less than 2% desorption of the adsorbed dichromate. The large differences observed between anions suggest that differences in the retention mechanism of each anion exist. In the case of phosphate and arsenate, electrostatic interactions with the mostly negatively charged functional groups of the pine bark determine the low retention capacity. Dichromate retention might proceed through reduction of chromium (VI) to chromium (III), what improves the efficiency of the removal.

Wednesday 12 October 2016

Pb pollution in soils from a trap shooting range and the phytoremediation ability of Agrostis capillaris

Environmental Science and Pollution Research, 2016, 23, 1312–1323.
DOI: 10.1007/s11356-015-5340-7

Pb pollution caused by shooting sport activities is a serious environmental problem that has increased considerably in recent decades. The aims of this study were firstly to analyze Pb pollution in soils from a trap shooting range abandoned in 1999, secondly to study the effectiveness of different extractants [CaCl2, DTPA, NH4OAc, low molecular weight organic acids (LMWOA), and bidistilled water (BDW)] in order to determine Pb bioavailability in these soils, and finally to evaluate the phytoremediation ability of spontaneous vegetation (Agrostis capillaris L.). To this end, 13 soils from an old trap shooting range (Galicia, NW Spain) were studied. It was found that Pb levels in the soils were higher than 100 mg kg−1, exceeding the generic reference levels, and three of these samples even exceeded the USEPA threshold level (400 mg kg−1). In general, the reagent that best represents Pb bioavailability and has the greatest extraction efficiency was CaCl2, followed by DTPA, NH4OAc, LMWOA, and BDW. A. capillaris Pb contents ranged between 9.82 and 1107.42 mg kg−1 (root) and between 6.43 and 135.23 mg kg−1 (shoot). Pb accumulation in roots, as well as the presence of secondary mineral phases of metallic Pb in the adjacent soil, showed the phytostabilization properties of A. capillaris.

Tuesday 11 October 2016

Copper, Chromium, Nickel, Lead and Zinc levels and pollution degree in firing rage soils

Land Degrad. Develop. 27: 1721–1730 (2016)

Small-arms firing ranges are an important source of metal contaminants in the ecosystems located near these facilities, owing to the constant fall and alteration of the ammunition remnants on the soil, particularly in nearby berms. The objectives of this study were to analyse the pollution of chromium (Cr), copper (Cu), nickel (Ni), lead (Pb) and zinc (Zn) in rifle/pistol shooting range soils, to estimate their availability and to evaluate the influence of the ammunition used. The concentrations of Pb, Zn, Cu, Cr and Ni range from 55 to 6·309, 34 to 264, 19 to 98, 40 to 79 and 11 to 33 mg kg 1, respectively. The moderate acidity and organic matter content favour the availability of Pb, followed by Cu > Zn > Ni > Cr. The values of different contamination indexes (Igeo, pollution index and integrated pollution index) suggest that Pb soil contamination is moderate to heavy, especially in the berm area and moderate for Cu and Zn. Lead ammunition is the main source of pollution, but another one was identified owing to the concentrations of Fe, Cr and Ni detected. Further studies are needed to verify their long-term potential adverse effects.

Sunday 9 October 2016

TOF-SIMS and FE-SEM/EDS to verify the heavy metal fractionation in serpentinite quarry soils

CATENA, 136, 2016, 30–43

This study aims at extensively defining serpentinite quarry soils and analysing their content and distribution of heavy metals using chemical sequential extraction. The association with the different geochemical phases of the soil was verified using TOF-SIMS and SEM-EDS techniques. Seven soils were chosen in two serpentinite quarries located in Moeche (M) and Silleda (C) (Galicia, northwest of Spain). The selected areas for soil sampling were: dump sites (M1, M2 and C1), rock extraction sites (M3, C2), and quarry boundaries (M4 and C3). The total soil concentration of Co, Cr, Ni, and V varied from 1472 to 7132, 1499 to 4309, 76 to 373, and 21 to 140 mg kg− 1, respectively. In all cases they exceed the maximum limit permitted in soils. After chemical sequential extraction it was found that the high content of Co, Cr, Ni, and V is associated with the residual fraction of the soils. In addition, Fe and Mn oxides have a high capacity for Co fixation, whereas Cr, Ni, and V are mainly associated with magnesium silicates. The fractions related to organic matter and the soluble or available forms are, respectively low and very low, not exceeding 2.5% in any of the soils. This association of the metals with magnesium silicates and Fe oxides, and the low content of metals bound to organic matter were identified by using the TOF-SIMS and SEM-EDS techniques. Both techniques confirmed and verified the results obtained during the chemical sequential extraction by checking the interaction of heavy metals with the different components of the soil.

