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ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: January 17, 2007

Journalists’ Resources

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The American Chemical Society (ACS) News Service Weekly PressPac (PressPac) offers information on reports selected from 35 major peer-reviewed journals and Chemical & Engineering News.

This information is intended for your personal use in news gathering and reporting and should not be distributed to others. Anyone using advance ACS News Service Weekly PressPac information for stocks or securities dealing may be guilty of insider trading under the federal Securities Exchange Act of 1934.

Please cite the individual journal, or the American Chemical Society, as the source of this information.

News Items in this Edition

Questioning the Safety of Blower-Equipped Carbon Canister Breathing Devices

A new study raises questions about the safety of the growing trend toward equipping carbon canister protective breathing devices with a blower device to enable personnel to breathe easier. Marco J. G. Linders and colleagues in The Netherlands point out that such respiratory protective devices (RPDs) traditionally are operated by human lungs. The inhale-exhale cycle results in a pulsating pattern of air flow over the activated carbon filter material. The carbon material adsorbs toxic gases, preventing inhalation by military, safety, security and other personnel equipped with RPDs.

Their report, scheduled for the June 6 issue of the ACS’ Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research, a bi-weekly journal, explains that addition of a blower creates a power-assisted breathing device with a constant airflow over the activated carbon. The researchers describe laboratory tests showing that the constant flow can result in release of high concentrations of contaminants previously adsorbed to the activated carbon granules.

Release happens faster under humid environmental conditions than under dry conditions. The experiments also suggested that contaminants might be redistributed inside the activated carbon canister between uses, leading to increased release of the contaminants during the next use.

New Drugs Awaiting Discovery in Chinese Herbs?

The first large-scale computer screenings of Chinese herbs — commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine — has revealed a wide variety of compounds with potential for use in treating HIV/AIDS, cancer, Alzheimer’s Disease, arthritis and other diseases, according to scientists in London.

In an article scheduled for the March 26 issue of the ACS’ Journal of Chemical Information and Modeling, a bi-monthly publication, David J. Barlow and colleagues note that such in silico research is becoming increasingly effective in identifying promising compounds that could be candidates for drug development. In silico (“in silicon”) means research done on computers or via computer simulation and has joined the in vivo and in vitro experiments traditionally used in the life sciences.

The researchers screened a database of chemical structures of Chinese herbal constituents from 240 species of plants for possible activity against various diseases. About 62 percent of the species were found to contain chemicals with characteristics required for activity against at least one disease and 53 percent against two or more diseases. The study also describes corroborative evidence from the scientific literature that supported many of the computer predictions. In a companion article in the journal, the researchers describe the herbal databases.

An Advance in Mimicking Mother Nature

Birds use them to reduce the weight of their feathers. Polar bears rely on them to keep warm in the Arctic cold. Now scientists in China report what they believe to be the first easy, straightforward method for making the kind of multi-channel microtubes found in birds, polar bears and other animals.

Lei Jiang, Xinyu Cao and Yong Zhao describe the new electrojet spinning technique in an article scheduled for the Feb. 7 issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society, a weekly publication. The advance in biomimic materials — a field that aims to copy useful features found in nature — could be used to produce super-lightweight and extraordinarily warm textiles, multi-component drug deliver devices, highly efficient catalysts and other commercial products, according to the scientists.

“We have developed a very simple and powerful multifluidic compound-jet electrospinning technique for fabricating biomimic multichannel microtubes that have been seldom obtained with other methods,” they note. The researchers used the new spinning process to make tubes with 2, 3, 4 and 5 separate interior channels. In addition to offering multiple channels in one tube, the structures promise to be stronger with other advantages over single-channel microtubes, the report indicates.

Toward Medical Implants with an Antibiotic Coating

The search for ways to protect polymer-based medical implants — used in devices ranging from contact lenses to artificial hearts, as well as surgical devices and operating room equipment — from bacterial infections has led scientists in Mississippi to develop a penicillin-coated version of a key polymer biomaterial.

In a report scheduled for the Feb. 12 edition of ACS’ Biomacromolecules, a monthly journal, Marek W. Urban and colleagues describe a new way to modify expanded poly(tetrafluorethylene), or ePTFE, so that penicillin adheres to its surface and remains highly effective. This polymer is used in medical procedures ranging from vascular grafting to plastic and reconstructive surgery. In laboratory experiments, the researchers also demonstrated that the penicillin-coated surfaces showed highly effective antibacterial activity against Staphylococcus aureus, which causes many serious human infections.

The researchers believe this is the first study to report such activity. “This approach may serve as a general surface modification process for the development of polymeric surfaces with anti-microbial properties,” their report states.

Scientists Are Uncovering New Meaning In the Genetic Code

The genetic code may seem like a recipe for life scripted with cold precision, but scientists are discovering that the code reads more like a poem in which syllables within words can bear hidden and critical meaning, according to an article scheduled for the Jan. 22 issue of Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), ACS’ weekly newsmagazine.

In the article, C&EN senior editor Ivan Amato focuses on synonyms in the genetic code — very short word-like sequences or codons that translate into exactly the same amino acids during construction of a protein. These so-called synonymous codons can influence the three-dimensional shape of a protein, architecture with critical implications for health and disease. “It’s akin to the way the same hand can fold into an affirming thumbs-up conformation or into a shape involving the middle finger that conveys another sentiment altogether,” Amato explains.

The article discusses how new research is revealing that this phenomenon — termed silent polymorphism — may be quite vocal biologically. It is involved, for instance, in the mechanism that renders about half of human cancers resistant to chemotherapy. Such findings have stirred new interest in understanding silent polymorphism, and determining its precise role in human health, the article points out.

Journalists’ Resources

  • 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.

Chemistry’s Growing Role in Cancer Research

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 on 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. For information on press registration for the meeting, visit the AACR Special Conferences page or call the AACR Communications Department, (215) 440-9300, ext. 101.

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.