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ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: October 22, 2008

Note to Journalists and Other Viewers

Here is the latest American Chemical Society (ACS) News Service Weekly PressPac with news from ACS’ 36 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

Soybeans no longer a musical fruit?

Soybeans may drop off the list of musical fruit. Scientists in Singapore are reporting victory over some consumers’ No. 1 complaint about soy products — the “flatulence factor” caused by indigestible sugars found in soy. In a study scheduled for the November 12 issue of ACS’ bi-weekly Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, they describe a method for significantly reducing the amount of flatulence-causing carbohydrates in soy yogurt while raising the levels of healthy antioxidants known as isoflavones.

In the study, Dejian Huang and colleagues note that soy yogurt has a global market share of only 1.9 percent, even though it has a number of health advantages over dairy-based yogurt. That’s partly because of the flatulence-causing compounds in soy. “It would be desirable to remove the flatulence-causing raffinose and stachyose from the soy yogurt to improve consumers’ preferences. The objective of this study was to develop a new soy yogurt enriched with isoflavones with reduced levels of flatulence-causing oligosaccharides,” the scientists said.

The researchers grew soybeans in the presence of a fungus that produced enzymes capable of degrading the undesired sugars. “We have demonstrated for the first time that germinated black soybeans under fungal stress can be fermented into a soy yogurt which features a low amount of flatulence-causing oligosaccharides but with a significant level of isoflavones,” says Huang. — AD

Toward non-invasive disease diagnosis with “wellness cards”

Scientists are reporting development of a device that could serve as the electronic “reader” for a coming generation of “wellness cards,” specimen holders used to diagnose disease from a drop of a patient’s saliva or blood. The research, done by scientists in Utah, Iowa, Arizona, and Minnesota, is presented in two papers scheduled for the November 1 issue of ACS’ Analytical Chemistry, a semi-monthly journal.

In those studies, Marc Porter and colleagues describe using the same technology at the heart of miniaturized hard disk drives to create the new rapid-screening sensor. Using a phenomenon known as giant magnetoresistance (GMR), the device can detect samples on much smaller areas compared to older technologies, the papers note.

As a test, Porter demonstrated the GMR sensor could detect as few as 800 magnetic beads with microscopic dimensions. “Several laboratories have begun to transition GMRs from the data storage domain to that of the bioanalytical sciences,” the paper states. “We believe that, by leveraging advances made in the magnetic recording industry (for example portable digital music players), a robust, field-deployable, assay device capable of sensing single-binding events is just over the horizon.” — JS

Revealing secrets of “African sleeping sickness”

Scientists in the United Kingdom and Russia are reporting identification of a long-sought chink in the armor of the parasite that causes African sleeping sickness, a parasitic disease that kills at least 50,000 people each year. Their study appears in the current edition of ACS Chemical Biology, a monthly journal.

In the study, Michael Ferguson and colleagues cite an “urgent” need for new treatments for the disease, which is spread by the tsetse fly and also affects cattle — a precious possession that represents a bank account on four feet to impoverished people in sub-Sahara Africa. Current treatments for African sleeping sickness, Ferguson says, are not only difficult to administer, but also expensive and toxic.

Their research identified the first compound to impede a key step in an essential biochemical pathway in the sleeping sickness parasite. Blocking this pathway disrupts the production of a key glycolipid that anchors protective proteins to the surface of the parasite. The analysis also revealed notable differences between pathways of parasitic and human cells, which could reveal insight into possible therapeutic targets. — JS

World’s smallest hand-held instrument for detecting health and safety threats

Researchers in Indiana are describing development of the world’s smallest complete mass spectrometer (MS), a miniature version of a standard lab device — some of which would dominate a living room — to identify tiny amounts of chemicals in the environment. The hand-held MS, about the size of a shoebox, could speed the detection of bioterrorism agents, hidden explosives, and other threats, the researchers say. Their study is scheduled for the current issue of ACS’ Analytical Chemistry, a semi-monthly journal.

R. Graham Cooks, Zheng Ouyang, and colleagues note that scientists have developed several different versions of portable mass spectrometers over the past few decades. However, the instruments’ large size, weight, and inability to analyze a wide variety of different target molecules have limited their practical use.

The scientists responded to the need for a small but sensitive MS by developing the Mini 11. About the size of a small shoebox, it weighs only 9 pounds (half the weight of other portable MSs), and can be operated by remote control. Laboratory tests showed that the Mini 11 could accurately identify the chemical composition of three commonly used commercial drugs within just one minute using tandem mass spectrometry. Unlike previous portable mass specs, this new instrument is capable of analyzing a wider variety of molecules, including large proteins, the scientists say. — MTS

Newly approved pesticide stirs controversy over health effects

Even though the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has given final approval for use of a new pesticide, regulators in California and other states are taking a closer look at the substance’s potential adverse health effects before allowing the chemical to be used, according to an article scheduled for the Oct. 27 issue of Chemical & Engineering News, ACS’ weekly newsmagazine.

In the article, C&EN Associate Editor Britt E. Erickson notes that EPA first considered approving the pesticide, methyl iodide, in 2006 as a replacement for methyl bromide —which is now being phased out because of environmental concerns that it may damage the ozone layer. Although methyl iodide appears unlikely to have that effect, it is toxic to nerve cells and may carry a risk of thyroid damage, cancer, and other adverse health effects.

At least one environmental group and some scientists opposed EPA’s approval of the pesticide, alleging that EPA had been secretive during the review process, failing to fully consider the chemical’s health effects, and they pointed to an apparent conflict of interest involving the pesticide’s manufacturer. States like California and Florida had their own concerns about the pesticide’s safety and decided to do their own risk assessments before allowing use of methyl iodide. Florida finished its assessment and approved the use of methyl iodide last July, but not before requiring additional safety measures beyond those required by EPA. California’s assessment is still ongoing, the article notes.

Journalists’ Resources

  • Have a Ball with National Chemistry Week Oct. 19 - 25

Activities will be held in communities around the United States Oct. 19-25 during National Chemistry Week, the American Chemical Society’s annual showcase of chemistry’s central role in everyday life. The theme will be “Having a Ball with Chemistry,” emphasizing the role chemistry plays in fitness and athletics. Thousands of students will learn about chemistry’s role in providing new materials and technology to improve athletic equipment and performance, and the importance of nutrition and maintaining an active lifestyle. For more information, including the location of local NCW events, please visit http://www.chemistryweek.org.

  • 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.

  • ACS Press Releases

General science press releases on a variety of chemistry-related topics.

For Wired Readers

  • Have a ball with National Chemistry Week podcasts in English and Spanish

Activities will be held in communities around the United States Oct. 19-25 during National Chemistry Week, the American Chemical Society’s annual showcase of chemistry’s central role in everyday life. The theme will be “Having a Ball with Chemistry,” emphasizing the role chemistry plays in fitness and athletics. ACS’ Office of Public Affairs is issuing a special series of podcasts on the chemistry of sports, including their first ever in Spanish. To listen to the episodes, visit www.acs.org/bytesizescience.

  • Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions

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.

  • Bytesize Science, a podcast for young listeners

Bytesize Science is a science podcast for kids of all ages that aims to entertain as much as it educates.

No iTunes? No problem. Listen to latest episodes of Bytesize Science in your web browser

The ACS Office of Communications is podcasting PressPac contents in order to make cutting-edge scientific discoveries from ACS journals available to a broad public audience at no charge.

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