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ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: Wed Sep 10 16:42:03 EDT 2008
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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
Chemists are reporting development of what they term the most powerful substance ever discovered for eliminating cocaine from the body, an advance that could lead to the world’s first effective medicine for fighting overdoses and addictions of the illicit drug. Their findings are scheduled for the Sept. 24 issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society, a weekly publication.
In the new study, Chang-Guo Zhan and colleagues point out no effective anti-cocaine medication currently exists for cocaine abuse. One of the most promising approaches focuses on substances that mimic butyrylcholinesterase (BChE), a natural blood protein that helps break down and inactivate the drug, researchers say. However, natural BChE is too weak and ineffective for medical use, the researchers note.
The researchers describe design and produce the most potent, stable BChE structure ever produced. In lab studies, that form of BChE broke down, or metabolized, cocaine 2,000 times faster than the body’s natural version of BChE, the scientists say, noting that reducing levels of the drug in the blood is a key to fighting overdose in humans. The substance also prevented convulsions and death when injected into mice that were given overdoses of cocaine, they note. — MTS
Drinking chamomile tea daily with meals may help prevent the complications of diabetes, which include loss of vision, nerve damage, and kidney damage, researchers in Japan and the United Kingdom are reporting. The findings could lead to the development of a new chamomile-based drug for type 2 diabetes, which is at epidemic levels in this country and spreading worldwide, they note. Their study appears in the Sept. 10 issue of the ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a bi-weekly publication.
In the new study, Atsushi Kato and colleagues point out that chamomile, also known as manzanilla, has been used for years as a medicinal cure-all to treat a variety of medical problems including stress, colds, and menstrual cramps. Scientists recently proposed that the herbal tea might also be beneficial for fighting diabetes, but the theory hasn’t been scientifically tested until now.
To find out, the researchers fed chamomile extract to a group of diabetic rats for 21 days and compared the results to a group of control animals on a normal diet. The chamomile-supplemented animals showed a significant decrease in blood glucose levels compared with the controls, they say. The extract also showed significant inhibition of both ALR2 enzymes and sorbitol, whose elevated levels are associated with increased diabetic complications, the scientists say. — MTS
In an advance toward introduction of an amazing new kind of internal combustion engine, researchers in China are reporting development and use of a new and more accurate computer model to assess performance of the so-called free-piston linear alternator (FPLA). Their study of the FPLA, which could provide a low-emission, fuel efficient engine for future hybrid electric vehicles, is scheduled for the Sept. 17 issue of ACS’ Energy & Fuels, a bi-monthly journal.
Qingfeng Li and colleagues point out that the FPLA has only one moving part and is an engine designed to generate electricity. In the device, a piston in a cylinder shuttles between two combustion chambers. Permanent magnets on the piston generate electricity by passing through the coils of an alternator centered on the cylinder. The engine can burn a variety of fuels, including natural gas and hydrogen, and seems ideal use in a future world of climate change and possible fossil fuel shortages, they suggest.
Their report describes development of a better computer model to evaluate performance of the FPLA and guide engineers in construction of the engine. Results of their initial simulations showed that the FPLA could accelerate three times faster than other internal combustion engines and burns fuel in ways that minimize air pollution. “It is an environmentally friendly power source for the future,” the report concludes. — AD
R Want more power and longer battery life for that cell phone, laptop, and digital music player? “Flower power" may be the solution. Chemists are reporting development of flower-shaped nanoparticles with superior electronic performance than conventional battery materials. These “nanoflowers” may power next-generation electronic devices, say the scientists in a report scheduled for the Oct. 8 issue of ACS’ Nano Letters, a monthly journal.
Gaoping Cao and colleagues point out that nanoflowers are not new. Researchers have developed various types of flower-shaped nanoparticles using different materials, including manganese oxide, the key metallic ingredient that powers conventional batteries. However, older-generation nanoflowers were not suitable for electronic products of the future, which will demand more power and longer battery life, the researchers say.
In the new study, scientists first grew clusters of carbon nanotubes, strands of pure carbon 50,000 times thinner than a human hair, that are known to have superior electrical conductivity. The scientists then deposited manganese oxide onto the nanotubes using a simple, low-cost coating technique called “electrodeposition,” resulting in nano-sized clusters that resemble tiny dandelions under an electron microscope. The result was a battery system with higher energy storage capacity, longer life, and greater efficiency than conventional battery materials, the researchers say. — MTS
New scientific insights into schizophrenia are pointing toward new drugs that offer hope for millions of individuals with the disease — the most serious form of mental illness, according to an article scheduled for the Sept. 15 issue of Chemical & Engineering News, ACS’ weekly newsmagazine. Schizophrenia affects about 25 million people, or about one percent of adults, worldwide.
In the article, C&EN Assistant Editor Carmen Drahl notes that existing medications for schizophrenia, so-called antipsychotics, help ease some symptoms, such as hallucinations and disorganized speech. However, they do not deal with all of the disease’s symptoms, such as lack of motivation and impairments to decision-making.
Researchers are now moving beyond traditional drugs, which generally target dopamine neurotransmission, and focusing on new targets that might tackle a wider range of symptoms. The article describes animal and human trials of several potential new drugs that focus on new disease targets, including the glutamate neurotransmitter system, a nicotinic acetylcholine receptor, and a signaling pathway mediated by cyclic nucleotides. These substances appear to help relieve a wider range of symptoms while causing fewer side effects, the researchers note. “We’re still trying to understand the basic mechanisms of schizophrenia, which will hopefully lead to more effective treatments that target core features of the illness,” notes an outside expert.
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.
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