Saturday 8 October 2016

Using calcium phosphate nanoparticles to reduce metal mobility in shooting range soils

Science of The Total Environment, 571, 2016, 1136–1146

Shooting activities are a very important source of contamination as they are commonly detected high concentrations of Pb in the soils from these facilities. Different remediation methods imply the immobilization of the pollutants by decreasing their mobility and availability and nanotechnology is a promising technique in this field. The effectiveness of calcium phosphate nanoparticles (CPNs) in the remediation of small-arms firing range and trap shooting range soils is evaluated in this work. The operationally defined extractable content of Pb, Cu and Zn is determined together with the interaction of the pollutants with the nanomaterials. Soil samples were treated with the CPNs and after the treatment the extractable contents of Cu, Pb and Zn decrease. To check the retention by the nanoparticles TOF-SIMS (Time of Flight Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry) and HR-TEM-EDS (High Resolution Transmission Electron Microscopy with Energy Dispersive X-ray Spectroscopy) techniques were applied. The association of Pb and Cu to the CPNs was demonstrated by TOF-SIMS although it also indicated that not all the Pb and Cu contents are linked to the nanoparticles. By means of HR-TEM/EDS it was made out the filamentous shape and the size (50–150 nm long and 20–40 nm wide) of the CPNs together with their elemental composition (Ca, P and O). The CPNs were identified in treated soil samples together with signals of metals. The decrease on metal extractability detected is, in part, due to the association with CPNs but still more investigation is needed regarding mobility and availability of potentially hazardous elements in soils treated with nanoparticles.

Friday 7 October 2016

Sepia ink as a surrogate for colloid transport tests in porous media

Journal of Contaminant Hydrology, 191, 2016, 88–98

We examined the suitability of the ink of Sepia officinalis as a surrogate for transport studies of microorganisms and microparticles in porous media. Sepia ink is an organic pigment consisted on a suspension of eumelanin, and that has several advantages for its use as a promising material for introducing the frugal-innovation in the fields of public health and environmental research: very low cost, non-toxic, spherical shape, moderate polydispersivity, size near large viruses, non-anomalous electrokinetic behavior, low retention in the soil, and high stability.

Electrokinetic determinations and transport experiments in quartz sand columns and soil columns were done with purified suspensions of sepia ink. Influence of ionic strength on the electrophoretic mobility of ink particles showed the typical behavior of polystyrene latex spheres. Breakthrough curve (BTC) and retention profile (RP) in quartz sand columns showed a depth dependent and blocking adsorption model with an increase in adsorption rates with the ionic strength. Partially saturated transport through undisturbed soil showed less retention than in quartz sand, and matrix exclusion was also observed. Quantification of ink in leachate fractions by light absorbance is direct, but quantification in the soil profile with moderate to high organic matter content was rather cumbersome.

We concluded that sepia ink is a suitable cheap surrogate for exploring transport of pathogenic viruses, bacteria and particulate contaminants in groundwater, and could be used for developing frugal-innovation related with the assessment of soil and aquifer filtration function, and monitoring of water filtration systems in low-income regions.

Thursday 6 October 2016

Rainfall-induced removal of copper-based spray residues from vines

Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety,132, 2016, 304–310

The continuous use of copper against fungal diseases and off-target effects causes major environmental and agronomic problems. However, the rain-induced removal of Cu-based residues is known only for a limited number of crops. We present the results of rain-induced removal of fungicides from two monitored vineyard plots which were sprayed with two widely used Cu-based formulations: copper-oxychloride (CO) and Bordeaux mixture (BM), respectively. Cu removal per growing season was 0.60±0.12 kg ha−1 (30% of the applied fungicide) for CO and 0.80±0.10 kg ha−1 for BM (70% of the applied fungicide). Fractioning the Cu in soluble (CuS) and particulate fractions (CuP) showed that most of the Cu was removed as CuP, but CuS concentrations found in throughfall collectors exceeded the regulatory threshold for toxicity in surface waters. The first few millimeters of rain caused most of the Cu removal. Our findings agreed with the data reported in the scientific literature, in which a significant fraction of the Cu-based formulation is loosely attached to the plant surfaces. In addition, we found that rainfall energy had a minor influence on the removal.

