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.
All releases from which the following items were based can be found on the Online Abstract System Submission System (OASYS).
Our regular coverage of reports from ACS’ 36 major peer-reviewed journals and Chemical & Engineering News will resume with the August 27, 2008, edition.
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Researchers are reporting new evidence of a possible link between a history of moderate to severe middle ear infections in childhood and a tendency to be overweight later in life. Their study suggests that prompt diagnosis and treatment of middle ear infections — one of the most common childhood conditions requiring medical attention — may help fight obesity in some people.
Study leader Linda M. Bartoshuk noted that chronic, repeated ear infections can damage the chorda tympani nerve, which passes through the middle ear and controls taste sensations. Damage to this nerve appears to intensify the desire for fatty or high-energy foods, which could result in obesity, she said.
Other research has shown that middle ear infections, or otitis media, are becoming more common in children. Childhood obesity is likewise on the rise and has reached epidemic levels, particularly in the United States. Although scientists have known for years that ear infections can lead to hearing loss in children that can result in speech and language impairment, a possible link between ear infections and obesity has been largely unexplored until now, said Bartoshuk.
In the new study, scientists reviewed data collected from 245 patients (age 30 and older) with a history of middle ear infections and 1,055 patients with no such history. The study included questions about the patients’ dietary preferences among a set of 26 common foods and beverages ranging from low-fat to fatty foods. The researchers found that those with a history of ear infections were more likely to report a higher, more intense preference for fatty foods than others and were twice as likely to be obese. — MTS
EMBARGOED FOR RELEASE: Wednesday, Aug. 20, 8:30 a.m., Eastern Time
Chemists are reporting the first identification of a specific “odor profile” for skin cancer, a discovery that could form the basis of a rapid, non-invasive test for diagnosing the most common type of cancer in the United States. The findings may enable doctors in the future to diagnose skin cancer quickly and accurately by waving a handheld scanner or sensor above the skin, they say.
Skin cancer is on the rise in this country, particularly among women under age 40. The new findings could lead to the development of diagnostic tools that could potentially save lives by detecting skin cancer before there are any outward signs, such as suspicious moles, the researchers say.
Skin cancer is currently diagnosed by conducting a biopsy of suspicious moles or lesions on the skin, which can be a slow and painful process. In cases where there are no physical signs of skin cancer, the disease can be extremely difficult to detect, leading to a delayed or missed diagnosis. Having a diagnostic method to detect skin cancer without any apparent signs would give doctors a head-start in fighting the disease, the researchers say. — MTS
EMBARGOED FOR RELEASE: Wednesday, Aug. 20, 4:15 p.m., Eastern Time
Chemical engineers from Johns Hopkins University have broken the “mucus barrier,” engineering the first drug-delivery particles capable of passing through human mucus — regarded by many as nearly impenetrable — and carrying medication that could treat a range of diseases. Those conditions include lung cancer, cervical cancer and cystic fibrosis, the research noted in a presentation scheduled for the 236th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society.
“We studied the properties of disease-causing viruses that evolved to infect mucosal surfaces to engineer a coating that enables our drug delivery particles to penetrate mucus layers in minutes. In our new work, we have improved the coatings considerably to allow faster penetration for a wider array of particle sizes,” says lead presenter Samuel K. Lai, Ph.D.
Mucus, the slippery secretion lining the lung airways, surface of the eye, gastrointestinal tract, and female reproductive tract, may seem delicate. But it is a tenacious barrier, effectively keeping out most pathogens and limiting infections. — AD
EMBARGOED FOR RELEASE: Wednesday, Aug. 20, 8:30 a.m., Eastern Time
Some of the emissions were cut by almost half, says scientist George W. Malone. Trees also provide farms with the added benefit of reducing energy consumption, he noted.
Malone points out that trees have been used in the past as aesthetic barriers. His research on giving trees a new role in the poultry industry began in 2000, when residents near farms on the Delmarva Peninsula in Delaware, Maryland and Virginia complained about dust and odors from poultry houses that had recently switched to new ventilation systems.
Malone’s team suggested that planting vegetation could reduce ammonia and particulates that may degrade surrounding air and water quality. “We were aware of the concerns locally,” said Malone. “We looked at what we could do to address them and the whole area of air quality as it relates to the emission of ammonia from poultry houses.”
In response, they proposed planting trees to serve as a vegetative filter that could capture emissions from these family farms, which individually can house an average of 75,000 chickens. In a six-year study, Malone and his team found that a three-row plot of trees of various species and sizes reduced total dust by 56 percent, ammonia 53 percent, and odor 18 percent. The approach is being adopted around the Delmarva.
EMBARGOED FOR RELEASE: Wednesday, Aug. 20, 11 a.m., Eastern Time
Chemists in Pennsylvania are reporting a discovery that could expand the palate of human tastes — sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and savory — to include a new taste sensation that they term “calcium.”
Scientist Michael G. Tordoff and colleagues describe research they say demonstrates that a taste for calcium exists in mice. With mice and humans sharing many of the same genes, the findings suggest that people also may have such a taste, which could have a range of practical applications.
