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ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: Wed Nov 01 15:42:00 EST 2006

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News Items in this Edition

Study questions squeaky-clean reputation of service industries in climate change

Service industries like banking, health care, and telecommunications may have a squeaky-clean reputation when it comes to industrial pollution, but they are responsible for amounts of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that actually are comparable to those of traditional manufacturing industries, a new study has found.

The University of Minnesota’s Sangwon Suh analyzed 44 GHGs among about 500 product and service groups throughout the United States economy, which is undergoing a rapid transformation from traditional industrial manufacturing to services. The study is scheduled for publication in the November 1 issue of the ACS’s Environmental Science & Technology, a semi-monthly journal.

Suh found that service industries directly produce less than 5 percent of GHG emissions by the U. S. industries. However, these service industries are heavy consumers of electricity, natural gas, transportation, and manufactured goods that involve GHG emissions. Consumption of services is responsible for over one-third of all GHG emissions in the United States—without even counting utilities and transportation services, the study found.

The findings, Suh said, mean that a shift to a services-based economy will not automatically reduce absolute emissions of GHGs given the dependence of services on GHG producing industries.

Preventing costly missteps in drug development

The script for one of the most dreaded scenarios in new drug development reads like this: Company A sinks several hundred million dollars into putting a new drug onto pharmacy shelves. Only then do serious side effects appear, and force withdrawal of that drug from the market.

Researchers in India now are reporting development of a new and more accurate method for predicting toxicity in the very early stages of drug development. Nagasuma R. Chandra and colleagues describe the computer technique in the November/December issue of the ACS’s bi-monthly Journal of Chemical Information and Modeling. They also report on its use in predicting with high accuracy one form of toxicity ― a heart rhythm disorder that forced withdrawal of the popular antihistamine terfenadine (Seldane).

The technique identifies patterns in the substructure of a drug’s molecular structure that can raise red flags over hidden toxicity. “Such screening saves a lot of time, effort, and money and helps in better planning and focusing of the available resources for drug discovery,” they write.

Unlocking the secrets of slowly digestible starch

Scientists have begun to unlock the secrets of starches ― knowledge that could pave the way for a new generation of more healthful carbohydrates that do not cause spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels. Those are among the consequences of eating rapidly digestible starch (RDS), perhaps best known in a diet-conscious world as starch in foods such as potatoes and crackers that have a high glycemic index (GI).

GI is a measure of how quickly the body converts starch into glucose, which triggers release of insulin in the body. Long-term consumption of high-glycemic foods has been linked to diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity, Bruce R. Hamaker and colleagues note.

In two reports scheduled for the November 13 issue of the ACS bi-monthly journal Biomacromolecules, they describe the first studies on the structural basis for the slow digestion property of certain starches in raw cereal grains. These slowly digestible starches (SDS) have a specific internal structure that delays digestion and conversion into glucose. The research is a fundamental advance toward eventually improving food quality with higher amounts of SDS, the scientists indicate.

Lighting the way toward understanding NO’s role inside living cells

Eavesdropping on the behavior of nitric oxide (NO) in parts of the body ranging from the penis to the brain is important to solving the mysteries of how this small molecule plays such a big role in conditions ranging from male sexual function to communication among nerves.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Stephen J. Lippard and Mi Hee Lim, are describing the chemical strategy they used to discover a way to monitor NO as it forms and works inside living cells. Their report is scheduled for the November 21 issue of the monthly ACS journal, Accounts of Chemical Research.

Catching glimpses of NO at work has eluded scientists since the 1990s, when researchers began uncovering NO’s far-ranging roles in regulating blood pressure, immunity, bone mass and other body functions. Lippard and Lim previously developed a bright fluorescent sensor that illuminates in the presence of NO. Visible under the fluorescent microscope, the sensor will help scientists see where and when NO is produced in cells, and perhaps uncover the chemical signals that trigger production.

The research demonstrates that the sensor technology is an “appropriate and practical” way of detecting NO in living cells, the researchers state. “We anticipate significant advances in this new area in the near future,” they add.

Dealing with research misconduct

How do federal agencies that fund scientific research handle fabrication, falsification, and plagiarism allegations? Although the federal government has a standardized definition of research misconduct, individual agencies have developed their own policies to handle misconduct cases, according to an article in the Nov. 6 issue of Chemical & Engineering News, the ACS’ weekly newsmagazine.

Written by associate editor Susan R. Morrissey, the article describes the approaches used by four major science funding agencies — the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the U. S. Department of Defense (DOD), and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Morrissey explains that those agencies have ultimate oversight authority in misconduct cases under a government-wide policy developed by the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy.

Under that policy, however, universities and other research organizations that receive federal grants have primary responsibility to prevent and investigate misconduct and take appropriate disciplinary action. The article explains the differences in agency processes and procedures. While other agencies assign misconduct cases to their Office of the Inspector General (an independent oversight body within the agency), for instance, NIH sends its misconduct cases to the Office of Research Integrity in NIH’s parent agency, the U. S. Department of Health & Human Services.

Journalists’ Resources

  • National Historic Chemical Landmarks
    America came of age as a nation in the late 1700s—the same time chemistry came of age as a science. Since then, chemists played key roles in expanding the frontiers of knowledge, advancing medicine and industry, and creating products from aspirin to zippers. The ACS’s National Historic Chemical Landmarks program tells those stories. The most recent unfolded Oct. 25, when ACS designated Procter & Gamble’s development of Tide® —"the washing miracle" synthetic detergent — a National Historic Chemical Landmark in a special ceremony in Cincinnati, Ohio. Visit the Landmarks web site with valuable resources for feature stories and background.
  • National Meeting Resources
    A treasure trove of news sources, background material, and story ideas is available from the ACS’s latest National Meeting. Reporters can search and view abstracts of 10,000 scientific presentations, 600 non-technical summaries of those presentations and browse press releases online.
    Index of Press Releases

    View Non-Technical Summaries

    General ACS National Meeting Information
    Abstracts From The Technical Program
  • ACS News Service Weblog: Science, September & San Francisco
    Visit the ACS News Service’s National Meeting Weblog for reports from scientific sessions and other events at the ACS National Meeting in San Francisco.

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.