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ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: Wed Jan 03 15:42:03 EST 2007

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News Items in this Edition

The First Molecular Keypad Lock

How can defense or intelligence agencies safeguard the security of top-secret data protected by a computation device the size of a single molecule?

With cryptography approaching that sobering new era, scientists in Israel are reporting development of what they term the first molecular system capable of processing password entries. Abraham Shanzer and colleagues describe their “molecular keypad lock” in the Jan. 17 issue of the weekly Journal of the American Chemical Society. Electronic keypad locks long have been fixtures on home security systems and other devices that require a password. The new study, however, describes a keypad lock based on molecules that fluoresce only in response to the correct sequences of three input signals.

“By harnessing the principles of molecular Boolean logic, we have designed a molecular device that mimics the operation of an electronic keypad, a common security circuit used for numerous applications in which access to an object or data is to be restricted to a limited number of persons,” the researchers state. “The development of a molecular-scale keypad lock is a particularly attractive goal as it represents a new approach to protecting information at the molecular scale.” The researchers cite DNA-microdot encryption as a complementary approach, which in combination with their molecular lock might provide an unbreakable protection against forgery.

Toward A New Oral Delivery System for Insulin Using Nanoshell Shields

Scientists in Taiwan are reporting development of a nanoparticle drug delivery system that shows promise as a potential way to administer insulin and perhaps other protein-based drugs by mouth rather than injection or nasal sprays.

Hsing-Wen Sung and colleagues at the National Tsing Hua University, the Chinese Naval Academy and the National Health Research Institute point out that stomach acid destroys protein-based drugs, making them ineffective. That problem has led to broadly based efforts to find ways of encapsulating or otherwise protecting insulin from damage in the stomach so it could be given in a convenient oral form. Once the drug passes through the stomach, it can be absorbed in the small intestine.

In their new research, scheduled for the Jan. 8 issue of ACS’ Biomacromolecules, a monthly journal, researchers describe loading insulin into nanospheres made from chitosan, a natural carbohydrate polymer material obtained commercially from shells of shrimp that is nontoxic and biocompatible. When given to diabetic laboratory rats, the insulin-loaded nanoparticles successfully reduced blood sugar levels in the animals.

Inhalation of Golf Course Pesticides In Northeast Poses “Minimal” Health Risk

When golfers in the northeastern United States dream of returning to those greens and fairways next spring, they can have some reassurance that inhaling pesticides applied to the turf does not pose a serious human health threat, a new study suggests. Cornell University’s Douglas A. Haith and Rebecca R. Murphy report results of the first systematic study of inhalation health risk for 15 pesticides typically applied to golf courses in the northeast.

Their report, scheduled for the Feb. 1 issue of ACS’ Environmental Science & Technology, a semi-monthly journal, concludes that the risk of cancer and other long-term health effects from inhaling vapors from the pesticides is “minimal.” The researchers note, however, that a complete risk assessment for the pesticides would have to include ingestion and skin contact — intake routes not considered in their study.

The scientists also point out that the pesticides could pose significant health risks at other locations in the United States, where golfers may be exposed to higher concentrations of pesticide vapors due to warmer temperatures and lower wind speeds.

A New Family of Lead-Free Optical Glasses

With environmental regulations forbidding the use of lead in consumer products, scientists in Canada have developed, synthesized and tested a new family of special optical glasses that contain no lead but perform like traditional lead-based optical glass.

J. W. Zwanziger and colleagues set out to understand origins of the so-called “zero-stress optic response,” which underpins the properties of glasses used in rear-projection televisions, liquid crystal on silicon projection systems, optical research equipment and other products. In a report scheduled for the Jan. 23 issue of ACS’ Chemistry of Materials, a bi-weekly journal, they describe finding a simple rule for choosing the composition of glass to minimize the stress optic response. The rule predicted the existence of previously unknown optic glasses.

The researchers then synthesized a variety of alternatives to lead-based glass, producing a new family of lead-free, zero-stress glasses with optical properties like traditional lead-based glasses.

TSCA vs. REACH: The Emerging Debate over Regulation of Commercial Chemicals

Is the Federal Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), passed in 1976 and essentially unchanged since then, still adequate for regulating commercial chemicals in the 21st century? A point-counterpoint article on that topic, scheduled for the Jan. 8 issue of the ACS’s weekly newsmagazine, Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), offers opposing viewpoints.

The article suggests that broader debate is likely on the topic this year, as the European Union moves ahead with implementation of a new regulatory system for industrial and commercial chemicals. That new approach is known as REACH (registration, evaluation and authorization of chemicals).

In the article, Michael P. Walls, managing director for regulatory and technical affairs at the American Chemistry Council (ACC), argues that TSCA remains a solid, proven approach that can address new challenges such as regulating the products of nanotechnology. ACC’s members include major chemical manufacturers. Taking the opposite view is Joel A.Tickner, an assistant professor in the Department of Community Health and Sustainability at the University of Massachusetts in Lowell. Tickner argues that TSCA has weaknesses and calls for talks among chemical makers, users, states and environmental advocates on how to address those limitations.

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.

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Chemistry’s Expanding 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.

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.