FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: October 08, 2008
- “Grandma’s penicillin” also may help high blood pressure
- Toward an effective treatment for a major hereditary disease
- Byproduct of steel shows potential in CO2 sequestration
- First evidence that a common pollutant may reduce iodine levels in breast milk
- Freeing protein-based drugs from bacteria’s natural traps
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Here is the latest American Chemical Society (ACS) News Service Weekly PressPac with news from ACS’ 36 peer-reviewed journals and Chemical & Engineering News.
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News Items in this Edition
Chicken soup, that popular home remedy for the common cold sometimes known as “Grandma’s Penicillin,” may have a new role alongside medication and other medical measures in fighting high blood pressure, scientists in Japan are reporting. Their research is scheduled for the October 22 issue of ACS’ biweekly Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
Ai Saiga and colleagues cite previous studies indicating that chicken breast contains collagen proteins with effects similar to ACE inhibitors, mainstay medications for treating high blood pressure. But chicken breast contains such small amounts of the proteins that it could not be used to develop food and medical products for high blood pressure. Chicken legs and feet, often discarded as waste products in the U.S. but key soup ingredients elsewhere, appear to be a better source.
In the new study, Saiga and colleagues extracted collagen from chicken legs and tested its ability to act as an ACE inhibitor in the laboratory studies. They identified four different proteins in the collagen mixture with high ACE-inhibitory activity. Given to rats used to model human high blood pressure, the proteins produced a significant and prolonged decrease in blood pressure, the researchers say. — MTS
Scientists are reporting a key advance toward developing the first effective drug treatment for spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), a genetic disease that involves motor neuron loss and occurs in 1 out of every 6,000 births. SMA is the leading cause of hereditary infant death in the United States. The study is scheduled for publication online Oct. 8 by ACS Chemical Biology, a monthly journal.
Mark E. Gurney, Jill Jarecki, and colleagues note that SMA is caused by a defective gene, SMN1, which fails to produce sufficient amounts of a key protein, called SMN (survival motor neuron), needed for normal motor neuron development. Scientists have screened more than 550,000 compounds in the search for a new SMA drug. Recent research pointed to a group of compounds called C5-quinazolines that can boost SMN2 activity, a uniquely existing back-up gene for SMN1. In doing so, they showed promise for treating SMA by producing increased amounts of the needed protein.
In the new study, researchers identified exactly how these promising compounds work, a key step in moving forward toward medical use. They found that the substance targets a normal cellular protein, DcpS, involved in mRNA metabolism whose inhibition causes increased SMN expression. The finding could help guide the development of the first effective drugs for treating SMA and also lead to second generation drugs targeting this enzyme, the researchers say. “The results outlined in the paper and carried out in collaboration with Families of SMA, deCODE chemistry & biostructures, Invitrogen Corporation, and Rutgers University represent a new understanding of the physiological mechanisms that can increase SMN expression and will allow us to move forward in advancing potential treatments for it, says Jill Jarecki, Ph.D., Research Director at Families of SMA. — MTS
With steelworks around the world emitting huge amounts of carbon dioxide, scientists are reporting that a byproduct of steel production could be used to absorb that greenhouse gas to help control global warming. The study is scheduled for the October 15 issue of ACS’ Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research, a bi-weekly journal.
Professor Mourad Kharoune and colleagues point out that production of one ton of steel releases up to one ton of CO2. With global steel production standing at 1.34 billion tons in 2007, that adds up to a substantial contribution of carbon dioxide. Kharoune suggests a new method to sequester, or capture, carbon dioxide so that it does not contribute to global warming – using steel slags, which are complex mixtures of compounds produced during the separation of the molten steel from impurities.
In the study, Kharoune suggests that electric arc furnace (EAF) and ladle furnace (LF) slag suspensions could be used for greenhouse-gas sequestration. According to the report, the ladle furnace slag suspension’s capacity to sequester emissions was 14 times higher than that of the EAF suspension, possibly due to the LF’s higher content of a rare mineral called portlandite. — JS
Researchers in Texas are reporting the first evidence from human studies that perchlorate, a common pollutant increasingly found in food and water, may interfere with an infant’s availability of iodine in breast milk. Iodine deficiency in infants can cause mental retardation and other health problems, the scientists note. The study also provides further evidence that iodine intake in U.S. mothers is low and that perchlorate may play a key role.
In a study scheduled for the November 1 issue of ACS’ semi-monthly Environmental Science & Technology, Purnendu Dasgupta and colleagues note that perchlorate occurs naturally in the soil and is also manufactured as a rocket fuel and explosive ingredient. Past studies showed that perchlorate can inhibit iodine uptake. However, scientists did not know its effects on iodine levels in the milk of nursing mothers.
To find out, the researchers collected breast milk samples from 13 breastfeeding mothers and measured their content of iodine, perchlorate, and thiocyanate, another iodine inhibitor found in certain foods. The study showed that if these breast milk samples were fed to infants, 12 of 13 infants would not have an adequate intake of iodine. It also showed that nine of the infants would have ingested perchlorate at a level exceeding those considered safe by the National Academy of Sciences. “Even though the number of subjects was not large, in terms of the number of total samples analyzed, this is the most extensive study on the topic,” the researchers say, adding that the low iodine levels are “disconcerting.” — MTS
In a finding that could speed the development of new protein-based drugs for fighting diabetes, hepatitis, and other diseases, researchers are reporting progress toward preventing or destroying an unusual structure that reduces the production yield of bioengineered drugs. The article is scheduled for the Oct. 13 issue of Chemical & Engineering News, ACS’ weekly newsmagazine.
In the article, C&EN Associate Editor Jyllian Kemsley notes that genetically-engineered E. coli bacteria are increasingly used to produce protein-based drugs for a variety of diseases. However, these proteins are often not usable because they become trapped in large, insoluble clumps called “inclusion bodies.” Current methods to extract proteins trapped in these clumps involve breaking down the clumps chemically and refolding the proteins, a process that is inefficient and sometimes destroys the desired protein.
In the article, Kemsley describes new research insights into the structure and formation of these unusual clumps that could lead to their prevention. Scientists, for instance, have discovered evidence that inclusion bodies form due to interactions between molecular structures called beta-sheets and that clumping could be prevented by preventing beta-sheet interactions.
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.
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.
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