After Hamilton read “Into the Wild” and became convinced that ODAP (CJ's note: beta-N-oxalyl-L-alpha-beta diaminoproprionic acid) was responsible for McCandless’s sad end, he approached Dr. Jonathan Southard, the assistant chair of the chemistry department at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and persuaded Southard to have one of his students, Wendy Gruber, test the seeds of both Hedysarum alpinum and Hedysarum mackenzii for ODAP. Upon completion of her tests, in 2004, Gruber determined that ODAP appeared to be present in both species of Hedysarum, but her results were less than conclusive. “To be able to say that ODAP is definitely present in the seeds,” she reported, “we would need to use another dimension of analysis, probably by H.P.L.C.-M.S.”—high-pressure liquid chromatography. But Gruber possessed neither the expertise nor the resources to analyze the seeds with H.P.L.C., so Hamilton’s hypothesis remained unproven.Read the whole thing, for a fascinating story of 3 different teams of chemists (academic and industrial!), TLC, natural products, botany and HPLC.
Monday, September 16, 2013
And now for something completely different: Chris McCandless, lathyrism and HPLC
If you've ever read Jon Krakauer's book Into the Wild (I have not), you may be interested in this story. Even if you haven't, it's probably worth your time. Krakauer's book is about Chris McCandless, a young man who became a bit of a wanderer in the American West. He ultimately died in Alaska of what was, until recently, believed to be starvation. But Krakauer recently published a blog post noting a fascinating story of chemistry and chemists that might explain why he actually died: