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ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: August 30, 2006
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News Items in this Edition
Laundry detergents that give new meaning to that old advertising clichÉ, "whiter than white," may emerge from a controlled-release technology scheduled to be described in the Aug. 22 issue of the ACS journal, Chemistry of Materials.
Bakul C. Dave and colleagues report development and testing of tiny silica gel beads to encapsulate the enzymes now used in a large number of laundry detergents. Developed with biotechnology, those enzymes are used in liquid and powdered detergents to help remove protein-based stains from dirty laundry. Other detergent ingredients, however, create a hostile environment for the enzymes, sometimes causing them to clump and loose activity.
The new silica gel beads form a protective shell around the enzymes. It protects the enzymes from air and moisture for extended periods on store shelves and after packaging has been opened. The coating dissolves quickly, however, and releases the enzymes when conditions are right in the washing machine.
Scientists are set to publish the first detailed account of their synthesis of a remarkable molecule that improves the immune system’s ability to battle disease. Called QS-21A, it has been used in more than 80 clinical trials of therapeutic vaccines against melanoma, breast cancer, small cell lung cancer, HIV and malaria.
Unlike more familiar vaccines used to prevent disease, therapeutic vaccines treat disease that already has occurred. QS-21A is added to therapeutic vaccines as an adjuvant, or booster that enhances the vaccine’s effects. QS-21A makes vaccines more potent, and allows some to be effective at lower doses.
QS-21A’s effects have been known for 80 years. However, the substance previously was available in limited quantities because it had to be extracted from the bark of a South American tree.
In 2005, however, David Y. Gin and colleagues at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign synthesized QS-21A. In their latest report, scheduled for the Aug. 30 issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society, the researchers provide key information that should enable scientists to make analogues, or molecular variants of QS-21A. That research may help solve the mystery of how QS-21A works, Gin said, and why it is so potent. Some of the new analogues could be even more effective.
Exposure to high levels of environmental pollutants called organohalogen compounds (OHCs) seems to reduce the size of sexual organs in male and female polar bears, researchers report in an article scheduled for the Sept. 15 issue of the ACS journal, Environmental Science & Technology. OHCs include dioxins, polychlorinated biphenyls and some pesticides.
Christian Sonne and colleagues checked 55 male and 44 female East Greenland polar bears for a correlation between OHC levels in body tissue and size of sexual organs.
Sonne's group did the study to close gaps in knowledge about the OHC's possible effects on reproduction in polar bears, a vulnerable population because of their low reproductive rates. The bears have elevated OHC levels, due to a diet that includes seals, which accumulate large amounts of OHCs in their blubber. Past studies have linked OHCs to various health effects in the bears.
The new study reports a connection between OHC levels and reduced size of the uterus in female bears and reduced size of the testis and baculum (penis bone) in males. A large baculum is critical for successful mating in an arctic climate, the researchers note, and even slight decreases may interfere with reproduction. "Furthermore, similar physiological impacts from organohalogen-pollutant exposure may be manifested on the reproductive tract of humans relying on OHC-contaminated food resources," the study states.
The search for a food that can be enriched with healthful conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) has taken an unlikely twist — straight toward the silkworm. An international group of scientists is reporting success in producing high-CLA silkworms. Although silkworm soufflÉ may not sound like the most appetizing dish, people in Asian countries treasure powdered silkworm as a nutritional supplement and traditional treatment for diabetes.
CLA is an umbrella term for isomers — chemical forms — of linoleic acid, an essential fatty acid. Studies suggest that CLA may have a range of health benefits. They include stimulation of the immune system, protection against cancer and heart disease, reducing body fat and controlling diabetes. Those studies sparked efforts to produce high-CLA poultry, eggs and pigs by feeding CLA to animals. However, it has been difficult to get those animals to incorporate large amounts of CLAs.
Yeong L. Ha and colleagues now report that silkworms fed CLA-coated mulberry leaves at a certain stage in their growth cycle accumulate large amounts of CLA. They began the research, scheduled for the July 12 issue of ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, after other scientists found that houseflies accumulate CLA. “It is of great significance to produce silkworms containing CLA incorporated into the lipids of their bodies,” Ha reported, adding that CLA may enhance the healthful properties of silkworm powder.
Super-high resolution optical microscopes, with powers that seemed physically impossible a decade ago, are poised to open a new era in imaging in molecular biology, according to a report scheduled for the Sept. 4 issue of Chemical & Engineering News, the ACS’ weekly news magazine.
The new optical microscopes produce images that can identify the precise cellular locations of thousands of individual protein molecules with unprecedented clarity, C&EN Senior Editor Ivan Amato writes in the article. “Once such super-resolution tools get into the hands of the many, instead of just the few who have built them, [scientists say], the effect on biology could be transformative,” the article states.
Barely a decade ago, Amato explains, scientists would have scoffed at the notion of an optical microscope capable of resolving, or bringing into focus, objects as small as molecules. It would seem to defy an ironclad principle of physics dating to 1873. However, the new generation of microscopes can do exactly that by detecting fluorophores and other fluorescent tags used to label protein molecules.
Many reporters who cover chemistry, materials science, medicine, health, environment and business closely follow the rapid-pace of innovation in nanotechnology.
- The American Chemical Society Office of Communications is offering a special event for news media who attend the American Chemical Society national meeting in San Francisco or who work in the Bay Area.
- On Sept. 12 we’ll join nanotechnology pioneer, Paul Alivisatos, University of California, Berkeley, for a briefing and tour of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s new Molecular Foundry. Alivisatos is a renowned researcher who edits the premier scientific journal in the field, Nano Letters, published by the American Chemical Society.
- We’ll tour the Foundry — sort of a tool shop with instrumentation for nanotech research — and hear presentations by scientists.
- After a Q&A session, we’ll adjourn for a reception and a chance to chat informally about this exciting field of science.
- An e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) or phone call to (202) 872-6293, will put your name on the sign-up sheet.
- ACS Chemical Biology Now Accessible
The American Chemical Society journal, ACS Chemical Biology, is now featured on EurekAlert!, the online science news service for reporters. To reach the listing, which includes a table of contents and a means of obtaining newsworthy papers published in the journal, go to: http://www.eurekalert.org/jrnls/acs/index.php?page=chemicalbiology.
Led by Editor-in-Chief Laura L. Kiessling, Ph.D., Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry and MacArthur Foundation Fellow at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, the journal is an international forum for biologists and chemists working together to understand cellular processes.
Published monthly, it provides original research articles and reviews and spotlights current research in chemical biology, profiles of experts in the field and points of view from leading scientists. The journal Web site is updated weekly with new content, and features a WIKI and Ask the Expert forum. ACS Chemical Biology was launched in January 2006.
- National Meeting Weblog: Science, September & San Francisco
The approach of autumn stirs thoughts of Major League Baseball’s World Series and a world-series-class event in science. Visit the ACS News Service’s newest weblog (http://acsnewsservice.typepad.com/sf_meeting/) for insights into preparations for an event expected to attract more than 17,000 scientists and other attendees.
- 10th Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference
If you’re writing on green chemistry, our weblog (http://acsnewsservice.typepad.com/) from the 10th annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference can be a valuable resource.
Mark Your Calendars
September 10-14 is one of the year’s biggest and most influential scientific conferences – the 232nd ACS National Meeting in beautiful San Francisco.
The American Chemical Society – the world’s largest scientific society – is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.