Wednesday 5 October 2016

2016 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has decided to award the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2016 with one half to:

University of Strasbourg, France

Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, USA


University of Groningen, the Netherlands

"for the design and synthesis of molecular machines"

They developed the world's smallest machines
A tiny lift, artificial muscles and miniscule motors. The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2016 is awarded to Jean-Pierre Sauvage, Sir J. Fraser Stoddart and Bernard L. Feringa for their design and production of molecular machines. They have developed molecules with controllable movements, which can perform a task when energy is added.

The development of computing demonstrates how the miniaturisation of technology can lead to a revolution. The 2016 Nobel Laureates in Chemistry have miniaturised machines and taken chemistry to a new dimension.

The first step towards a molecular machine was taken by Jean-Pierre Sauvage in 1983, when he succeeded in linking two ring-shaped molecules together to form a chain, called a catenane. Normally, molecules are joined by strong covalent bonds in which the atoms share electrons, but in the chain they were instead linked by a freer mechanical bond. For a machine to be able to perform a task it must consist of parts that can move relative to each other. The two interlocked rings fulfilled exactly this requirement.

The second step was taken by Fraser Stoddart in 1991, when he developed a rotaxane. He threaded a molecular ring onto a thin molecular axle and demonstrated that the ring was able to move along the axle. Among his developments based on rotaxanes are a molecular lift, a molecular muscle and a molecule-based computer chip.

Bernard Feringa was the first person to develop a molecular motor; in 1999 he got a molecular rotor blade to spin continually in the same direction. Using molecular motors, he has rotated a glass cylinder that is 10,000 times bigger than the motor and also designed a nanocar.

2016's Nobel Laureates in Chemistry have taken molecular systems out of equilibrium's stalemate and into energy-filled states in which their movements can be controlled. In terms of development, the molecular motor is at the same stage as the electric motor was in the 1830s, when scientists displayed various spinning cranks and wheels, unaware that they would lead to electric trains, washing machines, fans and food processors. Molecular machines will most likely be used in the development of things such as new materials, sensors and energy storage systems.


Jean-Pierre Sauvage, born 1944 in Paris, France. Ph.D. 1971 from the University of Strasbourg, France. Professor Emeritus at the University of Strasbourg and Director of Research Emeritus at the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), France.

Sir J. Fraser Stoddart, born 1942 in Edinburgh, UK. Ph.D. 1966 from Edinburgh University, UK. Board of Trustees Professor of Chemistry at Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, USA.

Bernard L. Feringa, born 1951 in Barger-Compascuum, the Netherlands. Ph.D.1978 from the University of Groningen, the Netherlands. Professor in Organic Chemistry at the University of Groningen, the Netherlands.

Fuente: The Official Web Site of the Nobel Price

Tuesday 4 October 2016

2016 Nobel Prize in Physics

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has decided to award the Nobel Prize in Physics 2016 with one half to:

University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA

and the other half to

Princeton University, NJ, USA


Brown University, Providence, RI, USA

”for theoretical discoveries of topological phase transitions and topological phases of matter”

They revealed the secrets of exotic matter

This year’s Laureates opened the door on an unknown world where matter can assume strange states. They have used advanced mathematical methods to study unusual phases, or states, of matter, such as superconductors, superfluids or thin magnetic films. Thanks to their pioneering work, the hunt is now on for new and exotic phases of matter. Many people are hopeful of future applications in both materials science and electronics.

The three Laureates’ use of topological concepts in physics was decisive for their discoveries. Topology is a branch of mathematics that describes properties that only change step-wise. Using topology as a tool, they were able to astound the experts. In the early 1970s, Michael Kosterlitz and David Thouless overturned the then current theory that superconductivity or suprafluidity could not occur in thin layers. They demonstrated that superconductivity could occur at low temperatures and also explained the mechanism, phase transition, that makes superconductivity disappear at higher temperatures.

In the 1980s, Thouless was able to explain a previous experiment with very thin electrically conducting layers in which conductance was precisely measured as integer steps. He showed that these integers were topological in their nature. At around the same time, Duncan Haldane discovered how topological concepts can be used to understand the properties of chains of small magnets found in some materials.

We now know of many topological phases, not only in thin layers and threads, but also in ordinary three-dimensional materials. Over the last decade, this area has boosted frontline research in condensed matter physics, not least because of the hope that topological materials could be used in new generations of electronics and superconductors, or in future quantum computers. Current research is revealing the secrets of matter in the exotic worlds discovered by this year’s Nobel Laureates.


