Real-time Raman-based pollen identification promises help for allergy sufferers

DECEMBER 31, 2008--A new Raman spectroscopy-based method of identifying and differentiating the pollen of 15 tree species could provide real-time reports of airborne allergens to help allergy sufferers more effectively manage their exposure to the irritants. A New York Times article reports that Franziska Schulte of Humboldt University of Berlin (Germany) and colleagues are able to generate specific spectroscopic signatures based on the unique molecular profiles of various pollens. The approach promises fast analysis and requires little or no preparation of the pollen grains.

The work may enable detailed pollen reports in the future. Instead of simply offering a "pollen count" as today's weather reports do, future reports could deliver real-time analysis of the precise mix of grain types in the air. This will be helpful to allergy sufferers since different pollens tend to induce different amounts of suffering in people plagued with allergies.

Unlike purification-based analysis, the new nondestructive approach allows analysis of various classes of molecules simultaneously at microscopic resolution, and acquisition of chemical information used for the classification of pollen from different species, the researchers report. They also say that the results have implications for the further elucidation of pollen biochemistry and also for the development of chemistry-based online pollen identification methods.

The work is described in a paper published in the journal Analytical Chemistry.

More information:
The paper, Characterization and Classification of Pollen, in Analytical Chemistry.
The New York Times article, "New Analysis May Allow More Specific Reports on Tormenting Pollens"

Posted by Barbara G. Goode, barbarag@pennwell.com.

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