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ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: November 22, 2006

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News Items in this Edition

Toward new medications for iron-overload diseases

Scientists report progress in developing much-needed new medications for hemochromatosis and other iron-overload diseases. In these conditions, excess amounts of iron accumulate in the liver, heart, pancreas and other organs and eventually cause serious damage.

Raymond J. Bergeron and colleagues at the University of Florida explain that existing treatments remove only small amounts of iron from sensitive organs like the heart. Treatment sometimes must continue for years to remove enough iron to prevent organ damage, they note in a report scheduled for the current (Nov. 16) issue of the ACS Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, a biweekly publication.

The researchers report the synthesis and early testing in laboratory animals of a possible new generation of iron chelating drugs, compounds that remove excess iron from the body. In addition to working more efficiently than existing medications, the new compounds target specific organs such as the liver, heart and pancreas that are most vulnerable to iron-overload damage.

Fostering a new medical life for a forgotten antibiotic

The increasing need for new antibiotics to combat multidrug-resistant bacteria has led chemists to develop the first method for synthesizing a potentially valuable antibiotic that has been sidelined from clinical use for 40 years. Harvard University’s Daniel E. Kahne and colleagues report the first total synthesis of the antibiotic, moenomycin A, in an article in the Nov. 15 issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society, a weekly publication.

Kahne points out that moenomycin is a broad-spectrum antibiotic with unusual promise. It has strong antibacterial activity against a large group of bacteria that cause pneumonia, urinary tract infections, gastritis, stomach ulcers, food poisoning and other disorders. Moenomycin also kills bacteria in an unusual way; it binds directly to enzymes that bacteria need to form a cell wall.

Although used as a growth promoter in animals, moenomycin has never been developed for medical use in humans because it is poorly absorbed into the body. Discovery of a method to synthesize moenomycin is important because it will allow scientists to better understand the antibiotic and make variants of the natural antibiotic that may be suitable for medical use.

Engineering the “Super Enzyme” — a potential new weapon against heart disease

Efforts to understand the link between the cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) inhibitor arthritis drugs and heart disease have had an unanticipated benefit in leading to development of an engineered protein with “great potential” as a new treatment for heart disease, according to a new scientific report.

In an article scheduled for the Nov. 28 issue of the ACS weekly journal Biochemistry, University of Texas’s Ke-He Ruan and colleagues point out that the COX-2 drugs like the banned Vioxx have beneficial anti-inflammatory effects for arthritis. However, studies now suggest that those drugs also may increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes by decreasing the body's production of prostacyclin (a blood vessel protector that dilates blood vessels and prevents blood clots) and increasing production of thromboxane (which constricts vessels and promotes clot formation).

A drug that increases prostacyclin levels and decreases thromboxane could be an ideal way to prevent and treat inflammation and cardiovascular disease, they state. Ruan’s group reports taking a step in that direction. They report linking together two enzymes to engineer a protein to form a “Super Enzyme” with three catalytic functions that makes cells grown in laboratory cultures continuously produce protective prostacyclin. The enzyme has advantages over another proposed strategy that involves increasing prostacyclin levels by administering the COX gene into cells, they add.

The semantics on the next revolution in online scientific publishing

Publishers of electronic scientific journals should adopt approaches pioneered by online merchants and digital music purveyors in order to complete the revolution in information access that began with the first online journals, according to scientists in the United Kingdom.

Henry S. Rzepa and Omer Casher explain that online retailing and digital music management rely on “semantic” models in providing customers with highly targeted access to products. That's “semantic” as in the Semantic Web, the project now underway to foster information exchange by putting documents with computer-processable meaning (semantics) on the Internet so that software agents can help in the dissemination of information.

In a report scheduled for the Nov. 27 issue of the bimonthly ACS Journal of Chemical Information and Modeling, the researchers describe SemanticEye, a semantic web application that adapts the digital music model to chemical-related electronic journal articles. It allows journal articles to contain embedded document object identifiers (DOIs) and other material. Those clues enable software to find relationships between new articles and those already published, and collect all the relevant documents for the user's benefit.

A continued erosion in United States' share of global R&D publications

The United States' share of scientific papers published worldwide in peer-reviewed science and engineering journals has eroded since the 1990s, despite big increases in R&D funding and in the number of researchers, according to an article in the Nov. 27 issue of Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), the ACS' weekly newsmagazine.

Written by C&EN Editor-at-Large Michael Heylin, the article notes that the National Science Foundation has launched a special study to find explanations for the stagnation in U. S. R&D publications — a key indicator of scientific activity. Heylin uses the latest data from several sources, including the ACS' Chemical Abstracts Service, to document above-average global growth in publications and especially rapid growth in China and selected Asian and Western European countries.

The United States remains the largest single national source of research papers by a large margin, the article states. However, an NSF ranking of 157 nations puts the United States 12th in terms of scientific papers published per million population. The top 6 producers all were smaller nations — Sweden, Switzerland, Israel, Finland, Denmark and The Netherlands.

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 have played key roles in expanding the frontiers of knowledge, advancing medicine and industry, and creating products from aspirin to zippers. The ACS’ National Historic Chemical Landmarks program recognizes these outstanding accomplishments and tells the stories behind the research. The most recent landmark was designated on 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. The Landmarks’ Web site has 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’ 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

Chemistry in Cancer Research: A Vital Partnership

Chemistry has an increasingly important role in research on cancer diagnosis, prevention and treatment. To spotlight that role, the American Chemical Society (ACS) and the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) will cosponsor a special conference entitled, “Chemistry in Cancer Research: A Vital Partnership,” Feb. 4-7 in San Diego, Calif. The program will feature presentations by prominent scientists on drug discovery, proteomics, the chemical biology of carcinogenesis, biomarkers and analytical chemistry, modeling and bioinformatics, and structural biology.

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.