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ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: August 27, 2008
- A “lab on a chip” to improve success of in vitro fertilization
- New evidence on folic acid in the diet and colon cancer
- Cinnamon-based packaging to prevent mold in bread and other baked goods
- Vaginal proteins in HIV-resistant prostitutes suggest new prevention measures
- Helping cystic fibrosis patients breathe easier
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News Items in this Edition
In a finding that could boost the success rate of in vitro fertilization (IVF), researchers report development of a tiny “lab on a chip” to evaluate the fitness of embryos harvested for transfer. A report on the approach — which researchers describe as faster, easier, and more reliable than conventional embryo selection methods — is scheduled for the Sept. 1 issue of ACS’ Analytical Chemistry, a semi-monthly journal.
In the new study, Todd Thorsen and colleagues note that the current method for evaluating an embryo's fitness for IVF involves microscopic examination of the embryo’s physical characteristics, such as cell shape, which is time-consuming and unreliable. Almost 130,000 women undergo IVF procedures each year in the U.S. alone, but the procedure has only a 30 percent success rate. To boost IVF success, doctors often transfer more than one embryo to the uterus, which can lead to multiple births and increases the pregnancy risks to mother and child. A better, more targeted method of embryo selection is needed, the researchers say.
The scientists describe development of a so-called microfluidic chip, about the size of a quarter. It is intended to automatically analyze the health of embryos intended for transplant by measuring how the embryo alters key nutrients in the tissue culture medium used to nurture embryos. In laboratory studies, the researchers collected fluids surrounding 10 mouse embryos and added the fluids to the computer-controlled chip for analysis. They showed that the device could quickly (in minutes instead of hours) and accurately measure the nutrient content of the sample fluids. Besides improving the quality of embryos chosen for IVF, the system could ultimately cut costs associated with the procedure, the scientists say. — MTS
Researchers in the United Kingdom and Texas are reporting a new, more detailed explanation for the link between low folate intake and an increased risk for colon cancer, the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States. Their study, which reinforces the importance of folate in a healthy diet, is scheduled for the current (August) issue of ACS’ monthly Journal of Proteome Research.
Susan Duthie and colleagues note that researchers have known for years that a deficiency of folate, one of the B vitamins commonly called folic acid, increases the risk of birth defects. As a result, manufacturers enrich some foods with folate. Scientists also have found that low folate in the diet increases the risk of developing colon cancer in adults. However, scientists lack an adequate explanation of how folate depletion affects the genes, proteins, and cells involved in cancer.
In this new research, scientists grew human colon cells in folate-depleted and folate-enriched tissue culture. They found that folate depletion caused increased DNA damage and a cascade of other biological changes linked to an increased cancer risk. — MTS
Bread that goes moldy is the bane of consumers and bakers alike, ruining appetites and wasting food and money. Now, researchers in Spain report development of a new type of paper packaging made with cinnamon oil that appears to prolong the freshness of bread and other baked goods by up to 10 days. The packaging, which appears safe and environmentally friendly, will be described in the Aug. 13 issue of ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
In the new study, Cristina NerÍn, A. Rodriguez, and D. Ramón Battle point out that scientists have tried many different approaches for fighting mold growth in bread, including ultraviolet light, sterile packaging, and the use of chemical preservatives. So-called active packaging, which attacks bread mold with antimicrobials, may provide a better alternative, the researchers say.
The scientists prepared active packaging composed of paraffin wax paper with different concentrations of cinnamon essential oil, which has high antimicrobial activity. They then inoculated fresh white bread with a common mold species and stored the bread in either plain wax paper or cinnamon-based wax paper for several days. After just three days, the packaging containing just 6 percent cinnamon oil inhibited 96 percent of mold growth, whereas the plain wax paper did not prevent mold growth, the researchers say. The cinnamon-based wrapper continued to inhibit mold for up to 10 days. — MTS
Researchers in Canada report discovery of unusual proteins in a small group of Kenyan sex workers that appear to be associated with resistance to infection with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. The discovery could lead to the improved design of vaccines and drugs to fight the deadly virus, which infects an estimated 40 million people worldwide, the scientists say in a report scheduled for the Sept. 3 issue of ACS’ Journal of Proteome Research, a monthly publication.
In the new study, Adam Burgener and colleagues note that 140 of more than 2000 sex workers studied in Nairobi, Kenya, appear resistant to HIV infection. Although evidence suggests that certain biological factors in their vaginal fluid may play a role in resistance, the exact identity of these substances was unclear.
The scientists used a high-tech analytical method to compare differences among proteins in vaginal fluids from HIV-resistant women and those infected with the virus or susceptible to it. HIV-resistant women had proteins significantly different from other women. Vaginal fluids of the HIV-resistant women had higher levels of proteins with anti-viral and anti-inflammatory actions. These proteins could be used as the basis for new medications to prevent infection, the scientists suggest. — MTS
Researchers are reporting progress toward developing a wave of new drugs that could dramatically improve the health of patients with cystic fibrosis (CF), which remains difficult to treat with today’s drugs, according to an article scheduled for the September 1 issue of Chemical & Engineering News, ACS’ weekly newsmagazine.
In C&EN’s cover story, Senior Editor Lisa Jarvis explains that CF, which affects 30,000 Americans, is a genetic disease with symptoms that include excessive accumulation of mucus in the lungs. The condition makes breathing difficult and predisposes patients to chronic infections. Conventional treatments include aerosolized versions of anti-inflammatory agents and antibiotics, which are time-consuming to administer and have limited effectiveness. However, these drugs target CF’s symptoms rather than the underlying disease itself, the article notes.
The article describes how pharmaceutical companies are now developing new drugs that target the disease itself. Some help to keep the lungs healthier by restoring the function of the defective CF gene, according to the article. And in some cases, the drug can be taken as a pill rather than inhaled, making administration easier for patients, the article notes.
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