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Hydrogen Atoms Unlock Earth's History and Advance Cancer Monitoring Techniques

Last updated Thursday, June 13, 2024 21:53 ET , Source: Support onlinedegrees

Hydrogen, one of the most abundant elements in the universe, continues to reveal its potential in diverse and groundbreaking ways.

United States, 06/13/2024 / SubmitMyPR /

Hydrogen, one of the most abundant elements in the universe, continues to reveal its potential in diverse and groundbreaking ways. As the lightest element on the periodic table, hydrogen is commonly found in combination with other elements, such as oxygen, forming H2O, or water.

Over the decades, hydrogen has demonstrated a broad range of applications. Scientists and engineers worldwide have been at the forefront of discovering innovative uses for this versatile element. Historically, hydrogen has been instrumental in the development of airships like blimps. More recently, it has become a cornerstone in modern transportation methods, notably in hydrogen fuel cell batteries, which promise cleaner and more efficient energy solutions.

Groundbreaking research by a combined team of geologists and biologists from Princeton University and the University of Colorado, Boulder, has identified innovative medical applications for hydrogen that may soon make their way into hospitals across the United States. This discovery holds particular promise for the next generation of graduates from accelerated BSN programs online, who may be at the forefront of implementing these advancements in clinical settings.

The study reveals that hydrogen, a versatile and abundant element, can be utilized to detect the atomic age of certain types of cancer. With cancer claiming more than 600,000 lives annually in the United States, this new approach could shift the focus from treatment to proactive defense against the disease.

Hydrogen: An Abundant Element with Limitless Potential

Hydrogen is one of the simplest elements to exist on the periodic table - and while as an element, it has existed in the universe for billions of years, humans only began to study and truly understand it in the mid-18th century, largely led by English chemist and aristocrat, Henry Cavendish.

Cavendish was very much an eccentric - known to avoid servants, and had a series of unusual habits. These eccentricities led to discoveries that were only possible with extreme amounts of patience - such as gasses that are only able to be produced in laboratory settings. Cavendish’s findings in the late 1760s demonstrated the properties of ‘inflammable air’ - air that would be created by dissolving metals with acid. In the decades after Cavendish’s discovery, inflammable air would eventually be named hydrogen - and pave the way for the chemical revolution, which led to reforms by Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier in the ways chemistry was interpreted.

Several centuries of understanding later, and humanity has a much clearer understanding of how chemistry works. However, much can be done to further humanity’s practical applications with chemistry.

Unlocking the Secrets of Ancient Earth with Hydrogen Atoms

Fascinatingly, two centuries of research on hydrogen identified a number of different uses for this abundant element. You may not know it, but research into hydrogen particles forms a key part of many different fields - from geology to chemistry.

Take, for example, hydrogen atoms that may have been trapped in blocks of ice during the Ice Age. Climate scientists, working in a field called paleoclimatology, can analyze these blocks of ice to get historical readings about the climate of the past - long before traditional data capturing methods were invented.

In some modern scientific fields, hydrogen has immense capability, used as a fuel - hydrogen fuel forms the liquid hydrogen fuel tank, a significant part of the Space Launch System, a NASA-led initiative to resume travel to the moon.

The Science Behind Cancer: A New Frontier in Research

The destructive power of cancer may seem like a far cry from the chemistry of ice blocks, but interestingly, there are some similar characteristics in the chemical activity that occurs.

Cancer is a condition that impacts more than two million Americans annually - and with that, comes a wide range of different symptoms and conditions. Many cancers act in a similar way - mutating abnormal or damaged cells to form tumors. This requires immense amounts of energy, so cancer often tries to find abundant energy sources to feel on - causing the hydrogen consumed within the body to decay and form deuterium, a hydrogen isotope, over time. In fact, research revealed that fast-growing cancers had a much different prevalence of hydrogen in the body over time.

From a strictly chemical composition, this represents an interesting opportunity for scientists - as these tumors, while difficult to detect by traditional methods, actually contain decaying elements - such as hydrogen. This presents an opportunity to reproduce methods that are similar to that of carbon dating, in a medical environment.

A New Cancer Monitoring Tool - Hydrogen

The research, led by geochemist Ashley Maloney, asked a simple question - could the atomic signature that certain cancers possess be used to track and monitor cancer growth? Inspired by her father’s work as a dermatologist, Maloney had questions about how different neighboring cells may be different (such as those in skin conditions), and whether the unique metabolism of each group of cells could be documented.

By understanding how an enzyme known as nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADPH) collects and distributed hydrogen throughout the body, and the different types of hydrogen isotopes that can be created as a result of cancer entering the body, the research was able to identify significant differences in the rates of certain isotopes in yeast cells.

Fundamentally, this research in its early stages provides an exciting opportunity for researchers - the ability to track cancer growths at an early stage, no matter how they’re growing. Speaking on the findings, Maloney noted that “This study adds a whole new layer to medicine, giving us the chance to look at cancer at the atomic level”.

What the Future Holds: Innovations in Cancer Detection and Treatment

Research into understanding cancer at an atomic level is admittedly, still in its early stages. The research being conducted at UC Boulder presents an exciting opportunity for medical researchers and scientists alike - are there other potential ways that applications of geoscience could be taken, to further understand the world we live in?

With cancer being one of America’s leading causes of death, finding new strategies to assess, treat, and mitigate cancer provide immense promise for those that suffer from the life-changing condition. With this and other research opening the door to individualized, highly specialized medical treatments, it may be possible that in the future, we’ll see cancer tackled with a highly targeted and specialized approach, rather than with one-size-fits-all methods.

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