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ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: March 19, 2008

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The American Chemical Society (ACS) News Service Weekly press package (PressPac) offers information on reports selected from 36 major 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

Toward a new generation of vaccines for malaria and other diseases

Researchers in Colombia, South America, describe a new strategy for designing the next generation of synthetic vaccines that could lead to more effective treatments for fighting malaria, tuberculosis, AIDS and other infectious diseases. These conditions kill more than 17 million people around the world each year. Their study appears in the current issue of ACS’ Accounts of Chemical Research, a monthly journal.

Traditional vaccine development involves the use of microorganisms to trigger an immune response by the body. However, this approach can produce unwanted side effects and may be ineffective against microbes with extremely complex infection cycles. Therefore, researchers agree on the need for better vaccine.

In the study, Manuel E. Patarroyo and his son Manuel A. Patarroyo describe a completely new strategy for designing more effective vaccines, which are chemically synthesized in the laboratory without the use of microorganisms. They identified dozens of key protein fragments involved in the complex infection process of the malaria parasite, from which they designed, specifically modified and synthesized chemically some of the most promising malaria vaccine candidates that have been tested to date.

Likewise, identifying the disease-related protein fragments involved in the complex infection process of other transmittable diseases could result in new, more effective vaccines to help fight these diseases, the scientists say. They also note that this innovative approach establishes for the first time the emerging rules for the development of vaccines against diseases scourging humankind. — MTS

New triple-threat weapon needed in war between man and microbe

Mankind’s age-old battle against infectious diseases stands to rage on and on, unless scientists develop a new generation of triple-action antibiotics, according to an article scheduled for the March 28 issue of ACS’ monthly Journal of Natural Products.

In the article, Lester A. Mitscher presents a “rather personalized” account of the turbulent tug-of-war between microbes and mankind, describing past tactics, lessons learned, and a cautious prediction about the road ahead.

Mitscher notes, for instance, that “miracle drugs” in the 1940s and ’50s failed to live up to expectations. Though penicillin promised an end to infections worldwide in 1941, reports of resistant bacteria appeared only a year later. “Significant clinical resistance is now known for virtually all antibiotics in medical use,” the article states. “Unfortunately, the problem is getting worse since big pharma has largely withdrawn from research directed toward new antibiotic discovery.”

The review concludes that microbial resistance is inevitable pending unforeseen breakthroughs. One involves development of new antibiotics that go beyond killing or slowing the growth of disease-causing microbes. Those new medications would contain antimutagenic ingredients that discourage bacteria from mutating into resistant forms. In addition, they would pack immunostimulants that enlist the body’s own immune defense system to fight off an infection. “Continued close observation and exploitation of natural phenomena appear at present to be the wisest course for scientists to follow in trying to deal with this problem,” says Mitscher. — AD

Water pollution continues at famous Russian lake

Despite widespread concerns about preserving the world’s largest body of fresh water, researchers report that pollution is continuing in Russia’s fabled Lake Baikal. The study is scheduled for the April 15 issue of ACS’ Environmental Science & Technology, a semi-monthly journal.

The deepest lake in the world, Lake Baikal holds 20 percent of the world’s unfrozen freshwater and is home to more than 1,500 species found nowhere else on earth. But compared to other areas in the world such as North America and Western Europe, little is known about the regional contamination to plant and animal life from compounds called perfluorochemicals (PFCs), the article says.

In the study, Hisato Itawa and colleagues measured levels of PFCs in the livers and sera of Baikal seals — the only entirely freshwater seal species in the world — and then compared them to recorded levels in 1992. They found that several chemicals were elevated to indicate an ongoing source of contamination in the lake. “Given these results, continuous monitoring of PFCs as well as dioxin-like compounds in Baikal seals is necessary to assess potential biological effects of PFCs,” the report says. The researchers noted a commercially manufactured PFC known as perfluorononanoic acid to be highest in the Baikal seals. — JS

A chemical “keypad lock” for biomolecular computers

Researchers in New York are reporting an advance toward a new generation of ultra-powerful computers built from DNA and enzymes, rather than transistors, silicon chips, and plastic. Their report on development of a key component for these “biomolecular computers” is scheduled for the March 26 issue of ACS’ Journal of the American Chemical Society, a weekly publication.

In the new study, Evgeny Katz and colleagues describe development of a chemical “keypad lock,” one of the first chemical-based security systems of its kind. The researchers note that years of effort have gone into developing biomolecular computers, which rely on chemical reactions rather than silicon chips to perform logic functions. Among their uses would be encryption of financial, military, and other confidential information. Only individuals with access to a secret “key” — a chemical key — could unlock the file and access the data.

