Crystallographic resolution of castor enzyme.

Functional property of a material is determined by the spacial configuration of its constituents and their physical interactions in accordance with laws of exact sciences.Hence an understanding  by a clear resolution is vital for any physical particulate matter to functional association.Several different techniques have been developed so far to accomplish it and crystallography is one among powerful tools to determine the geometry of biomolecules in particular, the proteins which have been characterized by it since the middle of twentieth century.

Swedish researchers have chosen to characterize an enzyme catalyst of castor delta 9 stearoyl acyl carrier protein desaturase by crystallography which is accelerating the synthesis of ricinoleic acid from stearic acid by unsaturation.Enzyme crystal generated was targeted by high energy radiations to produce a fingerprint for analysis of constituents and their orientation.They identified multiple alpha helical folding pattern with two iron atoms in a co-ordinate covalent bonding with charged amino acids of the protein moiety.An holistic structural analysis of the enzyme revealed it as a hollow cylinder to accommodate the substrate fatty acid with its 9th carbon atom exactly interacts with iron atoms for electron transfers to make the unsaturated carbon-carbon bonding by metal ion catalysis.

Scientists have prepared an elegant picture for the key regulatory desaturase enzyme in castor.Protein purification and crystallization are painstaking processes to resolve it from solution as the influence of temperature,pressure,concentration of solute protein etc are significant.However the quality of information by crystallography is definitely superior to other in silico structural studies.

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Castor oil based matrix for drug delievery

Drug delievery is an exciting branch of pharmaceutical chemistry where scientists tend to apply importance for carrier matrices to precisely release the drug at the specific targets for its mechanism of action. Medium formulation is a classical process where pharmaceutical minds have exploited a diversified range of solvents varying in their electrostatic behavior with the drug for delievery at defined dosages but frequently encountered limitations in toxicity and biodegradation properties in spite of their potential activities which led to bio-based medium with self-destructive nature.

Researchers from India have utilized castor oil as a key source for the synthesis of bio-polymer based medium in drug delivery process as it well noted earlier that castor oil is an excellent substrate for the production of polyamides and polyesters etc. Experimenters have synthesized a co-polyester with castor oil and citric acid in a catalytic reaction and paracetamol drug of standard concentration was immobilized on to the matrix polymer.They made their initial evaluation under bio simulated,  in vitro conditions for the drug delievery into the surrounding solution and found that the drug was released at elevated levels initially but gradually fell down and it was confirmed through their spectroscopic analysis.They also reported that the matrix  exhibited hydrolytic degradation after a complete release of drug.

The results of the experiment seem to be promising for an alternate carrier medium but it would be convincing to display it under in vivo conditions as the parameters affecting the ligand-receptor dissociation are in multiples under the real gastro-intestinal physiology.It is also worthwhile to note the mechanism of detoxification that the castor oil based co-polyester follows in the body for its wide spectrum of drug delievery applications in a systemic run.

For reference:Iranian Polymer Journal, Volume 5-Number 1 (1996).

Mapping of ricin by tools of molecular biology

Ricin toxin from castor seeds has been well established as a cytotoxin interferring with ribosomal functions.The activity of any protein generally is conferred by the domains present in it. This made scientists to probe the domains and  critical amino acids for the cytotoxic activity of ricin. Researchers in USA have made molecular analysis of castor bean toxin at the genetic level where tools of genetic engineering are exploited to address their domain mapping studies.The experimentation involved synthetic mutation process in genetic determinants of ricin protein for hypothetical amino acid, glutamate to alanine which basically is distant to the former constituent in terms of its physio-chemical properties and makes it an ideal substituent to understand the magnitude of glutamate in the ricin function.Their data in the end from mutant protein’s activity indicated that the target glutamate is not of primary significance in ricin’ toxicological function.

Domain mapping by mutations is an iterative process but an intense technique to make a complete scrutiny of the sub components in a complex molecule and their implications to the ultimate emergence of functions from bulk.

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Castor biodiesel run in Ethiopia

The concept of renewable energy has really taken momentum all around the world as the African nation Ethiopia has made moves to initiate ventures on bio-diesel production from castor oil.The prime objective is to reduce the energy burden of the nation since experts  claim that Ethiopia allocates 90% of its foreign revenue to fossil fuel import and hence focus has been applied to exploit the renewable resources for ensuring the sustainability in nation’s economy.

Among the leading Ethiopian energy investors,Global Energy Ethiopia(GEE) has started its operation on renewable energy  since 2007 by pumping US$ 20 million into castor and jatropha seed farming and processing business.According to sources,GEE firm has an opportunity to process 40,000 tonnes of vegetable oil in its investment on concerned bioenergy crops from 30,000 hectares of leased land.Besides GEE, other firms namely Eco Energy has also entered into  bio-energy sector with collaborations from abroad.

According to Ethiopian Investment Agency(EIA),the potential of 25 million hectares of land suited for bio-diesel farming when tapped completely,Ethiopia becomes one of the highest producers of bio-diesel with an estimated capacity of 20 million liters of crude vegetable oil.

Reports such as this are motivating because the nations that have been torn by the economic crisis,civil wars and political instabilities, would have a tremendous scope to lift their socio-economic and environmental consciousness at the competitive International stage.

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Castor oil for nanoparticle fabrication

Nanotechnology is a emerging field of applied sciences where the functional units are in the magnitude of one part of a billion volume and appear to be elite operating than conventional micro units. In-organics and organic materials have been exploited to act as nanomaterials so far and silver nanoparticles(Ag-NPs) are one of the most potent materials among them for nano-composite fabrications.However scientists are hindered to generate Ag-NP units with expected level of functionality because they frequently suffer from limitations of aggregation of Ag-NPs with conventional  solvent medium that interferes with activities of final product and it made them to search for better performing medium. Finally a breakthrough solution to the problem came out from the Malaysian researchers when they revealed the fabrication of Ag-NPs by laser ablation of silver plate in the presence of castor oil.

