Drinking water is a vital prerequisite for all life on earth and is therefore probably our most important resource. However, this resource is also becoming increasingly scarce. Additionally, it is becoming increasingly polluted. Up to now, little attention has been paid to water pollution due to medicines.
Although at present this is by no means dramatic, there is a noticeable accumulation of various medications in our water. Hardly any research is available with regard to the results of this unintentional medication for humans, plants and animals.
Because of this, at the instigation of the Federal Ministry of Health, in January the German Federal Environmental Agency (UBA) and the Institute for Socio-ecological Research (ISOE) invited experts from the health services, the pharmaceutical industry, utility companies, scientists, environmental associations and consumer organisations to a conference in Berlin on " The possibilities for action to reduce the introduction of human medications and their residue into unprocessed and drinking water". Amongst the 50 experts, Dr. Marcus Weber, an employee of the DFG Research Centre MATHEON was the only mathematician present.
As a result of this conference, a consensus paper has now been published with several highly practicable proposals whose implementation is planned in the near future. In several areas of the catalogue of measures, a significant mathematical involvement is planned, which should lead to previously unexpected results.
At MATHEON and in the Zuse Institute, Marcus Weber has been working on the mathematical prerequisites for a rapid and efficient simulation of molecules and their function in various medications for several years. Here, the so-called "key and lock principle" is used, by which computers can construct molecules so that they can predictably attach themselves to a harmful protein, block it and therefore render it harmless. Thanks to visualization and simulation the virtual molecule of the active ingredient can be modified in the computer until the optimum results are achieved.
This is a process which is accompanied by enormous difficulties, as both the molecule of the active ingredient and the harmful protein constantly change under certain influences, for example body temperature. Marcus Weber assumes that at present, throughout the world, up to 80 percent of the computing power of modern large computers is required simply for the simulation of molecules. Here, mathematics can help with new algorithms, which optimize the calculations and therefore the use of computing power. In this respect, Marcus Weber's previous work has certainly had a pioneering effect.
Of course, this research by Marcus Weber and his workgroup can also be used to great advantage and can lead to entirely new approaches for the simulation of hazardous substances which may enter the water cycle and have a detrimental effect on all forms of life if their concentrations are too high.
For example, at the conference in January it was recommended that the relevance of medications to drinking water should be taken into account even at their design stage. "It is not difficult to simulate not only the pharmaceutical effect of the actual medical ingredients in advance, but we can also consider their possible decomposition and transformation products", says Dr. Weber. In a further step, medications can also be developed with particular properties which increase their binding to sediments and active carbon. Such medicines would therefore be easier to remove from the water cycle. In addition it would be possible to ensure that the proportion of active ingredients which leaves the body unused is reduced or ideally completely eliminated.
A wide field in which Marcus Weber and his mathematical research could achieve great progress for the protection of untreated water is the assessment of the risk due to the effect of certain medication residues in drinking water. Many of these trace substances cannot be investigated in experiments on animals, as for this they would need to be isolated (or produced artificially in the laboratory), which is not yet possible for many forms of compounds. Marcus Weber believes that "with our algorithms we can create a virtual laboratory in which the toxicological effect of such decomposition products can be simulated. However, even for us this is a relatively new question, but it is a very interesting and certainly achievable challenge", says the mathematician. An additional success would also be that with the use of a mathematical basis for toxicological investigations, experiments with animals could be eliminated, restricted, or at least could be better planned.
Marcus Weber is convinced that the specialist conference and the resulting consensus paper is an important step towards the purification of water, the basis of our lives. "For me, this aspect is a further example of how our mathematical work can form the basis for successful measures, which above all protect nature."
Further information: Dr. Marcus Weber, DFG-Forschungszentrum MATHEON, Tel.: +49-30-8 41 85-189, E-mail: email@example.com
Rudolf Kellermann | idw
Link Discovered between Immune System, Brain Structure and Memory
26.04.2017 | Universität Basel
Researchers develop eco-friendly, 4-in-1 catalyst
25.04.2017 | Brown University
More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.
Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...
Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.
"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...
The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...
20.04.2017 | Event News
18.04.2017 | Event News
03.04.2017 | Event News
26.04.2017 | Materials Sciences
26.04.2017 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
26.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy