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ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: June 04, 2008

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News Items in this Edition

“Super paper:” New nanopaper more break-resistant than cast iron

Researchers in Sweden and Japan report development of a new type of paper that resists breaking when pulled almost as well as cast iron. The new material, called “cellulose nanopaper,” is made of sub-microscopic particles of cellulose and may open the way for expanded use of paper as a construction material and in other applications, they suggest. Their study is scheduled for the June 9 issue of ACS’ Biomacromolecules, a monthly journal.

In the new study, Lars A. Berglund and colleagues note that cellulose — a tough, widely available substance obtained from plants — has potential as a strong, lightweight ingredient in composites and other materials in a wide range of products. Although cellulose-based composites have high strength, existing materials are brittle and snap easily when pulled.

The study described a solution to this problem. It involves exposing wood pulp to certain chemicals to produce cellulose nanopaper. Their study found that its tensile strength — a material’s ability to resist pull before snapping — exceeded that of cast iron. They also were able to adjust the paper’s strength by changing its internal structure. — MTS

Love that garlic? Fresh may be healthier than bottled

The next time you use garlic for its renowned antibacterial effects, consider fresh garlic instead of those bottles of chopped garlic. Researchers in Japan report that fresh garlic maintains higher levels of a key healthy ingredient than preserved versions and may be better for you. Their study is scheduled for the June 25 issue of ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a bi-weekly publication.

In the new study, Toyohiko Ariga and colleagues point out that allicin is one of the main active ingredients in garlic. Other studies have shown that allicin has beneficial effects in preventing blood clots, cancer, and bacterial infection. Although commercially bottled garlic is often stored in oil or water, researchers did not know how various storage and preservation methods affect levels of allicin, which is fragile and disappears quickly.

To find out, Ariga’s group compared allicin levels in extracts of fresh garlic after 1-2 weeks of storage in water, alcohol, and vegetable oil. Garlic stored in water at room temperature lost about half its allicin in 6 days and garlic in vegetable oil lost half its allicin in less than an hour. The garlic lost its antibacterial action as allicin broke down. However, allicin broke down into materials that still are believed to have some anticancer and anti-blood clot effects. — MTS

Sniffing out a broad-spectrum of airborne threats in seconds

Scientists in California are reporting successful laboratory and field tests of a new device that can sniff out the faintest traces of a wide range of chemical, biological, nuclear, and explosive threats - and illicit drugs - from the air in minutes with great accuracy. The ultra-sensitive detector, known as the single-particle aerosol mass spectrometry (SPAMS) system, could tighten security at airports, sports stadiums and other large-scale facilities, according to their report, scheduled for the July 1 issue of ACS’ Analytical Chemistry, a semi-monthly journal.

Matthias Frank and colleagues explain that chemical, biological, nuclear, and explosive materials, as well as illicit drugs, all release minute amounts of aerosol particles into the air. Detecting these particles requires a device with a high sensitivity, low probability of false alarms, and a fast response time. “SPAMS uniquely meets these requirements in realistic field environments,” the report states. While other aerosol detectors exist, SPAMS is specifically designed for the rapid detection of low-concentration aerosols, it adds.

The study describes laboratory tests of SPAMS and extended field tests at San Francisco International Airport. It showed that within seconds, SPAMS detected a diverse set of materials including simulants for potentially hazardous biological, chemical and radiological materials, as well as actual explosives and drugs. The study terms SPAMS a “significant and important advance in rapid aerosol threat detection.” — AD

Inhalable form of gene-therapy takes aim at lung cancer and inflammatory lung disease

A new inhalable form of gene therapy — based on technology recognized in the 2006 Nobel medicine prize, shows increasing promise for treating lung cancer, infectious diseases and inflammatory lung disease, scientists have concluded after an exhaustive review of worldwide research on the topic. Their report is scheduled for the June 2 issue of ACS’ Molecular Pharmaceutics, a bi-monthly journal.

In the article, Sally-Ann Cryan, Niamh Durcan, and Charlotte Murphy focus on research efforts to develop an inhalable form of RNA interference (RNAi), a gene-therapy technique that interferes with or “silences” genes that make disease-causing proteins. The authors explain that RNAi has advantages over other gene therapies. It is potent, very specific, and appears to have a low risk of side effects.

They cite encouraging results with RNAi in laboratory studies in cells and animals with a range of lung diseases, including lung cancer, certain respiratory infections and inflammatory lung disease. Keys to successful therapy in humans include careful design of the gene-silencing agents, determining the most effective doses, and developing better ways of delivering RNAi agents to the lungs, the scientists say. — MTS

Researchers band together in global battle on bacterial biofilms

The discovery that bacteria are not loners, but social creatures that congregate and chemically communicate in communities — termed biofilms — has sparked a global scientific effort to control spread of these slimy coatings that grow on hospital surfaces, inside tubing, and a multitude of other places. That’s the topic of an article scheduled for the June 9 issue of Chemical & Engineering News, ACS’ weekly newsmagazine.

In the C&EN cover story, Senior Editor Lisa M. Jarvis points that biofilms are the major culprit behind hospital-acquired infections that are now the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, claiming thousands of lives each year. Biofilms also cause other problems ranging from dental plaque to the biofouling of ship hulls. The films are large, complex communities of bacteria that are difficult to kill.

But researchers from academia and industry are now collaborating in a global effort to develop promising new strategies to combat this problem. New approaches include the development of non-stick surfaces and the identification of chemicals that silence bacterial communication or starve them of key nutrients. The first commercial compound to specifically target biofilms is still a few years away, according to the article.

Journalists’ Resources

  • Save the Date: ACS’s 236th National Meeting, August 17-21, Philadelphia

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

  • 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.

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