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ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: Wed Aug 01 16:42:03 EDT 2007

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News Items in this Edition

Potato chip flavoring boosts longevity of concrete

The ingredient that helps give “salt & vinegar” potato chips that tangy snap is the key to a new waterproof coating for protecting concrete from water damage, according to a study scheduled for the current (August 1) issue of ACS’ Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research, a bi-weekly journal.

Awni Al-Otoom and colleagues in Jordan point out that concrete’s unique properties have made it the world’s most widely used structural material. Concrete, however, is so porous that water soaks in, corroding steel reinforcing bars and meshes that strengthen concrete roads and buildings and causing cracks as water expands and contracts during freeze-thaw cycles. Sealants are commercially available, but they have serious shortcomings, the study notes.

In the new report, researchers describe the use of sodium acetate as an inexpensive and environmentally friendly concrete sealant. One of sodium acetate’s many uses is in flavored potato chips. In laboratory studies using freshly made concrete, the researchers showed that sodium acetate seeps into pores in concrete and then hardens and crystallizes upon exposure to water. The resultant swelling blocks entry of additional moisture, they said. Under dry conditions, the crystals shrink back to their original size and allow moisture to evaporate. The net result is “a significant reduction in water permeability,” that “can be expected to increase the service life of the concrete,” the report said.

Bright future for new drug delivery system intended to minimize side effects

In an advance toward the long-sought ability to deliver medication directly to diseased tissue, while minimizing side effects and damage to healthy parts of the body, scientists are reporting development of a new dosing system that is controlled by light. The study is scheduled for the August 15 issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society, a weekly journal.

Colin P. McCoy and colleagues in Northern Ireland describe their new molecular-scale dosing devices as a “new paradigm for precise control of drug dosing using light.” The devices consist of medications that are combined with certain chemical compounds that respond to light in ways that release precisely controlled amounts of the drug. Drug release begins when light falls on the compounds, and lasts only as long as the light continues to shine.

The study reports successful laboratory tests of the system in the controlled release of three common medications used to treat pain and inflammation — aspirin, ibuprofen and ketoprofen. One potential use cited in the study would be in the treatment of urinary catheter infections, where the drug is held latently in the catheter, and is released when needed. The system could be applied for other conditions using an implant under the skin for precisely controlled drug dosing, the researchers suggest.

New process may enable motorists to fill ‘er up — with wheat

In a finding that could help put wheat alongside corn on the menu of biofuel sources, researchers in the United Kingdom and Greece report development of a new method for producing ethanol from wheat. The technology - potentially cheaper and more efficient than conventional methods for producing wheat-based biofuel - is scheduled for the August 3 issue of ACS’ Biotechnology Progress, a bi-monthly journal.

As oil prices soar, demand for bioethanol to stretch out supplies of gasoline has increased dramatically, along with frenzied research efforts to find the best raw materials for its economical production. While most bioethanol in the United States is made from corn, wheat “could be regarded as the preferred cereal grain for bioethanol production” in Europe, where the grain is more widely grown, the article states. But conventional methods for producing bioethanol from wheat are complex and inefficient.

In the new study, Apostolis Koutinas and colleagues describe a simplified biorefining method that uses fewer steps and less energy and generates fewer waste products. Depending on the selected combination of physical and biological treatment, this process also yields various fractions enriched in bran, wheat germ and proteins that could be sold or utilized for the extraction or production of value-added products, boosting income of biorefineries, the scientists say. “This process could substitute for the conventional wheat dry milling process that is currently employed in industry.”

Developing a “toolkit” for personalized medicine

An international team of researchers is proposing a plan for building a “toolkit” for personalized medicine — that long-anticipated era in which physicians customize efforts to prevent, diagnose, and treat diseases to match the unique genetic characteristics of each individual patient.

In a review article scheduled for the August 3 issue of ACS’s Journal of Proteome Research, a monthly publication, Fredrik Nyberg, György Marko-Varga, Atsushi Ogiwara and colleagues point out that cancer therapy already is moving toward individualized treatments selected according to tumor cell type and patients’ predicted responses to different kinds of anti-cancer drugs. Their paper describes key features of state-of-the-art proteomic profiling, in which blood tests are used to analyze single proteins and multiple “fingerprint” protein patterns that are present, including proteins that can serve as biomarkers for disease.

