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ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: April 18, 2007

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News Items in this Edition

New Treatment Yields Complete Regression of a Human Cancer in Mice

A simple modification in an anti-cancer treatment currently in clinical trials substantially improves the drug’s effectiveness and reduces side effects in experiments with laboratory mice, researchers are reporting in an article scheduled for the May 16 edition of ACS’ Bioconjugate Chemistry, a bi-monthly journal. Enzon Pharmaceuticals’ David Filpula and colleagues at the National Cancer Institute worked on SS1P, a so-called immunotoxin that targets and destroys cells producing the surface protein mesothelin.

Ovarian, pancreatic and malignant mesothelioma cells all produce abnormally large amounts of mesothelin and thus are targets for SS1P. In the new study, researchers modified SS1P with PEGylation, which involves attaching chains of polyethylene glycol (also known as PEG) to the molecule. PEGylation is a well-established process that is used in at least six protein-based pharmaceutical products currently on the market.

PEGylated SS1Ps had fewer side effects and were more effective in mice bearing human tumors than standard SS1P, the report states. A single dose of the modified SS1P resulted in complete regression of the mouse tumors, the first time that such an effect had been observed, the researchers said. PEGylation of SS1P and other immunotoxins may hold promise for use in cancer patients, as well, they added.

Synthetic Fuels from Alternative Energy Sources Can Power the U. S. Military

The U.S. military, searching for a synthetic alternative to imported petroleum-based fuel, can power its 21st Century vehicles with the same chemical technology Germany used to produce its gasoline during World War II, according to a study scheduled for the May 16 issue of ACS’ Energy and Fuels, a bi-monthly journal.

In the study, Sasol Technology’s Delanie Lamprecht points out that the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has been seeking alternative ways of obtaining “Jet Propulsion 8” (JP-8). DoD uses that single kerosene-type fuel, virtually identical to commercial aviation fuel, for almost all its gas turbine and tactical diesel engine applications. The defense department also wants an alternative route to JP-5, a slightly different fuel used on aircraft carriers.

Invited to participate in the effort to develop alternatives, Lamprecht studied use of so-called Fischer-Tropsch technology. Sasol is a pioneer in use of the technology to produce synthetic fuels from coal. It can convert coal, natural gas, or biomass into a synthesis gas and thereafter into a Fischer-Tropsch syncrude suitable for refining into JP-8, JP-5 and other liquid fuels. The study concluded that it is feasible to use the process, together with current refining technology, to produce a “battlefield fuel of the future” that could power the military without reliance on imported oil.

An Ancient Inca Tax and Metallurgy in Peru

Scientists in the United States and Canada are reporting the first scientific evidence that ancient civilizations in the Central Andes Mountains of Peru smelted metals, and hints that a tax imposed on local people by ancient Inca rulers forced a switch from production of copper to silver. Their study is scheduled for the May 15 issue of ACS’ Environmental Science & Technology, a semi-monthly journal.

The University of Alberta’s Colin A. Cooke and colleagues point out that past evidence for metal smelting, which involves heating ore to extract pure metal, was limited mainly to the existence of metal artifacts dating to about 1,000 A.D. and the Wari Empire that preceded the Inca. The new evidence emerged from a study of metallurgical air pollutants released from ancient furnaces during the smelting process and deposited in lake sediments in the area.

By analyzing metals in the sediments, the researchers recreated a 1,000-year history of metal smelting in the area, predating Francisco Pizarro and his Spanish conquistadors by 600 years. Their findings show that smelters in the Morococha region of Peru switched from production of copper to silver around the time that Inca rulers imposed a tax, payable in silver, on local populations.

Calorie-Restriction and Increased Longevity Linked To Metabolic Changes

In a study of Labrador retriever dogs, those fed a calorie-restricted diet showed different lifelong patterns relating to energy metabolism and the activities of their gut microbes and lived almost two years longer than similar dogs given a slightly higher-calorie diet. The study, which followed 24 dogs lifelong, is scheduled for the May 4 issue of ACS’ Journal of Proteome Research, a monthly publication.

Imperial College London’s Jeremy K. Nicholson and colleagues from NestlÉ and NestlÉ Purina Research centers in Switzerland and the United States point out that previous studies on a range of animals have established calorie restriction as a proven method for extending the lifespan of animals. Those studies, however, have not explained how calorie restriction works.

The new study aimed at improving knowledge of the metabolic effects of caloric restriction suggests that some of the important beneficial changes may relate to the activities of the symbiotic bacteria that live in the intestinal tract. Those microbes produce a range of biochemicals that may influence disease processes and alter energy metabolism in the host organism. Researchers paired 24 dogs, with one dog in each pair given 25 percent less food than the other. Those with a restricted intake of calories lived, on average, about 1.8 years longer than those with a greater intake. Researchers noted that the study’s main goal was to help develop diets that keep pet animals alive and healthy for as long as possible, but that the findings may be relevant to human dietary changes and obesity.

New Water Filtration Materials Help Assure Safe Drinking Water

A new generation of water filtration materials is enabling municipalities and industries in the United States and water-short countries overseas to produce safe drinking water from supplies contaminated with salts and other undesirable compounds, according to an article scheduled for the April 23 issue of Chemical & Engineering News, ACS’ weekly newsmagazine.

In the article, C&EN senior editor Marc S. Reisch explains that the technology ─ termed membrane filtration ─ also removes bacteria and chlorine-resistant parasites such as Cryptosporidium and Giardia. Starting with highly contaminated water, membrane filtration can produce potable water that can be purer than water from pristine reservoirs or deep artesian wells, the article notes.

Reisch describes a growing market for membrane filtration in Florida, Texas, California and other locales that must treat brackish water. Much of the demand in the United States results from increasingly stringent Federal regulations for drinking water drawn from surface sources. Demand for the technology also is strong abroad, especially in areas such as the Middle East that face severe water shortages and produce drinking water by desalination of sea water. A related C&EN story focuses on global chemical industry efforts to make safe, secure sources of drinking water more widely available.

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Mark Your Calendars

ACS Regional Meeting, May 16-19, Philadelphia

The Philadelphia Section, American Chemical Society, and Ursinus College will host the 39th ACS Middle Atlantic Regional Meeting.

11th Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference

This pioneering conference on one of the hottest topics in chemistry will be held June 26-29, 2007 at the Capital Hilton hotel in Washington, DC.

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.