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ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: December 10, 2008
- High pesticide levels found in fruit-based drinks in some countries outside U.S.
- Advance in the battle against “gray mold”
- Tiny delivery system with a big impact on cancer cells
- Tracking community-wide drug use by testing water at sewage treatment plants
- Healthy make-over: Natural colors replace artificial colorants in foods, beverages
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Here is the latest American Chemical Society (ACS) News Service Weekly PressPac with news from ACS’ 34 peer-reviewed journals and Chemical & Engineering News.
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High pesticide levels found in fruit-based drinks in some countries outside U. S.
In the first worldwide study of pesticides in fruit-based soft drinks, researchers in Spain are reporting relatively high levels of pesticides in drinks in some countries, especially the United Kingdom and Spain. Drinks sampled from the United States, however, had relatively low levels, the researchers note. Their study is scheduled for the December 15 issue of ACS’ Analytical Chemistry, a semi-monthly journal.
In the report, Antonio Molina-DÍaz, Amadeo FernÁndez-Alba and colleagues note that strict regulations limit pesticide levels in fresh fruits, vegetables, and drinking water. However, regulators have paid less attention to the presence of pesticides in soft drinks made from fruits. Scientists are increasingly concerned about the possible impact of pesticide-containing fruit juices on the health of children, who tend to consume large amounts of such soft drinks, they add.
The scientists used a sophisticated lab test to measure levels of a wide range of common pesticides in more than 100 fruit-based soft drink samples from 15 different countries. They tested for pesticides such as carbendazim, thiabendazole, and imazalil, and malathion, which are applied to crops after harvest and can remain on fruits and vegetables during processing. They found relatively large concentrations of pesticides, in the micrograms per liter range, in most of the samples analyzed. Samples from Spain and the U. K. had the highest levels of pesticides, while samples from the U. S. and Russia were among the lowest. “Steps should be taken toward the removal of pesticides in these beverages by changing the way they are manufactured,” the researchers conclude. — MTS
Scientists are reporting identification of the cluster of genes responsible for the toxins produced by “gray mold,” a devastating plant disease that kills almost 200 different food and ornamental plants including tomatoes, strawberries and roses. Their findings could lead to genetically engineered crops or new fungicides to fight this disease, which frustrates backyard gardeners and commercial farmers alike, the researchers say. The study is in the current online issue issue of ACS Chemical Biology, a monthly journal.
David Cane, Isidro Collado, Muriel Viaud and colleagues note that gray mold is so-named because it covers infected plants with fuzzy gray spores that can ultimately kill plants. A fungus named Botrytis cinerea causes the disease. Studies show that the fungus kills by producing two main plant toxins, botrydial and botcinic acid. Conventional fungicides are largely ineffective in destroying the fungus, which can easily spread to other plants.
In the new study, the scientists describe the identification of five genes involved in producing the enzymes that are responsible for making the toxins produced by the fungus. In lab studies, the researchers showed that inactivating one of the genes, called BcBOT2, blocked the gene cluster’s ability to make the botrydial toxin. The finding could help the development of new, more effective fungicides or other resistance strategies, that target the ability of B. cinerea to make botrydial, the researchers suggest. — MTS
Researchers at Penn State University are reporting for the first time that nanoparticles 1/5,000 the diameter of a human hair encapsulating an experimental anticancer agent, kill human melanoma and drug-resistant breast cancer cells growing in laboratory cultures. The discovery could lead to the development of a new generation of anti-cancer drugs that are safer and more effective than conventional chemotherapy agents, the scientists suggest. The research is scheduled for the Dec. 10 issue of ACS’ Nano Letters, a monthly journal.
In the new study, Mark Kester, James Adair and colleagues at Penn State's Hershey Medical Center and University Park campus point out that certain nanoparticles have shown promise as drug delivery vehicles. However, many of these particles will not dissolve in body fluids and are toxic to cells, making them unsuitable for drug delivery in humans. Although promising as an anti-cancer agent, ceramide also is insoluble in the blood stream, making delivery to cancer cells difficult.
The scientists report a potential solution with development of calcium phosphate nanocomposite particles (CPNPs). The particles are soluble and with ceramide encapsulated with the calcium phosphate, effectively make ceramide soluble. With ceramide encapsulated inside, the CPNPs killed 95 percent of human melanoma cells and was “highly effective” against human breast cancer cells that are normally resistant to anticancer drugs, the researchers say.
Penn State Research Foundation has licensed the calcium phosphate nanocomposite particle technology known as "NanoJackets" to Keystone Nano, Inc. MK and JA are CMO and CSO, respectively. — MTS.
Scientists in Oregon and Washington State are reporting the development and successful testing of a new method for determining the extent of illicit drug use in entire communities from water flushed down toilets that enters municipal wastewater treatment plants. The technique may be an effective tool for comparing drug use in different regions of the United States and the world, they note in a study is scheduled for the December 15 issue of ACS’ Environmental Science & Technology, a semi-monthly journal.
In the study, Aurea C. Chiaia and colleagues note that the new test eliminates the need for sample preparation — saving time and money and decreasing the risk of sample contamination. They proved the test’s effectiveness by measured levels of illegal drugs like methamphetamine and legal drugs like prescription painkillers in wastewater from seven U.S. municipalities. The research team also tested the levels of ‘urine indicators’ such as creatinine, a metabolic byproduct that can be used as an indicator of drug use.
The scientists determined the ‘index loads’ of the different drugs — the amount of drug per person per day — based on estimates of the population served by each wastewater facility. These calculated index loads generally reflect known illegal drug use patterns in the U.S. and worldwide. The loads for methamphetamine in western and southern U.S. were much larger than previous reports from Europe, for example. The authors proposed that urine indicator compounds like creatinine could be used in place of population estimates — which can fluctuate and be unreliable — to determine more accurate community-level drug index loads, which can then be compared between municipalities. — KSD
In the future, Santa may be leaving candy canes and nibbling holiday cookies that are a little duller, but better for your health. The reason? Food color manufacturers are going natural. Food manufacturers worldwide are increasingly turning to more natural colors in an effort to replace potentially harmful, though often dazzling, artificial colorings now used in many foods and beverages. An article on this topic is scheduled for the December 15 issue of Chemical & Engineering News, ACS’ weekly newsmagazine.
In the article, C&EN senior editor Melody Voith points out that some artificial colors, such as Red #40, have been linked to hyperactivity in children as well as other health problems. Such health concerns have spurred colorant phase-outs and new regulations, causing manufacturers to search for natural alternatives. Food coloring now represents a $1.2 billion global market, with natural colors capturing 31 percent of the food market but growing at a rate of 5 percent yearly, according to the article.
The switch is not easy. Food manufacturers are finding it difficult to substitute synthetic colors with natural ones that preserve the exact look and appeal of the original product, whose quality consumers often judge by appearance. That’s why researchers are now experimenting with a wide range of natural colorants derived from dark-colored vegetables in an effort to closely match their artificial counterparts. Ingredient makers are looking, for example, to red cabbage and purple sweet potatoes to provide new natural sources of red, purple, and blue, the article notes.
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.
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