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ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: Wed Oct 10 16:42:03 EDT 2007

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News Items in this Edition

Faster, more efficient method for detecting illegal steroids in urine

Amid growing concerns about sports “doping,” researchers in Indiana and China report development of a faster and more efficient method for detecting the presence of illegal anabolic steroids in urine. Their new method, which takes only a few seconds and involves no time-consuming sample preparation, will be described in the Nov. 1 issue of ACS’ Analytical Chemistry, a semi-monthly journal.

The study notes that use of banned substances by professional athletes to build muscle and gain a competitive advantage is a growing problem in sports such as track and field, baseball, football and cycling. Although effective methods exist for detecting the presence of illegal steroids in urine, current methods are time-consuming and involve cumbersome preparation steps.

Zheng Ouyang, R. Graham Cooks, and colleagues developed a new steroid-testing method that combines two state-of-the-art testing techniques called desorption electrospray ionization (DESI) and tandem mass spectrometry. In laboratory studies, the researchers used it to analyze fresh urine samples for the presence of tiny amounts of seven different anabolic steroids. The new method accurately identified the steroids in only a few seconds using only a single drop of urine, they say.

Toward a better drug for treating muscle, bone loss in elderly men

The search for alternatives to steroid medications for treating millions of Baby Boomer males with age-related declines in the sex hormone testosterone has led researchers in California to report development of a nonsteroidal compound that shows promise as a new treatment for loss of muscle mass, bone tissue, and other problems linked to low testosterone. Their study will appear in the Oct. 18 issue of the ACS’ Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, a bi-weekly publication.

In the report, Arjan van Oeveren and colleagues point out that the potential side effects of testosterone, a steroid medication, limit its use to older men with low testosterone levels. Testosterone replacement therapy may increase the risk of prostate cancer and stroke, for instance, and cannot be given orally. People take it via skin patches or rub-on gels.

The new study describes a nonsteroidal compound that in lab rats attaches to testosterone receptors in cells and triggers the same desired effects as actual testosterone in tests in laboratory animals. In comparison to other testosterone replacement treatments, the compound showed similar improvement in muscle mass and strength while having little effect on the prostate, the researchers say. It also significantly improved bone density and strength in the lab rats.

Early detection of human papilloma and other viral infections

Scientists in Iowa are reporting development of a new, amazingly sensitive method for identifying the earliest stages of infection with human papilloma virus (HPV), a common virus that can increase the risk of cervical cancer in women. The test also has the potential for early identification of infection with other so-called DNA viruses, which cause a range of diseases that includes genital herpes and hepatitis. Their report is scheduled for the Nov. 1 issue of ACS’ Analytical Chemistry, a semi-monthly journal.

In the study, Edward S. Yeung and colleagues point out that the most sensitive existing test for viral infections has drawbacks. That test is the Nobel Prize-winning polymerase chain reaction (PCR), used to detect DNA in settings ranging from medical labs to crime scenes. PCR requires an initial step in which scientists “amplify,” or copy, a DNA sample a thousand-fold before virus detection can begin. However, amplification increases the risk of false-positives and false-negatives, especially when a sample has even a tiny amount of contaminants. Since over 50 million Pap smears are performed in the United States each year to test for HPV — the leading cause of cervical cancer — a fast, simple, accurate diagnosis is essential.

The new method skips the amplification step entirely, and yet can detect the presence of less than two copies of HPV per cell — a level corresponding to very early infection. The technique, called single-molecule spectroscopy, could be easily integrated into the Pap smear method. “It can become a good clinical screening or quantification method for viral DNA in cells,” opening the door to improved screening tests for hepatitis B, herpes and other diseases.

Fresh fruits and vegetables retain antioxidants long after purchase

The next time you think about throwing out those aging strawberries or very ripe grapes, consider this: Belgian scientists report that fruits and vegetables do not lose any antioxidant content in the days after purchase, even as tell-tale signs of spoilage appear. In some cases, antioxidant levels actually rise.

The study will appear in the Oct. 17 issue of ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a bi-weekly publication.

The life of a post-harvest fruit or vegetable is traditionally defined in terms of visual appearance and texture. While this is good for aesthetics, these benchmarks disregard flavor and nutritional quality—especially with regards to antioxidants, which are affected by genetic, technological and environmental factors. “No important studies were done to evaluate the influence of storage on antioxidant capacity,” the authors said.

To that end, Claire Kevers and colleagues obtained various produce from the Belgian market, measuring its initial antioxidant content. They then stored the fruits and vegetables at room temperature or refrigerated them at 39 degrees Fahrenheit, checking antioxidant levels at various times until the produce presented visual spoilage. The results showed that, in the days following purchase, fruits and vegetables do not lose any phenolic compounds, ascorbic acid or flavonols — a trio of chemical classes associated with antioxidant content. “Better, in some cases, an increase on the antioxidant capacity was observed in the days following their purchase, accompanied by an increase in phenolic compounds,” the researchers state.



Plastics recycling industry ‘starving for materials’

Consumers have unknowingly put the plastics recycling industry in the United States on a starvation diet by failing to recycle sufficient quantities of soft drink bottles and other waste. That’s the conclusion of the cover story scheduled for the Oct. 15 issue of Chemical & Engineering News, ACS’ weekly newsmagazine.

In the article, C&EN senior editor Alexander H. Tullo explores the critical role of consumers in efforts to save energy and raw materials by transforming plastic wastes into new products. Tullo notes that barely 25 percent of the billions of pounds of plastic bottles and containers manufactured annually in the United States enter the recycling stream. While major cities like New York and San Francisco have shown that plastics recycling can be done successfully on a large scale, fueled by recycling educational programs and environmental pride, many municipalities are still falling far short of their desired recycling goals.

Financial concerns, technological difficulties, and stiff competition for raw materials by recyclers at home and abroad are among the combined challenges facing the plastics recycling industry, Tullo notes. But the fate of the plastics recycling industry may ultimately rest in the hands of consumers, he writes. Tullo’s bottom line is a quote from one recycling expert: “There is not enough scrap material being collected.”

For Wired Readers

  • 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 36 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.
  • YouTube Videos
    Detergents with an On/Off Switch

    Health & Wellness for Kids

    It’s Alive!!!

Journalists’ Resources

  • Press releases and more from ACS' 234th national meeting Aug. 19-23, 2007
    A treasure trove of news sources, background material and story ideas is available from the ACS' latest National Meeting. Reporters can view press releases, search an archive with abstracts of 9,500 scientific presentations and 1,000 non-technical summaries of those presentations, and access other resources at:
    http://www.acspresscenter.org/index.php
  • ACS’ Latest 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. The newly published report is available for reading and downloading at http://www.acs.org/annualreport.
  • General Chemistry Glossary
  • PressPac Archives

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