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Chemists moving forward with tool to detect hydrogen sulfide

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Posted June 25, 2013
Doctoral student Leticia A. Montoya and Michael Pluth, professor of chemistry, of the University of Oregon have developed a sensitive probe that detects H2S in biological samples and in the environment. Credit: University of Oregon

Doctoral student Leticia A. Montoya and Michael Pluth, professor of chemistry, of the University of Oregon have developed a sensitive probe that detects H2S in biological samples and in the environment. Credit: University of Oregon

University of Oregon chemists have developed a selective probe that detects hydrogen sulfide (H2S) levels as low as 190 nanomolar (10 parts per billion) in biological samples. They say the technique could serve as a new tool for basic biological research and as an enhanced detection system for H2S in suspected bacterially contaminated water sources.

Hydrogen sulfide, a colorless gas, has long been known for its dangerous toxicity—and its telltale smell of rotten eggs—in the environment, but in the last decade the gas has been found to be produced in mammals, including humans, with seemingly important roles in molecular signaling and cardiac health. Detection methods for biological systems are emerging from many laboratories as scientists seek to understand the roles of H2S in general health and different diseases.

Reporting in the Journal of Organic Chemistry—online in advance of regular print publication—researchers in the UO lab of Michael D. Pluth, professor of chemistry, describe the development of a colorimetric probe that relies on nucleophilic aromatic substitution to react selectively with H2S to produce a characteristic purple product, allowing for precise H2S measurement.

“This paper describes a new way to selectively detect H2S,” said Pluth, who has been pursuing detection methods for the gas under a National Institutes of Health “Pathway to Independence” grant. That early career award began while he was a postdoctoral researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “This technique allows you to use instruments to quantify how much H2S has been produced in a sample, and the distinctive color change allows for naked-eye detection.”

Read more at: Phys.org

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