This news item was created by students Amanda House, Adrian "Addy" Evans and Kathy Weiss as part of their Chemistry 210 Semester Project in WS99 under the guidance of Prof. Rainer Glaser.

Glaser's "Chemistry is in the News"
To Accompany Wade Organic Chemistry 4/e.
Chapter 12. Infrared Spectroscopy & Mass Spectroscopy.

For each of the following questions, please refer to the following article:

by Bruce Owen (The Winnipeg Free Press, April 14, 1997)

Editorial Comments

Each day, patients across the world enter doctors' offices to receive medical treatment. For years, some treatments have included painful surgical procedures and lengthy analyses of blood and other body fluids. Many people also have to access unreliable test results and disease diagnoses. But what if all that could change? Thanks to the National Research Council in Winnipeg (in the province of Ottawa, Canada) it might.

Using infrared spectroscopy, a "modern-day tricorder," the medical field will soon have access to a piece of equipment that provides immediate results, for both tests and surgery.

But just how does this work? We find the answer in a description of infrared spectroscopy. According to Wade, chapter 12, infrared spectroscopy is the observation of the vibration of bonds, and the results provide evidence as to what functional groups are present. This is done with an infrared spectrometer. As mentioned in the article, this new technology will enhance current medical procedures such as Pap smears in the detection of cervical cancer, the diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease, blood analysis and arthritis treatment. With the advancement of infrared spectroscopy in years to come, this technique may someday even be used in all areas of medicine, and possibly in other areas, such as nuclear power, space exploration and waste management where infrared spectroscopy could be used to better determine the structure, chemical make-up and function of the complex molecules involved.

Pertinent Text References
Chapter 12. Infrared Spectroscopy and Mass Spectrometry
Chapter 12.6. Measurement of the IR Spectrum


Question 1: How does an infrared spectrometer work?

A. An IR spectrometer works using a sample beam of light and a reference beam simultaneously. The sample beam passes through the object that you are observing/studying while the reference beam is used as a "constant" to compare results against. Using a series of mirrors the sample beam is directed into a monochromator which scans all the frequencies. A detector then graphically prints out the corresponding wavelengths.

Question 2: One of the "most beneficial applications of spectroscopy" is the analysis of blood outside the body or without drawing any blood! Check out this site on hemoglobin to learn of the structures and functions of different types of hemoglobin and then check out the site on hemoglobin tests and find out what causes hemoglobin abnormalities.

A. Check out the links. Abnormalities which would cause increased hemoglobin would be: hereditary hemoglobin disorders, compensation in heart/lung diseases, and other diseases of the blood. Abnormalities which would cause decreased hemoglobin would be: medications, hemolysis, heavy periods, blood loss, chronic disease, nutritional deficiency, hereditary red blood cell abnormalities, and various blood diseases, such as leukemia.

Question 3: What is the main advantage of infrared analysis as mentioned in this web site and the article?

A. The main advantages would be the simplicity of the measurement combined with its high informational content. Different analyses can be derived from one "measurement". This analysis of the body's contents can be done without taking invasive action.

Question 4: Open and review the web site on tricorders found in the editorial comments. What the scientists of the National Research Council are trying to revolutionize is the infrared spectrometer which is similar to the medical tricorder found on Starship Enterprise. Look at the structure of the medical tricorder and record how many high-resolution sensors are included in the medical tricorder.

A. 86 high-resolution sensors are incorporated into the medical tricorder.

Question 5: Should government funding be given to the advancement of medical infrared spectroscopy?

A. Yes.