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ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: July 09, 2008
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News Items in this Edition
Researchers in Ohio and New Mexico are reporting an advance in the quest for a fast, sensitive test to detect flu viruses — one that requires no refrigeration and can be used in remote areas of the world where new flu viruses often emerge. Their new method, the first to use sugar molecules rather than antibodies, is in the July 2 issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society, a weekly publication.
In the new study, Jurgen Schmidt, Suri Iyer, and colleagues point out that conventional tests for flu viruses — including bird flu — rely on antibodies, proteins produced by the immune system, to recognize viruses. But antibody-based tests can be expensive and require refrigeration to remain stable.
Their solution involved development of artificial forms of sialic acid, a sugar molecule found on the surface of cells that flu viruses attach to when they attack humans. In laboratory tests, the researchers showed that their highly-selective artificial sugars could be used to quickly capture and recognize two common strains of influenza viruses, H1N1, which infects birds, and H3N2, which infects pigs and humans. They used the molecules to differentiate between 2 strains (Sydney and Beijing) commonly found in human infections without isolating the viral RNA or surface glycoproteins. The sugars remain stable for several months, can be produced in large quantities, and exhibit extended shelf life. — MTS
Researchers in California and New Hampshire report the first detailed characterization of the protein composition of the hard, fang-like jaws of a common marine worm. Their work could lead to the design of a new class of super-strong, lightweight materials for use as construction and repair materials for spacecraft, airplanes, and other applications. Their study is scheduled for the July 14 issue of ACS’ Biomacromolecules, a monthly journal.
In the new study, Chris C. Broomell and colleagues note that Nereis virens, also known as the sandworm or ragworm, is a burrowing marine worm found in shallow waters in the North Atlantic region. Researchers remain intrigued by the remarkable hardness of its jaws and long pincers, which rivals that of human teeth and exceed the hardness of many synthetic plastics. But little is known about the exact chemical composition of these structures.
Broomell and colleagues collected the jaws of 1,000 worms and analyzed their protein content using high-tech instrumentation. They found that the primary chemical in the jaws and pincers of the worm is a unique protein, named Nereis virens jaw protein-1 (Nvjp-1), which is rich in the amino acid histidine. The researchers also characterized the chemical conditions needed for its formation, such as the presence of zinc, which could allow researchers to create synthetic versions of this super-hard, lightweight material.
Researchers in New Jersey report discovery of a fast, efficient method for removing a powerful pesticide used to sterilize buildings and equipment following anthrax attacks. Their chemical “scrubber” removes 99 percent of the pesticide following fumigation and could pave the way for its broader use in anthrax clean-up efforts, the scientists say. Their study is scheduled for the July 18 issue of ACS’ Organic Process Research & Development, a bi-monthly journal.
In the new study, Roman Bielski and Peter J. Joyce note that the commonly used pesticide, methyl bromide, is superior to chlorine dioxide for destroying anthrax-causing bacteria and their spores. However, it is highly toxic to humans and may harm the environment by destroying the ozone layer. Researchers thus have sought an efficient method for removing this promising anthrax decontamination agent.
Bielski and Joyce documented the effectiveness of their removal method in experiments with an empty office trailer filled with air containing methyl bromide. They treated air exhausted from the trailer with a solution of sodium sulfide combined with a powerful catalyst. This chemical “scrubber” removed more than 99 percent of the methyl bromide from the air.
Just as people give away their origins by that southern drawl or New England twang, poisonous snakes produce venom that differs distinctly from one geographic area to another, the first study of the “snake venomics” of one of the most common pit vipers in Latin America has found. The study is scheduled for the August 1 issue of ACS’ monthly Journal of Proteome Research.
In the new study, Juan J. Calvete and colleagues point out that researchers have known for decades that venom collected from snakes of the same species from different geographic locations can differ in terms of their biological effects and symptoms on snakebite victims. However, scientists know little about the chemical differences behind these geographically different venoms.
To find out, the scientists collected venom samples from adult and newborn specimens of the lancehead pitviper from two geographically isolated populations from the Caribbean and Pacific regions of Costa Rica. After a detailed laboratory analysis of the proteins found in the venom — so-called “snake venomics” — the researchers found major differences in the venoms collected from the two regions. They also found distinct differences in proteins collected from newborns and adult snakes. The study “highlights the necessity of using pooled venoms as a statistically representative venom for antivenom production” for human snakebite victims, the report states.
From solar power to computer chips to advanced lighting, new materials developed by chemists are helping consumers reap the benefits of advanced electronics, according to an article scheduled for the July 15 issue of Chemical & Engineering News. Some of these electronics will soon appear on store shelves and offices near you.
In the C&EN cover story, writers Michael McCoy, Alexander Tullo, and Jean-Francois Tremblay point out that so-called ‘electronic chemicals’ play key roles in today’s advanced electronics but go largely unnoticed by consumers. These unsung materials, part of a multibillion dollar electronic materials market, provide improved solar panels that crank out more fossil fuel-free electricity and new computer chips that are smaller and more energy efficient than ever. These materials also fuel the development of organic light emitting diodes (OLEDs) that promise energy savings and could render today’s incandescent light bulbs and fluorescent bulbs obsolete, according to the article.
But making advanced electronics comes with a steep price. Chemical companies now invest billions of dollars to build new manufacturing plants to produce raw materials for advanced electronics. Manufacturers are also spending heavily on research and development, as new electronic advances demand innovative new chemicals, the article states.
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. Stay tuned for information on registration, housing, press releases, and onsite press briefings that will be available via the Internet.ress releases, chat room sessions, and more from ACS’ 235th National Meeting.
The 2007 ACS annual report, Our Science, Our Lives, Our Stories, can be a valuable resource for journalists trying to keep pace with chemistry and the multiple fields of science that involve chemistry. The report features ACS members describing in their own words why they became chemists, what they find rewarding about their work and how the transforming power of chemistry helps address mounting global problems and improves people’s lives. Some are humorous, some are poignant. All of them are compelling. The newly published report is at: http://www.acsannualreport.org/acsannualreport/2007.
Pfizer’s deep-tank fermentation — a revolutionary process that enabled mass production of penicillin for use in World War II — was designated a National Historic Chemical Landmark by the American Chemical Society (ACS) in a special ceremony in Brooklyn, N.Y., on June 12. The process ushered in the era of antibiotics and represented a turning point in modern medicine. After World War II, Pfizer applied its deep-tank fermentation to manufacture the antibiotics streptomycin and Terramycin®, which proved effective against a wide range of deadly bacteria. For more information, click here for the press release.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
General science press releases on a variety of chemistry-related topics.
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.
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