FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: Wed Aug 13 16:42:03 EDT 2008
- Heads-up study of hair dynamics may lead to better hair-care products
- Chemists move closer toward developing safer, fully-synthetic form of heparin
- Newly detected air pollutant mimics damaging effects of cigarette smoke
- “Cutting by color”: New imaging technique for more precise cancer surgery
- New reasons to avoid grapefruit and other juices when taking certain drugs
- Key advance toward “micro-spacecraft”
- Green skies ahead: Chemists target sustainability
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This issue of the American Chemical Society (ACS) News Service Weekly Press Package (PressPac) is a special edition with selections from scientific presentations scheduled for the ACS’ 236th National Meeting in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
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News Items in this Edition
From frizzy perms to over-bleached waves, “bad hair days” could soon become a less frequent occurrence. Chemists report the first detailed microscopic analysis of what happens to individual hair fibers when they interact with each other, an advance in knowledge key to the development of improved shampoos, conditioners, and other products for repairing damaged hair, the researchers say.
“Bad hair days” may become a less frequent occurrence, researchers say. Magnified image (inset) shows crossed hair fibers, which make combing difficult. Credit: Janali Thompson, American Chemical Society. Click here to download a high resolution version of this image.
Embracing that adage, “Personal care begins with hair,” consumers now spend almost $60 billion annually on hair care products, one of the personal care industry’s largest market segments. Despite the increasing availability of new hair care products within the past century, many products are inadequate for tackling today’s rigorous hair treatments, the researchers say.
“For the first time, we present an experimental setup that allows measuring the subtle forces, both physical and chemical, that arise when single hairs slide past each other or are pressed against each other,” says study co-author Eva Max. “The findings will help provide clearer strategies for optimizing hair care products.” — MTS
Chemists are reporting a major advance toward developing a safer, fully-synthetic version of heparin, the widely used blood thinner now produced from pig intestines. The U. S. Food and Drug Administration last spring linked contaminated batches of the animal-based product, imported from China, to more than 80 deaths and hundreds of allergic reactions among patients exposed to the drug for kidney dialysis and other conditions.
The purer, non-animal version could improve the drug’s safety and bolster regulatory control of its manufacture, the researchers say. Scientists expect demand for heparin, which prevents blood clots, to increase in the future due to rising rates of diabetes, heart disease, and other health complications linked to sedentary lifestyles. Global heparin sales total about $4 billion annually.
“With the problems associated with contaminated heparin produced from pig tissues in China, a non-animal source of this essential drug is gaining importance,” says study co-author Robert J. Linhardt. “A safer version of the drug could result in less adverse effects and fewer deaths.”
Linhardt points out that processing of pig intestines to extract the raw materials is often done in small, family-run workshops in China, which supplies about 70 percent of the world’s heparin. Those mom-and-pop shops often fall outside the normal supervision and regulatory control standard in the pharmaceutical industry. The lack of oversight increases the risks of heparin contamination or adulteration with harmful chemicals, viruses, or other agents, he says. — MTS
A previously unrecognized group of air pollutants could have effects remarkably similar to harmful substances found in tobacco smoke, Louisiana scientists are reporting. Inhaling those pollutants exposes the average person to up to 300 times more free radicals daily than from smoking one cigarette, they added. The discovery could help explain the long-standing medical mystery of why non-smokers develop tobacco-related diseases like lung cancer, said study leader H. Barry Dellinger.
Scientists have long known that free radicals exist in the atmosphere. These atoms, molecules, and fragments of molecules are highly reactive and damage cells in the body. Free radicals form during the burning of fuels or in photochemical processes like those that form ozone. Most of these previously identified atmospheric free radicals form as gases, exist for less than one second, and disappear. In contrast, the newly detected molecules — which Dellinger terms persistent free radicals (PFRs) — form on airborne nanoparticles and other fine particle residues as gases cool in smokestacks, automotive exhaust pipes and household chimneys. Particles that contain metals, such as copper and iron, are the most likely to persist, he said. Unlike other atmospheric free radicals, PFRs can linger in the air and travel great distances.
Once PFRs are inhaled, Dellinger suspects they are absorbed into the lungs and other tissues where they contribute to DNA and other cellular damage. Epidemiological studies suggest that more than 500,000 Americans die each year from cardiopulmonary disease linked to breathing fine particle air pollution, he says. However, Dellinger stresses additional research is necessary before scientists can definitely link airborne PFRs to these diseases. — DD
Cancer surgeons today operate “blind” with no clear way of determining in real-time whether they have removed all of the diseased tissue, which is the key to successful surgery. Researchers in Massachusetts now report development and early clinical trials of a new imaging system that highlights cancerous tissue in the body so that surgeons can more easily see and remove diseased tissue with less damage to normal tissue near the tumor.
The technique shows particular promise for improving surgery for breast, prostate, and lung cancer, whose tumor boundaries can be difficult to track at advanced stages, they say. The technique can also help cancer surgeons avoid cutting critical structures such as blood vessels and nerves, the scientists add.
“This technique is really the first time that cancer surgeons can see structures that are otherwise invisible, providing true image-guided surgery,” says project director John Frangioni. “If we’re able to see cancer, we have a chance of curing it.”
