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ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: February 28, 2007

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News Items in this Edition

The First Urine Test to Detect Insulin Doping In Athletes

Scientists in Germany are reporting development of a urine test that finally can identify athletes who misuse certain kinds of insulin in an illicit attempt to enhance performance.

Mario Thevis and colleagues say that amateur and elite athletes reportedly have used long-acting, as well as rapid-acting, forms of insulin to gain an edge — although insulin doping’s actual ability to enhance performance remains uncertain.

Their article, scheduled for the April 1 edition of ACS’ Analytical Chemistry, a semi-monthly journal, states that scientists had not attempted to develop such a test in the past because of the presumption that it was impossible to detect insulin’s degradation products, the compounds formed as the body breaks down insulin.

Using urine samples from volunteers, including athletes with diabetes, the scientists were able to identify degradation products from Lantus insulin, one commonly used form of insulin. The test could not identify surreptitious use of two other forms of long-duration insulin, but the study uncovered clues that toward that goal. “Determination of long-acting insulin analogues in urine is of utmost interest for doping control purposes,” the study notes. “The developed and validated procedure provides a fast and reliable way to elucidate the potential misuse of the long-acting insulin analogue LAN in regular doping control specimens.”

Vegetable Soup Chemical Reactions

Chemists working on tight budgets in developing countries may be able to substitute extracts of potatoes, celery, eggplant, carrot, cassava, horseradish or an array of inexpensive and locally available vegetable products for the costly reagents traditionally needed for chemical reactions, a new study suggests.

In a review scheduled for the March 23 issue of the ACS’ Journal of Natural Products, a monthly publication, Geoffrey A. Cordell at the University of Illinois at Chicago and colleagues in Brazil explain that the high cost of imported reagents — substances used in chemical reactions — is a major problem for such academic, chemical industry and pharmaceutical laboratories in developing countries. Their report describes how some of the more than 7,000 vegetable crops grown throughout the world can be used as substitutes for commercial reagents in laboratory work.

“The evaluation of locally available vegetables, fruits, common plants, and natural waste products for a selection of standard organic chemical reactions of commercial significance could prove to be a very valuable economic endeavor,” the report notes. “It may well offer new opportunities to expand the role of natural products as sustainable chemical reagents where high-cost, nonrenewable reagents are presently used.”

Elevated Arsenic Levels Reported In Rice Grown In South Central States

The largest market basket survey of the arsenic content of rice grown in the United States has found elevated levels of arsenic in rice produced in the South Central part of the country, scientists report in an article scheduled for the April 1 issue of ACS’ Environmental Science & Technology, a semi-monthly journal. The University of Aberdeen’s A. A. Meharg and colleagues did the study, which involved analyses of rice purchased at U. S. supermarkets. A previous study found that U. S. rice purchased in the United Kingdom had higher arsenic levels than rice grown in Europe, India or Bangladesh.

In the study, researchers compared arsenic levels in rice from the two main rice-producing areas of the country — the South Central States and California. They focused on inorganic arsenic, which the report describes as a known human carcinogen and implicated in several other diseases. Rice grown in the South Central States had more arsenic than California rice. Rice in those states often is grown in old cotton fields that previously were treated with arsenic pesticides, the study states, adding that arsenic-tolerant strains of rice often are grown in those fields.

When researchers modeled rice intake, they concluded that certain population groups could get dietary exposure to arsenic that exceeds California’s state exposure limits. Those groups include low-income individuals who consume large amounts or rice as an inexpensive food; people with celiac disease (who eat rice as part of a gluten-free diet); Asian-Americans who consume a high-rice diet; and Hispanic infants and toddlers, who also have a diet high in rice, the study notes.

Red Pepper: Hot Stuff for Fighting Fat?

Food scientists in Taiwan are reporting new evidence from laboratory experiments that capsaicin — the natural compound that gives red pepper that spicy hot kick — can reduce the growth of fat cells. The study is scheduled for the March 21 issue of the ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a bi-weekly publication.

