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ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: Mon Jun 19 16:42:03 EDT 2006

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News Items in this Edition

Toward a drug for long-neglected schizophrenia symptoms

Scientists are reporting progress toward treating a long-neglected group of symptoms that impair the functioning of people with schizophrenia. This chronic, highly debilitating disease affects 3 million people in the United States. Schizophrenia involves "positive" symptoms (hallucinations and delusions), "negative" symptoms (apathy and withdrawal) and cognitive symptoms (such as difficulty in filtering out unimportant sensory information).

Despite major advances in drug therapy for the positive and negative symptoms, cognitive symptoms ─ which appear in 85 percent of patients ─ go largely untreated today. A team of researchers at Pfizer, including Bruce N. Rogers, report the discovery of a potential drug for schizophrenia's cognitive symptoms. Their study is scheduled for the June 29 issue of the ACS Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.

The new compound, PHA-543,613, is believed to mimic nicotine's biochemical effects in the brain in enhancing cognition. More than 80 percent of people with schizophrenia are heavy smokers, and scientists believe smoking may be a form of self-medication for the disease. PHA-543,613 improved cognitive functioning in animal tests, including object recognition and P50 gating — a common test to measure auditory information processing. The research also provides additional support for the hypothesis that such compounds represent a novel, potential pharmacotherapy to treat the cognitive deficits in schizophrenia. One has been shown in separate reports to improve cognitive functioning in healthy human volunteers.

Marinate your meat

Marinating meat in the traditional Chinese style can substantially reduce the amount of unhealthy cholesterol compounds that form during cooking, chemists reported in a new study.

Cholesterol oxidation products (COPs) form when cholesterol-rich foods are stored, processed or heated. Studies have linked intake of large amounts of certain COPs to an increased risk of the artery blockages that cause heart attacks, cancer and other diseases. Those findings have led to efforts to identify the kinds and amounts of COPs present in foods.

In their study, Bing-Huei Chen and colleagues developed a method for analyzing COPs in marinated food. They used the technique to check on how the addition of soy sauce and sugar to a marinade affects COP levels in pork and eggs. Chen used a Chinese cooking process that involves putting food in a pot of marinade and simmering for at least an hour.

Marinating reduced the amount of COPs formed in pork by 60 percent and by 38 percent in eggs. Their report is scheduled for publication in the June 28 issue of the ACS Journal of Agricultural & Food Chemistry. The study raises the possibility that western-style marinating also could reduce the amount of COPs formed during cooking, Chen said.

A new explanation for those mysterious galactic glows

Scientists are proposing findings that may help explain long-standing, mysterious astronomical effects in which vast areas of the Milky Way Galaxy glow with red and blue light. One of these phenomena is called the Extended Red Emission. The other is the Blue Luminescence.

Both are believed to happen in much the same way as the glow of a fluorescent light. That glow results from phosphors that coat the inside of the tube. Likewise, some solid-state substance in space must convert starlight into a red and blue glow. However, scientists have been unable to identify any terrestrial substance capable of doing so.

Shiv N. Khanna, A. W. Castleman, Jr., Ashraf Ali and colleagues now have used laboratory experiments and theoretical concepts to propose mechanisms that may lead to the formation of silicon oxide nanoparticles in space and hence provide new insight into dust formation in space. Their calculations also indicate that the particles have electronic properties that might relate to the conversion of starlight into a blue and red glow. The research also provides a new approach for assembling silicon oxide molecules into nanostructures, researchers said in a report in the current issue of ACS Nanoletters.

So is it a solid or a liquid?

So is it a solid or a liquid? That question may sound strange, but it is the focus of an intense controversy among scientists who are blazing the trail toward applying nanoscience in medicine, microscopic machines and other fields. Those scientists pursuing the answer to the solid or liquid question are studying liquids that are confined in ultra-thin layers between two surfaces.

Some studies have concluded that the liquid remains liquid. Others, however, have found that the liquid stiffens into a solid. The answer could have important implications for nano-science. Lubricants, for instance, may be needed in the confined spaces between nano-scale gears and bearings. Will the lubricants remain liquid or morph into a solid?

Peter Hoffmann, of Wayne State University, and colleagues at Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey, believe they have resolved the controversy with a study scheduled for the July 4 print issue of ACS Langmuir and scheduled for online publication today “We found that both arguments are correct," said Hoffmann, terming the discovery “"another example of how weird things can happen at the nano-scale that are unheard of at the macro-scale.”"

When squeezed extremely slowly, nano-confined liquids remain liquid, the study found. Squeezed just a little bit faster, liquid becomes solid. Hoffmann said the finding may have uses in "smart liquids" that solidify or liquefy depending on the rate of motion.

A special report on pharma’s problems and prospects

Once basking in the glow of almost universal public respect and admiration, the pharmaceutical industry is struggling with a tarnished image and an uncertain future. Headlines and sound bites describe approved drugs that are unsafe, companies depending more on marketing than science, sticker-shock prices for new drugs, and companies striking deals to bar marketing of more-affordable generic versions of brand-name drugs.

Where does the pharmaceutical industry go from here? Chemical & Engineering News tackles that question in its June 19 issue. C&EN assigned reporters to probe the most serious issues facing the drug industry:

  • How will pharma evolve from its current business model, which is based on blockbuster drugs?
  • How might new technology and emerging fields like proteomics and genomics streamline drug discovery and development?
  • How will pharma cope with a regulatory environment in which the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration may be overshadowed by state governments in shaping the regulation of drug safety, pricing and marketing.

In a related web-only feature, another team of reporters present the viewpoints of the spectrum of people ─ from cancer patients to chemical scientists ─ whose lives and livelihoods are intertwined with pharma’s future.

Journalists’ Resources

  • Green Chemistry Blog
    Green chemistry is a far-ranging effort to reduce the environmental impact of the chemical enterprise. It focuses on developing and using technologies that are cleaner, smarter, less costly and more sustainable than approaches traditionally used in chemistry and chemical engineering. Authorities on green chemistry are gathering in
  • 10th Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference
    Washington, D.C., June 26-30 for a conference that promises to be a bonanza of news and background for science and environmental journalists. It is the 10th Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference. Tune into the ACS News Service blog for sights, sounds and newsbytes from the conference. For information and media registration, contact Charmayne Marsh at (202) 872-4445 or newsroom@acs.org.

Mark Your Calendars

232nd ACS National Meeting in San Francisco

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.