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Mars to Bars

BERKELEY, Calif. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- The Mars Mission is currently set for 2016. That's when NASA is planning to head back to the red planet. On that mission, scientists will look for life on Mars, but the same technology used for detecting extraterrestrials may help solve a headache back here on earth.

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Wine ... it’s been to blame for some fun nights -- and some rough mornings!

"It's like you've just been running a race," Richard Mathies, Ph.D., a bioanalytical chemist at the University of California in Berkeley, Calif., told Ivanhoe. "You're heart rate is elevated. Your blood pressure is up. Your head is pounding."h

Chemists at the University of California, Berkeley, are on a mission to prevent the after-effects of drinking too much wine -- and they’re using the same technology scientists plan to use on the next Mars mission.

"NASA wants to make a system that can be very small and portable, and put it in a rover and send it to Mars to look for signs of extraterrestrial life," Dr. Maties said. "It's a stunningly sensitive detector."

Dr. Mathies has spent the last 10 years designing a small sensor to detect the amines tyramine and histamine, which are molecules found in the amino acids of all living things. But while working on ways to detect life in outer space, he found a more practical use for his work here on earth -- detecting these amine levels in red wine, which are believed to be the cause of those hangover symptoms.h

"I've been working for 10 years to make the world's best detector for this molecule, so I ran back, got the wine, we put in the machine and just like that, it worked like a charm," Dr. Mathies said. "It was amazing."h

Special lasers can determine amine levels in just five minutes.

"If I put water in front, you don't see any fluorescents," Amanda Stockton, Ph.D., a chemist at the University of California, Berkeley, told Ivanhoe. "If I put amino acids over the laser, it absorbs that laser light and emits light that you can see."

The highest amine levels are found in sake and red wine. The lowest -- in beer. The more your body is sensitive to amines, the more you're going to feel its effect.

A smaller device the size of a Blackberry is in the works and could help people test their alcohol before they drink. It's the newest technology helping improve life here on earth -- with out-of-this world potential.

"It can not only go on this very important quest for humanity, but also maybe address some real practical problems in society," Dr. Mathies said.

For now, the device only tests liquids, but it could someday be used to detect amines that occur naturally in foods like chocolate, cheese, olives, nuts and cured meats.

This report has been produced thanks to a generous grant from the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation, Inc.

Click here to Go Inside This Science or contact:

Richard Mathies
Department of Chemistry
Room 419 Latimer Hall
University of California
Berkeley, CA 94720-1460
(510) 642-4192

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Prior Reports
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