The research by Katz and colleagues solved one part of this technological challenge: The security code. They identified a series of naturally occurring chemical reactions that act as a “keypad lock.” In laboratory studies, they demonstrated that by adding the correct series of chemicals, the lock could be opened to access the computer. On the other hand, adding the incorrect chemicals to the system acts as a wrong password and prevents access to the computer, they say.

“In addition to the biomolecular security applications, the enzyme-based implication logic networks will be extremely important for making autonomous decisions on the use of specific tools/drugs in various implantable medical systems.” — MTS

CSI fact catching up with fiction as chemists develop new technology

Real-life crime scene analysis of bloodstains, fingerprints, and other evidence does not match the speed and certainty on television shows such as CSI. But thanks to advances in chemistry, fact is catching up with fiction as researchers develop faster, more sensitive forensics tools, according to an article scheduled for the March 24 issue of Chemical & Engineering News, ACS’ weekly newsmagazine.

The article, written by C&EN Senior Editor Mitch Jacoby, describes up and coming forensics tools just unveiled at Pittcon, a major laboratory science conference held earlier this month in New Orleans. These new tools include a highly-sensitive method for identifying the specific dyes used to color acrylics, cotton, nylon, and other types of fibers, a technique that could help distinguish between fibers that appear similar. Other innovative tools include a handheld spectrometer for on-site detection of explosives and illegal drug residues and a long-lasting fluorescent dye solution that allows a longer, more detailed analysis of bloodstains than do conventional dyes.

The popularization of forensics on television has also spurred a new appreciation for this science among college students and the general public, the article suggests. But instant crime-solving remains the stuff of fiction. “Real chemists can’t always come up with solutions quite that fast. But they’re working on it,” Jacoby notes in the article.

Journalists’ Resources

• Reserve Now: News Media Special Event April 7 in New Orleans

The 2008 edition of the ACS Office of Communications’ popular news media tour/briefing/reception heads for a premier research facility where science connects with everyday life. Reporters will visit the U. S. Department of Agriculture’s Southern Regional Research Center (SRRC) in New Orleans. After recovery from Hurricane Katrina’s devastation, SRRC is continuing a 66-year heritage of discovery. SRRC’s landmarks range from development of wrinkle-resistant cotton fabrics to battling the dreaded Formosan subterranean termite in the “Second Battle of New Orleans.” The event begins mid-afternoon on April 7 during the ACS’ 235th national meeting, followed by a reception. To register, contact Michael Woods (m_woods@acs.org).

  • Media registration opens for ACS National Meeting, New Orleans, April 6-10

Mark your calendars for one of the year’s largest and most important scientific events — the 235th National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), which will be held April 6-10, 2008, in New Orleans, La.

With more than 160,000 members in the United States and other countries, ACS is the world’s largest scientific society. About 12,000 scientists and others are expected for the event, which will include more than 9,000 reports on new discoveries in chemistry. Those reports span science’s horizons from astronomy to zoology and include a special focus on health, energy, food, environment, and alternative fuels.

In addition to coverage of breaking science news, the meeting provides an opportunity for independent reporting on disaster recovery efforts in the region prior to the June 1 start of the 2008 hurricane season.

For media registration, please click here. Housing reservations are now open for those who plan to attend the meeting. The ACS Press Center will be located in Room 206 of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. It will include a media workroom with staff to assist in arranging interviews, press conferences, wireless Internet access, telephones, computers, photocopy and fax services, and refreshments.

For reporters planning to cover the meeting from their home bases, the ACS Office of Communications will provide an expanded suite of resources, including press releases, non-technical summaries of research presentations, and access to news briefings.

  • Remote access to media briefings from NOLA via the internet
  • ACS Office of Communications is offering news media the opportunity to join press briefings whether covering the meeting onsite or from a remote location. This new updated format in New Orleans will provide access to the increasing number of journalists who cover scientific meetings from their home base. Borrowing the popular chat room concept from the Internet, we will provide news media with access to both real and virtual chat room sessions during the New Orleans meeting. With more than 9,000 research presentations, this is one of the year’s largest and most significant scientific conferences. Reporters attending the meeting can gather with scientists in an informal setting in our Press Center in Room 206 of the Morial Convention Center. Scientists will summarize their research and field questions. Offsite reporters can enter a virtual version of this Chat Room over the Internet. In addition to seeing and hearing the real-world activity, offsite reporters can submit questions. Click here for more information.
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