Poisoned Needle By Fred Senese Analysis

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Georgia Clack 7/16/11 Matter: Article Essay Every day a new breakthrough in science is made, whether it be something little or something big. Scientists all around the world work to solve the unknown and further educate themselves. Some experiments can take years to complete, and some can take just weeks or even days. Either way, discoveries are being made. Many different steps and methods are used just to solve one thing, like in The Poisoned Needle by Fred Senese. This article tells about an unknown illness passing through two different species, towns, and time periods and how the mystery of what it was was discovered by scientists. Capitola, California was attacked by a bird known as sooty shearwaters in the summer of 1961. These birds…show more content…
This was so that the mussel samples would not go bad due to heat or harsh solvents. They were extracted with a mild solvent, and then concentrated by evaporation. The team found that the vapor was not toxic, but the residue after was. Other extractions were done to see how the residue separated when added with other mixtures of nonpolar solvents. In the toxic mussels, the visible light absorption spectrum revealed a pattern that was characteristic of phytoplankton pigments. With further investigation, the pigments were found not to be poisonous though, and the aqueous layer consisted of the toxin. Column chromatography was used to separate the layer into organic acids and bases. Acids that were ionized quickly passed through because the resin called XAD-2 would not hold them in their polar ionized form. Out of all the acids that passed through, only one was found to be toxic. By using high performance liquid chromatography, a polar and nonpolar stationary phase that contained the toxin was mixed, and this isolated the toxin by itself. To ensure that that was the isolated toxin, they further broke it down to find its charge, size, and molecular shape. Mass spectrometry was then used to find the weight and formula of the toxin. By finding the formula, it had similar characteristics to an amino acid known as domoic acid. In the body, nerve cells commonly recognize this acid as a glutamic acid. The glutamate molecule binds to a receptor causing the receptor to open its membrane, thus allowing calcium ions to flow into the cell. Since so much glutamate was binded to receptors it caused the membrane to stay open and the cell overflowed with calcium ions. This causes the cell to get so big that it eventually bursts, which lead to why people were suffering with memory

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