Researchers claimed that the amphiphilic nature of the castor oil makes it to interact with silver element in an electrostatically regulated way which ultimately generates nanoparticles with expected characteristics.A quantitative analysis by normal distribution showed castor oil based nanoparticles are uniform in their size to a maximum extent and prove to be stable.Final material assessment was studied by advanced spectroscopic and electron microscopic techniques with definite controls.

Castor oil is an affordable material economically on a global scale and exploiting it for such type of advanced studies would shatter the barriers of expensiveness normally witnessed in technological development but it would have been better to realize when experimental confirmation had been made on activities of castor oil based Ag-NPs.

For reference: Zamiri et al, International Journal of Nanomedicine 2011:6 565–568

Change in trend of castor seed and oil prices

Castor seed and oil finally saw a drift in its market prices when castor seed bold stood at Rs:5,300 from the previous days close of Rs:5,400 per quintal.The trend was reflected in the castor oil prices as well which fell to Rs:1090 as against Rs:1110 per 10 kg.As the demand was sub-dued from soap industries and shippers, castor seed futures also declined to Rs:5070 per quintal which was about Rs:139 less from its previous close.

A control in the price of castor based commodities greatly relieves the pressure for business exchanges both India and abroad in the current day scenario as it is important to note that prices of castor seed and oil have doubled comprehensively in a brief span of six months.

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Interpretation of castor bean and Ricin as reproductive toxins.

Ricin toxin is well to act as a sub- acute toxin in humans to produce lethality between 2-5 days on the basis of concentration and portals of administration of toxin.However its role in reproductive toxicity has not been documented well and Jordanian scientists have made an attempt to assess the role for ricin in reproductive toxicity in pregnant female rats.

Rats intraperitoneally treated with ricin and castor bean extracts displayed symptoms of body weight loss and death of foetuses at 5-9 days of pregnancy while attrition of implantation sites was noticed with first 6 consecutive days of pregnancy.The toxicological function was not significantly reversed with gonadotrophin hormone in experimental subjects exposed to toxin.Hence the researchers were able to conclude that castor bean constituents including ricin have anti implantation and ovulation properties through their overlapped reproductive toxicological studies.

Results of this study is difficult to interpret as multiple parameters including strain,species,sex,age,feed,time,concentration of the toxin,mode of administration,animal size of the experimental study have a profound influence in the outcome of the study.Adopting International standard guidelines in toxicology  will greatly improves the precision and accuracy of the experiment.

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Role for MALDI-MS in ricin detection.

Ricin is a lethal cytotoxin present abundantly in castor seed.People have identified the protein way back but no effective, timely sensitive antidote or assay kit has ever been formulated so far.However advancements in protein technology have rendered a solution today through application of an advanced mass spectrometry for the detection of ricin, called as Matrix Assisted Laser Desorption Ionization Mass spectrometry(MALDI-MS).It is extensively applied for detection of proteins which are unknown and whose magnitude is difficult to determine by conventional resolution principles.

Australian scientists tried to exploit it in the context of ricin chemistry and have prepared a polymorphic peptide mass fingerprint of ricin and its related proteins  following an initial treatment with trypsin.They were excited to watch the extent of protein resolution by MALDI-MS in purified and crude preparations of ricin from castor seeds without ambiguity. Scientists further claimed that their protocol has  scope for improvements and consumes minimal time to probe the presence of toxin from sample preparations.

MALDI-MS proved its utility in toxin chemistry of proteins as a valuable tool and will expand its wing to conquer new protein niches in biology.

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Strange proteins in vacuolar membranes of castor seed

Castor seeds are energy reserves of superior quality whose molecular transformations play a vital role in seed development and germination.They are compartmentalized in specialized sub-cellular systems encapsulated by membranes.Membrane re-modeling is a fundamental phenomenon demanded to regulate the functional activities,mass exchange etc of its interior components.Therefore an understanding of molecular factors constituting the membrane would yield us a transparent picture of the seed molecular transformations triggered by cues.

Researchers from USA have isolated membranes from castor seed protein bodies thought to play a key role in protein utilization for seed development.They followed a differential extraction method for the selective isolation of vacuolar membrane and purified it with advanced centrifugation techniques.A protein fingerprint was generated ultimately which revealed unique proteins whose functional activities are yet to characterized.Lipids chemistry proved to be complex but showed typical members.

Characterization of novel proteins is an exciting field and this research paper lays an authentic platform to make in-depth studies.

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Marker assisted probing of castor toxin.

Molecular fingerprinting of DNA proves to be the most reliable of all biological assays applied today in spite of an extensive application of other biomolecules as markers in different functional evaluation studies.Ricin, Castor toxin profiling is not an exception as researchers from USA have devised a protocol for the detection of ricin in food as an accidental or intentional contaminant on the basis of a DNA based molecular marker, unique to castor.The experimental result indicated a sensitivity of 5 microgram of toxin per unit gram of ground beef which is promising according to scientists. They claim further that their methodology’ sensitivity is well below the threshold oral toxicity levels of toxin.

Molecular marker are highly polymorphic and hence the fingerprint that they generate will display a minimum probability for  mismatch but requires a high technical skill.It also has a critical limitation that any insignificant contamination interfering with experimental template DNA  would readily produce a magnified artifact and lead to misinterpretations.

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