Health & Safety

February 13, 2014

Detecting spice: research continues at the Academy

Amy Gillentine
Air Force Academy Public Affairs

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (AFNS) — The Navy has a promotional campaign warning against spice; the Army has allowed commanders to order mandatory drug-testing for the first time; and Airmen at the Air Force Drug Testing Laboratory are working to find ways to detect the substance in service members.

Spice is a synthetic compound created in laboratories, it has properties similar to marijuana, and has been shown to be dangerous and deadly. Once sold legally, the drug is now outlawed in 45 states and in all four service branches, the result of users suffering from hallucinations, violence and organ failure.

Spice is reportedly gaining popularity among military personnel, but U.S Air Force Academy’s Chemistry Research Center and the Chemistry Department have teamed-up to solve the problem.

To do this, they must answer two questions: How do they detect a new chemical compound in a routine drug test and how do they detect it for longer periods after a person takes it?

The results of their work have been promising. Last year, research teams discovered a common metabolite used in synthetic cannabinoids like Spice, a generic term used for all types of the synthetic drug mimicking the effects of marijuana.

Former Cadet 1st Class Alexa Gingras, now a second lieutenant, spent the summer of 2012 at the laboratory and discovered strategies to improve the sensitivity of the Air Force’s drug tests and devised a shortened method of preparing urine samples for analysis. For her research, Gingras received the Moore Award, an honor presented to the cadet with the most influential summer research across all academic disciplines.

The Academy’s spice research continues, with chemistry professor Dr. Timm Knoerzer and Cadet 1st Class Jacob Krimbill working to develop extended testing protocols for the drug with the goal of increasing analytical testing of samples.

Krimbill, a senior biochemistry student, first began researching spice in the spring of 2013. He also conducted a summer research project at Air Force Drug Testing Laboratory, where he assisted in devising new protocols to increase the rate at which samples can be tested. His research continued throughout the fall semester and he gave up part of the semester break to continue working on the project.

The pair are trying to find ways to detect spice metabolites even weeks after it’s been used.

“One main component in spice (UR-144) is easily metabolized, but readily degrades either in the body or during the testing protocol,” Krimbill said. “Our intent is to synthesize and test for the degraded metabolite which may ultimately lead to a more precise and sensitive test.”

Getting to this point will take work.

“Once this particular metabolite breaks down, it takes on a different chemical makeup,” Knoerzer said. “The standard test doesn’t check for it. We’re designing a test that will check for the degraded metabolite directly in urine samples.”

But first, Krimball and Knoerzer must recreate the metabolite in the lab.

“How to develop the synthesis of the compound doesn’t exist in literature,” Knoerzer said. “You can buy it, but not in pure form. So, an inherent need exists to synthetically produce the metabolite in larger quantities and with better purity. So, that’s what we’re trying to do is take advantage of our skills as synthetic chemists.”

But they don’t expect to be waylaid for long.

“We have identified several alternative strategies and we are aggressively screening these methods for effectiveness,” Knoerzer said. “We plan to present our findings at the American Chemical Society National Meeting in Dallas this March.

Both researchers believe their project could lead to a commercial product.

“I think drug testing laboratories would be interested,” Knoerzer said. “But right now, we’re focused on developing the system and publishing a paper on it.”

The Air Force as a whole will benefit from the research, as will their Army counterparts, who are also working with the Air Force lab, the doctor said.

“It has real-world applications,” he said. “It has Air Force applications. That’s one of the things that makes this so inherently interesting. We’re filling a void.”




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

TRICARE beneficiaries being targeted by call centers

FALLS CHURCH, Va. — The Defense Health Agency, Office of Program Integrity (DHA-PI) has received a significant number of concerns from our TRICARE beneficiaries regarding unsolicited contact from call centers encouraging them to provide personally identifiable and health information. According to sources, the call center will normally cold call and say, “I am a representative...
 
 
(U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Airman 1st Class Jessica H. Smith and Airman Connor J. Marth)

More than meets the eye

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho — The word abuse often conjures images of bruises, swollen lips and harsh markings, but abuse is more than meets the eye. It can be much more than physical suffering and can have last...
 
 

Reminder to Airmen: Avoid hemp seed products

WASHINGTON D.C.  — Air Force drug testing officials have long warned military members to avoid products that include hemp seed or hemp oil in order to ensure military readiness. In 2013, news reports on the Air Force’s prohibition of a popular yogurt brand spotlighted a regulation, in effect since the late 1990s. Military members were told to...
 

 

AF’s updated policy further promotes tobacco-free environments

WASHINGTON (AFNS) — The Air Force has led the military in advancing innovative tobacco control policies, such as the tobacco-free medical campus and prohibiting tobacco use outside “designated tobacco areas.” Now, an updated Air Force instruction, published in March, seeks to further reduce health impacts from smoking, the nation’s leading cause of death. “The Air Force is...
 
 

Preventing sexual assault in the Air Force is our enduring responsibility

WASHINGTON (AFNS) — As we begin Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, clear signs point to the progress we have made in combating sexual assault. We can cite encouraging numbers in the areas of prevalence, reporting and convictions; however, this serves as only the beginning of an enduring effort. This effort must continue without pause and we...
 
 

Air Force stands up Task Force Cyber Secure

WASHINGTON, (AFNS) — Chief of Staff of the Air Force General Mark A. Welsh III signed a memorandum on March 20, establishing Task Force Cyber Secure, to address challenges of the cyberspace domain in synchronization, operations and governance within the Air Force and with those organizations it supports. “This task force is fundamental to understanding...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>


Directory powered by Business Directory Plugin