“People don’t consume as much calcium as nutritionists would like,” Tordoff said, “and one reason for this is that foods high in calcium don’t taste good to many people. Tweaking its taste could encourage a calcium-deficient population to consume more of this key nutrient.
“By understanding how calcium is detected in the mouth, we can either make it easier to consume by reducing its bad taste or even make pharmacological agents that make it taste better.” — JS
EMBARGOED FOR RELEASE: Wednesday, Aug. 20, 11:15 a.m., Eastern Time
A newly developed medical imaging technology may provide doctors with a long-awaited test for early diagnosis of osteoarthritis (OA), scientists are reporting. By far the most common form of arthritis, OA is a bane of the Baby Boom generation, causing joint pain and disability for more than half of those over 65 – nearly 21 million people in the United States.
Current diagnostic methods usually do not catch the disease until OA is in advanced stages when joint damage may already have occurred. A method for early diagnosis could open a window of opportunity for preventing or reducing permanent damage — especially with evidence that dietary supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin can halt further joint degeneration, says scientist Alexej Jerschow.
“Our methods have the potential of providing early warning signs for cartilage disorders like osteoarthritis, thus potentially avoiding surgery and physical therapy later on,” states Jerschow. “Also, the effectiveness of early preventative drug therapies can be better assessed with these methods.” — AD
EMBARGOED FOR RELEASE: Wednesday, Aug. 20, 4:15 p.m., Eastern Time
With the boom in consumption of organic foods creating a pressing need for natural insecticides and herbicides that can be used on crops certified as “organic,” biopesticide pioneer Pam G. Marrone is reporting development of a new “green” pesticide obtained from an extract of the giant knotweed.
That 12-foot-high Goliath, named for the jointed swollen nodes on its stem, invaded the U.S. from Japan years ago and grows along the East Coast and other areas. “The product is safe to humans, animals, and the environment,” says Marrone.
The new biopesticide has active compounds that alert plant defenses to combat a range of diseases, including powdery mildew, gray mold and bacterial blight that affect fruits, vegetables, and ornamentals. The product will be available this October for conventional growers, according to Marja Koivunen. A new formulation has also been developed for organic farmers and will be available in 2009. — JS
EMBARGOED FOR RELEASE: Thursday, Aug. 21, 9:45 a.m., Eastern Time
Getting little Doug and Debbie to take a spoonful of medicine is more than just a rite of passage for frustrated parents. Children’s refusal to swallow liquid medication — and their tendency to vomit it back up — is an important public health problem that means longer or more serious illness for thousands of kids each year. In the case of HIV and AIDS pediatrics, missing a dose can be a life or death scenario.
Julie A. Mennella describes how knowledge from basic research on the chemical senses explains why a child’s rejection of bitter medicine and nutritious but bitter-tasting foods like spinach and other green vegetables is a reflection of their basic biology.
“Children’s rejection of unpalatable medications and bitter-tasting foods is a complex product of maturing sensory systems, genetic variation, experiences and culture,” says Mennella.
She says that children are born with a much stronger preference for sweet flavors, naturally attracting infants to mother’s milk. This heightened preference for sweets continues even in their teenage years. By late adolescence, kids start to outgrow their sugary predilection.
“A better understanding of the sensory world of the child – and the scientific basis for distaste and how to ameliorate it – is a public health priority,” states Mennella. — AD
One of 2008's largest and most important scientific conferences — the 236th National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society — will be held Aug. 17-21, 2008, in Philadelphia, Pa. At least 12,000 scientists and others are expected for the event, which will include more than 8,000 reports on new discoveries in chemistry. The multi-disciplinary theme is Chemistry for Health: Catalyzing Transitional Research. Watch Eurekalert for embargoed press releases, a schedule of onsite press briefings that will be available via the Internet, and other information.
• “Live from Philadelphia”: Click here to view the Press Briefing Schedule for ACS 236th National Meeting
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. With more than 8,000 research presentations, this is one of the year’s largest and most significant scientific conferences. 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. Scientists will summarize their research and field questions. Offsite reporters can enter a virtual version of this chat room over the Internet. In addition to seeing and hearing the real-world activity, offsite reporters can submit questions.
Don’t miss this special series of ACS podcasts on some of the 21st Century’s most daunting challenges, and how cutting-edge research in chemistry matters in the quest for solutions. This sweeping panorama of challenges includes topics such as providing a hungry, thirsty world with ample supplies of safe food and clean water; developing alternatives to petroleum to fuel the global economy; preserving the environment and assuring a sustainable future for our children; and improving human health. An ongoing saga of chemistry for life — chemistry that truly matters — Global Challenges debuts June 25 with new episodes through December. Subscribe at iTunes or listen and access other resources at the ACS web site www.acs.org/GlobalChallenges.
Bytesize Science is a science podcast for kids of all ages that aims to entertain as much as it educates.
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EMBARGOED FOR RELEASE: Thursday, Aug. 21, 2 p.m., Eastern Time