The article discusses components of a toolkit that physicians could use in everyday medicine, including rapid methods for identifying proteins in the blood and processing the resulting data. “The potential of our proteomics toolkit hopefully brings us one step closer to a practical personalized medicine,” the report states.

Toward faster tests to identify carcinogens and other environmental toxins

After years of frustration with traditional methods for testing the toxicity of chemicals in the environment, scientists are working to adapt faster, simpler screening methods that do not require animals, now used by the pharmaceutical industry to identify potential drug candidates, according to an article in the August 6 issue of Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), ACS’s weekly newsmagazine.

The article, written by C&EN Senior Editor Celia Henry Arnaud, explains that animal testing long has been the gold standard for environmental toxicology. But such tests take years to complete, can’t always be confidently extrapolated to humans, and require the use of laboratory animals. As a result, only a handful of commercial chemicals have gone through the complete battery of tests used by the Federal Government’s National Toxicology Program in its most thorough toxicology investigations.

Arnaud explains how environmental toxicologists are eyeing an attractive alternative — the so-called high-throughput screening methods that pharmaceutical companies use to find potential drug candidates within libraries of compounds. “If successful, such assays may in the short term reduce the animal toxicity tests that are necessary and in the long term replace animal tests entirely,” the article states. It points out, however, that formidable challenges lie ahead in adapting those tests for accurately predicting which commercial chemicals are potential human health threats.

Journalists’ Resources

  • 2006 ACS Annual Report
    The 2006 ACS annual report, A New Vision at Work, can be a valuable resource for journalists trying to keep pace with chemistry and the multiple fields of science that involve chemistry. The report features a series of commentaries by chemists, including Nobel Laureate Robert H. Grubbs, on chemistry’s role in working toward better medications, more nutritious food, sources of renewable energy, and other innovations.
  • Sustainability Pledge from World’s Top Chemical Societies
    Presidents of six leading chemical societies, meeting in Paris, have pledged to cooperate in promoting sustainable development, responsible use of natural resources, and other efforts in which scientists protect and maintain the earth’s environment, resources, and inhabitants. The statement came from the American Chemical Society, the Royal Society of Chemistry, the Chemical Society of Japan, the German Chemical Society, the French Chemical Society and the Dutch Chemical Society, which have a combined membership of nearly 300,000.
  • Special PressPac Editions for ACS National Meeting
    PressPacs for August 15 and August 22 will be devoted to breaking news from the ACS 234th national meeting in Boston.
  • Science Elements: New ACS Podcast
    The ACS Office of Communications is podcasting PressPac contents in order to make cutting-edge scientific discoveries from ACS journals available to a broad public audience at no charge. Science Elements includes selected content from ACS’s prestigious suite of 35 peer-reviewed scientific journals and Chemical & Engineering News, ACS’s weekly news magazine. Those journals, published by the world’s largest scientific society, contain about 30,000 scientific reports from scientists around the world each year. The reports include discoveries in medicine, health, nutrition, energy, the environment and other fields that span science’s horizons from astronomy to zoology. Podcaster for Science Elements is Steve Showalter, Ph.D., a chemist at the U. S. Department of Energy’s Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and ACS member.
  • General Chemistry Glossary
    The General Chemistry Glossary is an online resource that can help you to find definitions to common—and uncommon—chemical terms.
  • YouTube Videos - It’s Alive!!!

Mark Your Calendars

  • 234th ACS National Meeting, August 19-23 Boston, MA
    News media registration is now open for the 234th ACS national meeting, which will be held in Boston, MA on August 19-23, 2007 at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center and more than a dozen hotels across the city. More than 16,000 scientists and others are expected to attend this scientific extravaganza. There will be more than 9,500 presentations on new discoveries in chemistry, health, medicine, energy, environment, food, and other fields. The theme: “Biotechnology for Health and Wellness.”

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.