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ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: December 17, 2008
Note to Journalists and Other Viewers
Here is the latest American Chemical Society (ACS) News Service Weekly PressPac with news from ACS’ 34 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.
Nothing to sneeze at: Real-time pollen forecasts
Researchers in Germany are reporting an advance toward development of technology that could make life easier for millions of people allergic to plant pollen. It could underpin the first automated, real-time systems for identifying specific kinds of allergy-inducing plant pollen circulating in the air. Their study is in the current issue of ACS’ Analytical Chemistry, a semi-monthly journal.
In the study, Janina Kneipp and colleagues explain that current pollen counts and allergy warnings are based on visual identification of the specific kind of pollen by examining pollen grains under a microscope. That procedure takes time, making it impossible for allergy-sufferers to know the kinds of pollen that are airborne on an hour-by-hour basis.
The researchers describe using a common laboratory procedure to identify chemical structures in pollen grains that distinguish oak and maple pollen, for instance, from maple and other kinds. They obtained these chemical “signatures” for 15 different kinds of tree pollen with the procedure, termed Raman spectroscopy. The researchers say that it could provide the basis for a real-time pollen detection and warning system to help allergy sufferers. — MTS
Researchers in Nevada are reporting that waste coffee grounds can provide a cheap, abundant, and environmentally friendly source of biodiesel fuel for powering cars and trucks. Their study appears in the current online issue of ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a bi-weekly publication.
In the new study, Mano Misra, Susanta Mohapatra, and Narasimharao Kondamudi note that the major barrier to wider use of biodiesel fuel is lack of a low-cost, high quality source, or feedstock, for producing that new energy source. Spent coffee grounds contain between 11 and 20 percent oil by weight. That’s about as much as traditional biodiesel feedstocks such as rapeseed, palm, and soybean oil.
Growers produce more than 16 billion pounds of coffee around the world each year. The used or “spent” grounds remaining from production of espresso, cappuccino, and plain old-fashioned cups of java, often wind up in the trash or find use as soil conditioner. The scientists estimated, however, that spent coffee grounds can potentially add 340 million gallons of biodiesel to the world’s fuel supply.
To verify it, the scientists collected spent coffee grounds from a multinational coffeehouse chain and separated the oil. They then used an inexpensive process to convert 100 percent of the oil into biodiesel.
The resulting coffee-based fuel — which actually smells like java — had a major advantage in being more stable than traditional biodiesel due to coffee's high antioxidant content, the researchers say. Solids left over from the conversion can be converted to ethanol or used as compost, the report notes. The scientists estimate that the process could make a profit of more than $8 million a year in the U.S. alone. They plan to develop a small pilot plant to produce and test the experimental fuel within the next six to eight months. — MTS
Chemists in Canada have developed a new approach for producing more effective medical antifreeze fluids for preserving kidneys, hearts, and other organs donated for transplantation. These next-generation antifreezes can decrease damage to organs caused by ice crystals, and thus prolong the time a donated organ will remain viable prior to transplantation. This could increase the number of available organs for potential recipients. Their study is scheduled for the current issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society, a weekly publication.
Robert N. Ben and colleagues note that the growth of ice crystals is a major cause of damage to cells, tissues and organs during cryopreservation, which leaves them unusable for transplantation. To address this challenge, the researchers developed synthetic antifreeze materials, called C-linked antifreeze glycoprotein analogues (C-AFGP). These proteins contain a sugar coating and have custom-tailored antifreeze activity.
Now the scientists describe the development of “hydration index” that can be used to more reliably predict how prospective antifreeze materials will behave. Their index provides a clearer picture of how water molecules interact with the sugar component (as well as native AFGP) and affect their chemical behavior. This is a key to understanding their ability to resist the formation of ice crystals when chilled. — MTS
Scientists in Japan are reporting an advance toward using a natural disease-fighting protein in pills or syrups that patients can take by mouth rather than injection. Their study is the first to show that coating the protein with a polymer material already in wide medical use can increase its absorption by the intestine. The research appears in the current issue of ACS’ Bioconjugate Chemistry, a monthly journal.
In the study, Atsushi Sato and colleagues note that the protein — lactoferrin (LF) — occurs in saliva, breast milk and other body fluids, where it has powerful effects in fighting bacteria, viruses, and inflammation. LF is sparking excitement as a potential treatment for cancer, gangrene, hepatitis, and a host of other diseases. Although LF is available as a dietary supplement and as an experimental oral drug, acid in the stomach quickly destroys existing forms of LF, reducing the protein’s effects.
The scientists found that laboratory rats absorbed 10 times more LF if the protein is coated with the polymer, called polyethylene glycol (PEG). In addition, the coated PEG remained active in the bloodstream longer than the uncoated protein. The scientists also showed that the coated drug retained most of its disease-fighting potency, including antibacterial, antioxidative and anti-inflammatory activity, compared to the uncoated drug. The PEG-coating technique not only is a promising advance toward making lactoferrin an oral drug, but also may be used to convert other healthful food proteins into useful drugs, the researchers note. — MTS
The trees of Christmas future may be safer from an insect pest that makes Ebenezer Scrooge’s famous nightmare pale in comparison — killing millions of pine trees, according to an scheduled for the December 22 issue of Chemical & Engineering News, ACS’ weekly newsmagazine. That tiny beetle, which is decimating the certain populations of pine trees, has led chemists to develop new, more effective control methods that could help save these economically and environmentally important trees, it added.
In the article, C&EN Associate Editor Rachel Petkewich points out that the mountain pine beetle has killed millions of acres of pine trees. About the size of a grain of rice, the beetles damage trees by boring into bark and depositing their eggs. Dead trees also pose a forest fire risk, the article notes.
Scientists now are fighting back with a combination of chemistry and forestry management techniques. The management techniques involve removing infected trees, diversifying tree species, monitoring beetle populations, and thinning forests in advance of an outbreak. Researchers are also experimenting with chemical protection and control methods using bug-repelling plant hormones and insecticides, according to the article.
- ACS Office of Public Affairs creates press room page on Twitter
The American Chemical Society’s Office of Public Affairs (OPA) has established a satellite press room on Twitter to increase availability of news from ACS’ 34 major peer-reviewed journals on health, energy, the environment, nanotechnology and other notable topics. To receive press room updates, create a free account at https://twitter.com/signup. Then visit http://twitter.com/ACSpressroom and click the ‘join’ button beneath the press room logo.
- Save the Date: ACS 237th National Meeting in 2009
ACS' 237th National Meeting in Salt Lake City, March 22-26, 2009. Expect more than 7,000 presentations on the broad spectrum of the sciences that involve chemistry — from astronomy to zoology. For advance complimentary news media registration: https://www.xpressreg.net/register/acsa039/media/start.asp
- 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.
General science press releases on a variety of chemistry-related topics.
- From Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS)
CAS - Science Connections is a series of articles that showcases the value of CAS databases in light of important general-interest science and technology news. Ranging in topics from fruit flies to Nobel Prize winners, the CAS - Science Connections series points to the CAS databases for a more complete understanding of the latest news.
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