David J. Thouless, born 1934 in Bearsden, UK. Ph.D. 1958 from Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA. Emeritus Professor at the University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA.

F. Duncan M. Haldane, born 1951 in London, UK. Ph.D. 1978 from Cambridge University, UK. Eugene Higgins Professor of Physics at Princeton University, NJ, USA.

J. Michael Kosterlitz, born 1942 in Aberdeen, UK. Ph.D. 1969 from Oxford University, UK. Harrison E. Farnsworth Professor of Physics at Brown University, Providence, RI, USA.

Fuente: The Official Web Site of the Nobel Price

Monday 3 October 2016

2016 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

The Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet has today decided to award the 2016 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine to

"for his discoveries of mechanisms for autophagy"

This year's Nobel Laureate discovered and elucidated mechanisms underlying autophagy, a fundamental process for degrading and recycling cellular components.  

The word autophagy originates from the Greek words auto-, meaning "self", and phagein, meaning "to eat". Thus,autophagy denotes "self eating". This concept emerged during the 1960's, when researchers first observed that the cell could destroy its own contents by enclosing it in membranes, forming sack-like vesicles that were transported to a recycling compartment, called the lysosome, for degradation. Difficulties in studying the phenomenon meant that little was known until, in a series of brilliant experiments in the early 1990's, Yoshinori Ohsumi used baker's yeast to identify genes essential for autophagy. He then went on to elucidate the underlying mechanisms for autophagy in yeast and showed that similar sophisticated machinery is used in our cells.

Ohsumi's discoveries led to a new paradigm in our understanding of how the cell recycles its content. His discoveries opened the path to understanding the fundamental importance of autophagy in many physiological processes, such as in the adaptation to starvation or response to infection. Mutations in autophagy genes can cause disease, and the autophagic process is involved in several conditions including cancer and neurological disease.

Degradation – a central function in all living cells
In the mid 1950's scientists observed a new specialized cellular compartment, called an organelle, containing enzymes that digest proteins, carbohydrates and lipids. This specialized compartment is referred to as a "lysosome" and functions as a workstation for degradation of cellular constituents. The Belgian scientist Christian de Duve was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1974 for the discovery of the lysosome. New observations during the 1960's showed that large amounts of cellular content, and even whole organelles, could sometimes be found inside lysosomes. The cell therefore appeared to have a strategy for delivering large cargo to the lysosome. Further biochemical and microscopic analysis revealed a new type of vesicle transporting cellular cargo to the lysosome for degradation (Figure 1). Christian de Duve, the scientist behind the discovery of the lysosome, coined the term autophagy, "self-eating", to describe this process. The new vesicles were named autophagosomes.

Figure 1: Our cells have different specialized compartments. Lysosomes constitute one such compartment and contain enzymes for digestion of cellular contents. A new type of vesicle called autophagosome was observed within the cell. As the autophagosome forms, it engulfs cellular contents, such as damaged proteins and organelles. Finally, it fuses with the lysosome, where the contents are degraded into smaller constituents. This process provides the cell with nutrients and building blocks for renewal.
During the 1970's and 1980's researchers focused on elucidating another system used to degrade proteins, namely the "proteasome". Within this research field Aaron Ciechanover, Avram Hershko and Irwin Rose were awarded the 2004 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for "the discovery of ubiquitin-mediated protein degradation". The proteasome efficiently degrades proteins one-by-one, but this mechanism did not explain how the cell got rid of larger protein complexes and worn-out organelles. Could the process of autophagy be the answer and, if so, what were the mechanisms?

A groundbreaking experiment
Yoshinori Ohsumi had been active in various research areas, but upon starting his own lab in 1988, he focused his efforts on protein degradation in the vacuole, an organelle that corresponds to the lysosome in human cells. Yeast cells are relatively easy to study and consequently they are often used as a model for human cells. They are particularly useful for the identification of genes that are important in complex cellular pathways. But Ohsumi faced a major challenge; yeast cells are small and their inner structures are not easily distinguished under the microscope and thus he was uncertain whether autophagy even existed in this organism. Ohsumi reasoned that if he could disrupt the degradation process in the vacuole while the process of autophagy was active, then autophagosomes should accumulate within the vacuole and become visible under the microscope. He therefore cultured mutated yeast lacking vacuolar degradation enzymes and simultaneously stimulated autophagy by starving the cells. The results were striking! Within hours, the vacuoles were filled with small vesicles that had not been degraded (Figure 2). The vesicles were autophagosomes and Ohsumi's experiment proved that authophagy exists in yeast cells. But even more importantly, he now had a method to identify and characterize key genes involved this process. This was a major break-through and Ohsumi published the results in 1992.

