Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Mathematics ensures clean water

12.10.2010
Reduction of medicine residues in drinking water

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: weber@zib.de

Rudolf Kellermann | idw
Further information:
http://www.matheon.de
http://www.zib.de/Numerik/DrugDesign/index.en.html

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht The birth of a new protein
20.10.2017 | University of Arizona

nachricht Building New Moss Factories
20.10.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Terahertz spectroscopy goes nano

20.10.2017 | Information Technology

Strange but true: Turning a material upside down can sometimes make it softer

20.10.2017 | Materials Sciences

NRL clarifies valley polarization for electronic and optoelectronic technologies

20.10.2017 | Interdisciplinary Research

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>