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ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: November 07, 2007

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News Items in this Edition

Toward cancer drugs that penetrate 10 times deeper into the brain

A new drug-delivery system for cancer of the brain — one of the most difficult cancers to treat — has the potential to carry anticancer drugs 10 times deeper into tumors than conventional medications, researchers in Connecticut and New York report. Their study is scheduled for the Nov./Dec. issue of ACS' Bioconjugate Chemistry, a bi-monthly journal.

Implants with anticancer drugs inside plastic or polymer material have been used for years to treat brain tumors, which occur in people of all ages but are the leading cause of cancer-related death in patients under age 35. Although this method delivers high doses of medication to the tumor, there's a need for a drug that penetrates deeper into the brain tissue to kill tumors. Most drugs diffuse barely a few millimeters from the implant site, the researchers say.

In the new study, Mark Saltzman and colleagues showed that linking the anticancer drug campothecin (CPT) to the polymer polyethylene glycol (PEG), increased drug diffusion to more than a centimeter from the implant site. They also identified a promising CPT-PET compound that could deliver 11 times more medication to the tumor than the plain drug alone. For patients, those advantages could substantially improve chances for successful treatment, the researchers indicate.

"Dragon's blood" quenches stomach ulcer bacteria

"Dragon's blood" may sound like an exotic ingredient in a witch's brew or magic potion. But researchers in China are reporting that the material — which is actually a bright red plant sap used for thousands of years in traditional Chinese medicine — contains chemicals that were effective in laboratory experiments in fighting bacteria that cause millions of cases of gastrointestinal disease each year. Their study is scheduled for the current issue of ACS' Journal of Natural Products, a monthly publication.

In the new study, Weimin Zhao and colleagues indicate that "dragon's blood" has been used for years in China and other countries as a folk remedy for stomach ulcers, blood clots, and other conditions. Researchers, however, have never identified the active ingredients in dragon's blood responsible for its beneficial health effects on peptic ulcer and preventing blood clots.

The researchers isolated 22 different compounds from the powdered stems of Dracaena cochinchinensis, a common source of dragon's blood. The scientists tested the compounds' effects on Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), the bacteria known to cause most cases of stomach ulcers and gastritis. Two of the compounds blocked the growth of H. pylori. In another part of the experiment, eight other compounds from dragon's blood inhibited blood clotting, suggesting their potential use in the prevention of the blood clot responsible for some strokes and most heart attacks, the scientists say.

Air pollution from ship smokestacks linked to thousands of deaths annually

Smokestack emissions from ships cause tens of thousands of deaths each year in the world's major port cities and coastal areas, according the first study on that topic, which is scheduled for the Dec. 15 issue of ACS' Environmental Science & Technology, a semi-monthly journal. The authors say that the number of deaths will continue to climb with trade growth unless remedial action is taken.

In the study, led by James J. Corbett and James J. Winebrake, the authors point out that air pollution from coal-fired electric power plants and motor vehicles has been linked to a range of adverse health effects, including asthma and heart disease. Yet no study has examined the health threats of ship emissions, even though ships emit large amounts of particulate matter into the air along coastal areas.

The researchers analyzed ship emissions' health impact, estimating global and regional mortalities by integrating global ship inventories, atmospheric models, and health impact functions. Using 2002 ship inventories, it estimated that shipping-related particulate matter emissions are responsible for about 60,000 cardiopulmonary and lung cancer deaths annually. Most of the deaths are believed to occur near coastlines in Europe, East Asia and South Asia. "Under current regulation and with the expected growth in shipping activity, we estimate that annual mortalities could increase by 40 percent by 2012," say the authors.

Breakthrough toward industrial-scale production of nanodevices

Scientists in Maryland are reporting an important advance toward the long-sought goal of industrial-scale fabrication of nanowire-based devices like ultra-sensitive sensors, light emitting diodes, and transistors for inexpensive, high-performance electronics products. The study is scheduled for the current issue of ACS' Chemistry of Materials, a bi-weekly journal.

In the report, Babak Nikoobakht points out that existing state-of-the-art assembly methods for nanowire-based devices require complicated, multi-step treatments, painstaking alignments steps, and other processing for nanowires , which are thousands of times smaller than the diameter of a human hair. The goal is to electrically address the coordinates of millions of nanowires on a surface in order to produce the components of electronic circuits.

The study describes a new method in which zinc oxide nanowires are grown in the exact positions where nanodevices later will be fabricated, in a way that involves a minimum number of fabrication steps and is suitable for industrial-scale applications. "This method, due to its scalability and ease of device fabrication, goes beyond the current state-of-the-art assembly of nanowire-based devices," the report states. "It is believed to be an attractive approach for mass fabrication of nanowire-based transistors and sensors and is expected to impact nanotechnology in fabrication of nonconventional nanodevices."

Octopus and kin inspire new camouflage strategies for military applications

Researchers are studying the remarkable shape- and color-changing abilities of the octopus and its close relatives in an effort to understand one of nature's most remarkable feats of camouflage and self-preservation. Eventually, such knowledge could lead to new and improved camouflage strategies for military applications, according to an article scheduled for the Nov. 12 issue of Chemical & Engineering News, ACS' weekly newsmagazine.

In the article, C&EN associate editor Bethany Halford points out that cephalopods, which include octopus, squid, and cuttlefish, are experts in the art of camouflage and renowned for their ability to make themselves look like fish, rocks, coral and other objects in an effort to hide from predators. By studying the various layers of skin of these creatures, particularly the chemicals in these layers that are behind their color transitions, scientists hope to develop similar camouflage strategies.

In the article, Halford describes the specialized skin cells involved in the creatures' color transformations, including the leucophore layer, which serves as a veritable base coat, another layer with chromatophores that are filled with pigments, and yet another layer sporting iridophores that reflect light in curious ways.

For Wired Readers

  • American Chemical Society debuts Bytesize Science, a new podcast for young listeners The American Chemical Society (ACS) Office of Communications has launched Bytesize Science, an educational, entertaining podcast for young listeners. Bytesize Science translates cutting-edge scientific discoveries from ACS' 36 peer-reviewed journals into stories for young listeners about science, health, medicine, energy, food, and other topics. New installments of Bytesize Science are posted every Monday and available without charge. The archive includes items on environmental threats to killer whales, a scientific explanation for why some people love chocolate, some unlikely new uses for compact discs, and a hairy tale about "hairy roots." The podcaster for Bytesize Science is Adam Dylewski, an ACS science writer and recent graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison with degrees in genetics and science communication.
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Journalists’ Resources

ACS co-hosts conference on industrial biotechnology and bioenergy Nov. 14-16, 2007 in Honolulu, Hawaii Reporters are invited to register for the Pacific Rim Summit on Industrial Biotechnology & Bioenergy, which takes place Nov. 14-16, 2007, at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort in Honolulu. The Summit will focus on latest cutting-edge developments in industrial biotechnology, including ethanol and cellulosic ethanol, bio-butanol and other advanced bioenergy production, biobased products and renewable chemicals, food ingredients, nanotechnology, and marine biotechnology and bioprospecting. The conference is co-hosted by the American Chemical Society, Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), and the State of Hawaii, with support from BIOTECanada, AusBiotech, and the Chemical Institute of Canada. The theme of this year's conference is "developing partnerships and new value chains across the Pacific Rim."

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