Figure 2: In yeast (left panel) a large compartment called the vacuole corresponds to the lysosome in mammalian cells. Ohsumi generated yeast lacking vacuolar degradation enzymes. When these yeast cells were starved, autophagosomes rapidly accumulated in the vacuole (middle panel). His experiment demonstrated that autophagy exists in yeast. As a next step, Ohsumi studied thousands of yeast mutants (right panel) and identified 15 genes that are essential for autophagy.
Autophagy genes are discovered
Ohsumi now took advantage of his engineered yeast strains in which autophagosomes accumulated during starvation. This accumulation should not occur if genes important for autophagy were inactivated. Ohsumi exposed the yeast cells to a chemical that randomly introduced mutations in many genes, and then he induced autophagy. His strategy worked! Within a year of his discovery of autophagy in yeast, Ohsumi had identified the first genes essential for autophagy. In his subsequent series of elegant studies, the proteins encoded by these genes were functionally characterized. The results showed that autophagy is controlled by a cascade of proteins and protein complexes, each regulating a distinct stage of autophagosome initiation and formation (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Ohsumi studied the function of the proteins encoded by key autophagy genes. He delineated how stress signals initiate autophagy and the mechanism by which proteins and protein complexes promote distinct stages of autophagosome formation.
Autophagy – an essential mechanism in our cells
After the identification of the machinery for autophagy in yeast, a key question remained. Was there a corresponding mechanism to control this process in other organisms? Soon it became clear that virtually identical mechanisms operate in our own cells. The research tools required to investigate the importance of autophagy in humans were now available.

Thanks to Ohsumi and others following in his footsteps, we now know that autophagy controls important physiological functions where cellular components need to be degraded and recycled. Autophagy can rapidly provide fuel for energy and building blocks for renewal of cellular components, and is therefore essential for the cellular response to starvation and other types of stress. After infection, autophagy can eliminate invading intracellular bacteria and viruses. Autophagy contributes to embryo development and cell differentiation. Cells also use autophagy to eliminate damaged proteins and organelles, a quality control mechanism that is critical for counteracting the negative consequences of aging.

Disrupted autophagy has been linked to Parkinson's disease, type 2 diabetes and other disorders that appear in the elderly. Mutations in autophagy genes can cause genetic disease. Disturbances in the autophagic machinery have also been linked to cancer. Intense research is now ongoing to develop drugs that can target autophagy in various diseases.

Autophagy has been known for over 50 years but its fundamental importance in physiology and medicine was only recognized after Yoshinori Ohsumi's paradigm-shifting research in the 1990's. For his discoveries, he is awarded this year's Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine.

Key publications
  • Takeshige, K., Baba, M., Tsuboi, S., Noda, T. and Ohsumi, Y. (1992). Autophagy in yeast demonstrated with proteinase-deficient mutants and conditions for its induction. Journal of Cell Biology 119, 301-311
  • Tsukada, M. and Ohsumi, Y. (1993). Isolation and characterization of autophagy-defective mutants of Saccharomyces cervisiae. FEBS Letters 333, 169-174
  • Mizushima, N., Noda, T., Yoshimori, T., Tanaka, Y., Ishii, T., George, M.D., Klionsky, D.J., Ohsumi, M. and Ohsumi, Y. (1998). A protein conjugation system essential for autophagy. Nature 395, 395-398
  • Ichimura, Y., Kirisako T., Takao, T., Satomi, Y., Shimonishi, Y., Ishihara, N., Mizushima, N., Tanida, I., Kominami, E., Ohsumi, M., Noda, T. and Ohsumi, Y. (2000). A ubiquitin-like system mediates protein lipidation. Nature, 408, 488-492

Yoshinori Ohsumi was born 1945 in Fukuoka, Japan. He received a Ph.D. from University of Tokyo in 1974. After spending three years at Rockefeller University, New York, USA, he returned to the University of Tokyo where he established his research group in 1988. He is since 2009 a professor at the Tokyo Institute of Technology.

Fuente: The Official Web Site of the Nobel Price