The system is called FLARE, or Fluorescence-Assisted Resection and Exploration. Under development for the past decade, the portable system consists of a near-infrared (NIR) imaging system, a video monitor, and a computer. “The system has no moving parts, uses LEDs instead of lasers for excitation, makes no contact with the patient, and is sterile,” Frangioni says. — MTS
Scientists and consumers have known for years that grapefruit juice can increase the absorption of certain drugs — with the potential for turning normal doses into toxic overdoses. Now, the researcher who first identified this interaction is reporting new evidence that grapefruit and other common fruit juices, including orange and apple, can do the opposite effect by substantially decreasing the absorption of other drugs, potentially wiping out their beneficial effects.
The study provides a new reason to avoid drinking grapefruit juice and these other juices when taking certain drugs, including some that are prescribed for fighting life-threatening conditions such as heart disease, cancer, organ-transplant rejection, and infection, the researcher says. These findings represent the first controlled human studies of this type of drug-lowering interaction, he says.
“Recently, we discovered that grapefruit and these other fruit juices substantially decrease the oral absorption of certain drugs undergoing intestinal uptake transport,” says study leader David G. Bailey. “The concern is loss of benefit of medications essential for the treatment of serious medical conditions.”
Bailey and colleagues announced almost 20 years ago the unexpected finding that grapefruit juice can dramatically boost the body’s levels of the high-blood-pressure drug felodipine, causing potentially dangerous effects from excessive drug concentrations in the blood. Since then, other researchers have identified nearly 50 medications that carry the risk of grapefruit-induced drug-overdose interactions. As a result of the so-called “Grapefruit Juice Effect,” some prescription drugs now carry warning labels against taking grapefruit juice or fresh grapefruit during drug consumption. — MTS
Fleets of inexpensive, pint-sized spacecraft are one giant leap closer to lift off, researchers report. Scientists describe a new, razor thin temperature-regulating film that brings this sci-fi vision of “micro-spacecraft” weighing barely 50 pounds and 10-pound “nano-spacecraft” closer to reality.
“We don’t have the processes in space to remove excess heat or keep the spacecraft warm in excess cold,” says Prasanna Chandrasekhar. “It may sound very trivial, but controlling the temperature of a spacecraft is absolutely crucial. Currently, there is no way to do it for very small spacecraft.”
With the cost of orbiting one pound of payload hovering around $5,000, micro-spacecraft are expected to be the thrust of future aerospace development. With these miniature craft, NASA, military and private firms will be able to launch more probes and satellites at lower cost, opening the doors to profound new applications for communications and defense. But before the first micro-spacecraft can blast off, scientists need to shrink the titanic thermal regulation systems used to help prevent today’s ships from frying in the harsh sunlight of space – or freezing in the pitch black absence of it. — AD
Amid rising concerns about oil supplies, the effects of global warming, and other environmental issues, ACS’ weekly newsmagazine Chemical & Engineering News is devoting nearly 40 pages of its Aug. 18 issue to the topic of sustainability — the ability to meet the needs of people today without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs, all without trashing the planet — and what it means for the chemical enterprise. C&EN’s package includes four essays and an editorial that describe the sweeping panorama of sustainability issues, concluding that chemists and chemistry will play key roles in finding solutions.
In C&EN’s lead essay, editor-in-chief Rudy M. Baum chronicles what he argues to be a recent tipping point by which the world has shifted from talking about sustainability to gearing up to achieve it. Three other major essays examine sustainability's impact on the chemical industry, governmental activities that encourage sustainable development, and how the science of chemistry must contribute to the field in thousands of specific ways.
Baum emphasizes in the lead article that the power of chemistry, including environmentally friendly chemicals and processes, has the ability to help society exist on Earth in a sustainable way. But he cautions that this transformation won’t be smooth and easy. “This is where the government enters the picture,” Baum says. “People, industries, and society itself must be given incentives to change their behavior and patterns of consumption. Some of the most successful incentives are and will be economic. Others will have to take the form of regulations.”
Embargoed press releases, a press briefing schedule, non-technical summaries of hundreds of papers, and abstracts of 8,000 papers are now available from the ACS and Eurekalert's ACS National Meeting page. Full audio and video from press briefings will be available via the Internet, with news media from remote locations able to submit questions. ACS’ 236th national meeting is one of 2008’s largest and most important scientific conferences, with about 12,000 scientists and others expected to attend. The multi-disciplinary theme is Chemistry for Health: Catalyzing Transitional Research.
The American Chemical Society (ACS) Office of Public Affairs is offering the news media the opportunity to join press briefings whether covering the meeting onsite or from a remote location. This format during ACS’ 236th national meeting Aug. 17-21 in Philadelphia will provide access to the increasing number of journalists who cover scientific meetings from their home base. Borrowing the popular chat room concept from the Internet, we will provide news media with access to both real and virtual chat room sessions during the Philadelphia meeting. Reporters attending the meeting can gather with scientists in an informal setting in our Press Center Chat Room, Room 303 A-B, at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. Reporters attending remotely can check the briefing schedule for instructions on joining the sessions. View the national meeting Press Briefing Schedule.
General science press releases on a variety of chemistry-related topics.
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