In the report, Gow-Chin Yen and Chin-Lin Hsu cite previous research suggesting that obesity can be reduced by preventing immature fat cells (adipocytes) from developing into mature cells. Past research also linked capsaicin to a decrease in the amount of fat tissue and decreased blood-fat levels. With that knowledge, the researchers tested capsaicin’s effects on pre-adipocytes and adipocytes growing in laboratory cultures.

They found that capsaicin prevented pre-adipocytes from filling with fat and becoming full-fledged fat cells. The effects occurred at levels just slightly greater than those found in the stomach fluid of an individual eating a typical Indian or Thai diet, the researchers noted. Capsaicin worked by providing a biochemical signal that made fat cells undergo apoptosis, a mechanism in which cells self-destruct.

The Chemistry of the Holy Land

Chemical research is thriving in Israel — a tiny country far away from major scientific centers and surrounded by hostile neighbors. The country ranks third in the world in research papers published per million population. That’s just one characteristic detailed in the profile of science in the Holy Land based on visits to 30 research groups by Chemical & Engineering News, ACS’ weekly newsmagazine.

“The odds of developing a successful chemical research program in such a place and under such circumstances might seem slim, and the task may seem daunting,” reports C&EN senior editor Mitch Jacoby, who wrote the cover story. “Yet Israeli chemists don’t seem particularly fazed by the challenge. ‘Kacha zen ba’arets,’ they say in a matter-of-fact way — “That’s just the way things are in Israel.”

In the article, Jacoby draws on interviews with scientists at institutions throughout Israel to provide a sweeping view of the kinds of research projects underway in Israel, and the scientific life in the Holy Land. The article draws contrasts with science in the West, noting, for instance that young Israeli scientists begin their careers older, due to mandatory military service, and work in a culture of usually-small research groups and modest budgets.

Journalists’ Resources

  • General Chemistry Glossary
    The General Chemistry Glossary can be found here.
  • Earth Day, April 22
    ACS Video Contest for Students

    April 10 is the deadline for entries in the ACS’ video contest for college and university students. Find out more information and fill out an entry form on the cash-award competition, which is part of the “Chemists Celebrate Earth Day” observance.
    ACS Earth Day Poetry Contest

    Find more information on ACS’ illustrated haiku contest for students in grades Kindergarten-12.
    ACS Earth Day Fact Sheet
  • ACS Chemical Biology
    Highlights from the American Chemical Society journal, ACS Chemical Biology, are now available on EurekAlert!, the online science news service for reporters. ACS Chemical Biology is a monthly journal exploring cellular function from both chemical and biological perspectives. In addition to research papers and reviews, the journal also publishes “Spotlight” — current research in chemical biology from other journals; “Profile” — experts in the field; and “Points of View” — comments from leading scientists. The journal’s Web site is updated weekly with new content, and features a WIKI and an “Ask the Expert” section.

Mark Your Calendars

ACS National Meeting — Chicago, March 25-29

The American Chemical Society’s 233rd national meeting promises to be one of 2007’s biggest and most productive science conferences, and a bonanza of spot news, feature topics and background for reporters covering science, medicine, energy, environment, food, business or the environment. We expect more than 9,000 scientific papers on topics spanning science’s horizons from astronomy to zoology. Visit the National Meeting page for preliminary program information, media registration and housing.

Special Event: Chicago News Media Tour/Briefing/Reception

News media are invited to a special event at the Art Institute of Chicago, scheduled during the ACS national meeting. The Art Institute, Northwestern University and Argonne National Laboratory are partners in a noted art conservation science program. Reporters will get briefings from program scientists and a behind-the-scenes tour of science and conservation labs, followed by a reception in the beautiful environs of the Institute. The event begins at 4 p.m. on March 26. Space is strictly limited, so register early by contacting Michael Woods at m_woods@acs.org or 202-872-6293.

On the Horizon: 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.

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.