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

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News Items in this Edition

Equipping E. Coli With A “Chemo-Navigation” System

In genetic engineering’s version of the Pied Piper, chemists have programmed E. coli bacteria to move toward new chemical signals — an advance they say could enable the production of bacteria with important uses in medicine, environmental clean-ups, and other fields.

“Equipping bacteria that can degrade pollutants, synthesize and release therapeutics, or transport loads with an ability to localize to a specific chemical signal would open new frontiers in bioremediation, drug delivery, and synthetic biology,” Emory University’s Justin P. Gallivan and Shana Topp state in the study. It is scheduled for publication in the June 6 issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society, a weekly publication.

Gallivan and Topp manipulated the natural chemotaxis ability of E. coli, which enables certain microbes to move toward chemicals in their environment. Researchers have envisioned reprogramming such organisms so that microbes capable of synthesizing an anti-cancer drug, for instance, can be used to medicate diseased cells while sparing healthy cells of side effects.

The researchers gave E. coli a “riboswitch,” a segment of RNA that changes shape when bound to certain small molecules and then turns genes on or off. They believe that approach can be used to equip motile bacteria with “chemo-navigation” systems to move toward desired targets.

Crusts from the Tower Of London Suggest Yellowing In The Future

Air pollution control regulations are having an unanticipated effect in changing the color of the Tower of London, that famous complex of buildings, started by William the Conqueror, that have housed everything from prisoners and zoo animals to the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom, scientists in the UK and Italy are reporting. The research is scheduled for publication in the June 15 issue of ACS’ Environmental Science & Technology, a semi-monthly journal.

In the study, Peter Brimblecombe and colleagues investigated the origin and transformation of elemental carbon (EC) and organic carbon (OC) from simple organic compounds in the black crusts that have formed over the centuries on stone walls in the tower complex. The blackening of the past, they note, is from EC in coal smoke released since the late 13th Century.

Air pollution control efforts are reducing the amount of sulfur dioxide from coal, with increased OC emissions from motor vehicle exhaust. With less sulfur dioxide (toxic to microorganisms) and more OC, microbes can grow in crusts on buildings and transform compounds contributing a color change.

“In particular, one should note that modern deposits have taken on a slightly different color and now appear more brownish,” the reports states. “These changes may arise from oxidation processes in the organic rich materials. The color change is particularly evident here at the Tower of London, where yellowing may become of greater concern than the habitual blackening in the near future.”

Scientists Isolate Anti-Cancer Compounds from Apple Peel

Doctor Mom’s admonition, “Don’t peel your apple,” is getting new scientific support from scientists in New York, who are reporting isolation of chemical compounds from apple peel that may be involved in the apple’s beneficial health effects. Their report is scheduled for publication in the [date TC] issue of ACS’s Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

In the study, Rui Hai Liu and Xiangjiu He point out that apple consumption has been linked to a reduced risk of chronic health problems such as lung cancer, heart disease, and stroke. Traditional advice on eating apple peel was based mainly on its fiber content, with peel packing about 75 percent of the dietary fiber in an apple. More recently, however, scientists have shown that the peel also contains most of the beneficial phytochemicals believed to be responsible for the apple-a-day-keeps-the-doctor-away effect.

Until now, however, scientists had not identified the specific phytochemicals responsible for apple’s anti-cancer effects. Xiangjiu He and Liu processed 231 pounds of Red Delicious apples and extracted phytochemicals from about 24 pounds of peel. They screened the compounds for anti-cancer effects in laboratory cultures of human liver, breast, and colon cancer cells. In doing so, they identified a group of compounds with “potent” anti-cancer effects.

New Medications Needed For Neuropathic Pain

Despite an array of powerful medications available to treat neuropathic pain, many patients with this increasingly common disorder fail to get relief from chronic, severe pain, according to an article scheduled for the May 31 issue of ACS’ Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, a bi-weekly publication.

The article, written by Wyeth Research’s John A. Butera, introduces a series of expert reports on the current status of research and promising new advances in drug therapy for neuropathic pain. Unlike ordinary pain, which can be controlled with medications and subsides after the injury heals, neuropathic pain continues and patients can experience chronic, debilitating pain that is difficult to treat.

Butera cites the need for new medications, noting that existing drugs usually provide only a 30 – 50 percent reduction in pain in about 50 percent of patients. “Coupled with this limited efficacy, there are low levels of compliance [in taking medication] due to intolerable side effect profiles associated with some of these drugs,” the article states. “These results profoundly illustrate that treatment of neuropathic pain is a hugely unmet medical need.” Butera cites estimates suggesting that neuropathic pain affects more than 6 million people in the United States and Europe — plus millions more who have neuropathy as a complication of diabetes.

Western Drug Makers Expand Use of India’s Scientific Talent

India is quietly assuming a new and expanded role in the discovery and development of medicines for patients in the United States and other western countries, according to an article scheduled for the May 21 issue of Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), ACS’ weekly newsmagazine.

In the article, Jean-Franåois Tremblay, of C&EN’s Asia-Pacific Bureau, explains that big western pharmaceutical companies long have turned to India’s numerous contract research firms to work on specific, well-defined projects. “But for the past two years, the country’s research service providers have begun to undertake far more significant drug discovery work for foreign clients,” the article notes.

Driving the new wave of pharma outsourcing in part is India’s huge pool of English-speaking scientists, particularly synthetic organic chemists, many of whom are highly motivated and willing to work for a fraction of the salary of similarly-trained sciences in the U. S., Europe, or Japan, the article states. India’s top research providers also are creating a climate of confidentiality that gives western drug makers assurance about protection of their trade secrets, it adds. Tremblay includes specific examples of western drug makers that are expanding use of that scientific manpower by forming external alliances in India to increase R&D productivity.

Journalists’ Resources

  • General Chemistry Glossary
    The General Chemistry Glossary can be found here.
  • Science Elements: ACS Audio Clips
    Listen to Science news podcasts from the American Chemical Society.
  • News, Features, Background, Sources from ACS National Meeting
    News media resources from the March 25-29 meeting in Chicago include more than 9,000 abstracts of technical presentations and more than 1,000 non-technical summaries in a searchable database, plus press releases, podcasts, and other material. If you are researching or sourcing stories on chemistry-related topics, this resource can be a treasure trove accessible by the following:
    ACS News Service’s National Meeting Press Book page

    ACS Chicago National Meeting News Page

    ACS Press Center
  • Green Goals for the Pharmaceutical Industry
    The ACS Green Chemistry Institute Pharmaceutical Roundtable has developed a list of priority research areas where “green” alternatives to conventional reactions are needed to develop medications with minimal impact on the environment. Their review paper, describes and prioritizes research needs. It can be a valuable resource for journalists writing about green chemistry. Although the paper focuses on pharmaceuticals, it includes reactions and processes used by the broader chemical enterprise.

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, Washington, DC

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.