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ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: August 27, 2008

Note to Journalists and Other Viewers

Here is the latest American Chemical Society (ACS) News Service Weekly PressPac with news from ACS’ 36 peer-reviewed journals and Chemical & Engineering News.

This information is intended for your personal use in news gathering and reporting and should not be distributed to others. Anyone using advance ACS News Service Weekly PressPac information for stocks or securities dealing may be guilty of insider trading under the federal Securities Exchange Act of 1934.

Please cite the individual journal, or the American Chemical Society, as the source of this information.

News Items in this Edition

A “lab on a chip” to improve success of in vitro fertilization

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

New evidence on folic acid in the diet and colon cancer

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

Cinnamon-based packaging to prevent mold in bread and other baked goods

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

Vaginal proteins in HIV-resistant prostitutes suggest new prevention measures

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

Helping cystic fibrosis patients breathe easier

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.

Journalists’ Resources

  • Press releases, chat room sessions, and more from ACS' 236th National Meeting

It's never too late to explore a treasure trove of news sources, background material and story ideas available from the ACS' latest National Meeting, which was held in Philadelphia from August 17-21, 2008. Reporters can view press releases, search an archive with abstracts of more than 9,000 scientific presentations and hundreds of non-technical summaries of those presentations, and access other resources at: www.eurekalert.org/acsmeet.php.

The ACS Office of Public Affairs also offers recorded video versions of its national meeting "chat room" briefings and accompanying chat transcripts by going to http://www.ustream.tv/channel/acslive. To use this site, you must first register with Ustream.tv by going to http://ustream.tv/sign-up-step-1. It's free and only takes a minute or two to sign up. To view the archived chat room sessions, proceed by clicking the "Login" button at the top right of the Ustream window and then selecting "Past Clips." Please note that Ustream requires the latest version of Adobe Flash, which can be downloaded without charge at http://www.adobe.com/products/flashplayer.

  • ChemMatters Matters for Journalists

This quarterly ACS magazine for high school chemistry students, teachers, and others explains the chemistry that underpins everyday life in a lively, understandable fashion. ChemMatters is available at www.acs.org/chemmatters. You can also receive the most recent issues by contacting the editor, Pat Pages, at: 202-872-6164 or chemmatters@acs.org.

  • ACS Press Releases

General science press releases on a variety of chemistry-related topics.

For Wired Readers

  • Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions

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, a podcast for young listeners

Bytesize Science is a science podcast for kids of all ages that aims to entertain as much as it educates.

No iTunes? No problem. Listen to latest episodes of Bytesize Science in your web browser

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.

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