Write your abstract here.November 06, 2007
NASA''s Hunt for Clues to Life on Mars Solves Mystery of Red Wine Headaches
It looks like NASA might have found a new goldmine for funding its
space adventures -that is, assuming it has a piece of of one of it''s
leading scientists recent discoveries!
The Associated Press have reported that Researchers at University of
California, Berkeley, working with NASA funded technology designed to
look for chemical signs of extraterrestrial life on Mars have created a
device they say can easily detect chemicals that many scientists
believe can cause the common "red wine headache."
Apparently one of the NASA technology''s creators, Richard Mathies
(director of the Centre for Analytical Biotechnology at UC Berkeley)
also happens to be a wine lover and he blames the amines in wine for
his headaches. Mathies told CBS Station KPIX that :"What intrigued
me is that I observed, with certain wines that I ingested I had a
significant hypertensive response, which scared me a little bit.”
Mathies designs high-tech tools for two very different kinds of
detectives. On Earth, his group is developing instruments that will be
used by forensic scientists to help solve crimes using DNA analysis. A
similar system could also aid astrobiologists in hunting for life on
Mars without ever stepping foot on the red planet.
Mathies is the inventor of capillary electrophoresis arrays and
energy transfer fluorescent dye labels, common technologies in today''s
DNA sequencers. Now he''s combining those innovations with a microscale
plumbing system to build an entire genetics laboratory on a chip.
The chip is the key component in the Mars Organic Analyzer, an
instrument that will probe the Red Planet''s soil for amino acids, the
building blocks of organic life. The Mars Organic Analyzer may travel
to the Red Planet as early as 2009 aboard either NASA''s Mars Science
Laboratory, the European Space Agency''s ExoMars mission, or possibly
Back to those splitting wine headaches: some
wines even led Mathies to wake up in the middle of the night.
"That''s when the light bulb went off and I realized I could use the
Mars Organic Analyzer as a way of testing wines."
is currently the size of a small briefcase and uses a drop of wine to
determine amine levels in 5 minutes.
Like most good Silicon Valley area enterpreneurs, Mathies has
co-founded a startup company to create a smaller device so that users
can take it along to a restaurant and bar where (along with bouquet and
colour) a wine''s amines can be appraised. Mathies suggests the device
could be used to put amine levels on wine labels.Wine
experts might suggest that Mathies
should have simply changed his wine to the Old World wines from Italy,
France and Spain (they don''t give headaches if you drink them) rather
than convert his Mars
Organic Analyzer, but it probably wouldn''t lead to an IPO!
The Old World wine producers tend to use time honoured methods which
are renowned throughout the world vs. the cheap, mass produced wines
which use quick fixes to solve the fermentation and maturation
processes. Scientists can not definitively say what it is in
some red wines that causes headaches but they have nominated several
culprits including amines like tyramine and histamine. Histamine is a
candidate as it is released from mast cells as part of an allergic
reaction in humans.
Some wines led Mathies to wake up in the middle of the night. "That''s
when the light bulb went off and I realized I could use the Mars
Organic Analyzer as a way of testing wines."
Tyramine is found in both plants and animals - in foods it is often
produced by the fermentation or preservation process. Foods containing
considerable amounts of tyramine include pickled, smoked, aged or
marinated meats (fish, poultry, pork and beef), fermented fyoghurt, soy sauce, sauerkraut, chocolate and red wine.
It''s also found in avocados, bananas, aubergines, figs, raspberries,
peanuts, brazil nuts, and coconuts.