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ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: Wed Sep 17 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.

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

New hope for tapping vast domestic reserves of oil shale

Researchers in Canada and Turkey report discovery of a new process for economically tapping vast resources of crude oil in the United States, Canada, and other countries now locked away in rocky deposits called oil shale. The process could boost worldwide oil supplies in the future and lead to lower prices for gasoline, diesel, and home heating oil, the researchers suggest. Their study is scheduled for the November 19 issue of ACS’ Energy & Fuels, a bi-monthly journal.

In the study, Tayfun Babadagli and colleagues point out that oil trapped in the world’s oil shale deposits exceeds the proven reserves of Saudi Arabia. An estimated one trillion barrels of oil, for instance, are in the so-called Green River Formation in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming. However, existing technology for recovering that oil, termed pyrolysis, is uneconomical because it requires high temperatures (about 900 degrees F.) and large energy inputs, but yields little usable oil.

The scientists describe laboratory scale experiments in which addition of inexpensive iron powder to oil shale, combined with heating with electric heating coils, substantially increased oil production — by more than 100 percent for some shales. “The experimental and numerical results show that field-scale oil recovery from oil shales by electrical heating could be technically and economically viable,” the report concludes. — MTS

Calorie-free natural sweetener moves one step closer to use in the U. S.

Researchers in Georgia are reporting an advance toward the possible use of a new natural non-caloric sweetener in soft drinks and other food products in the United States. Stevia, which is 300 times more potent than sugar but calorie-free, is already used in some countries as a food and beverage additive to help fight obesity and diabetes. Their study is scheduled for the October 8 issue of ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a bi-weekly publication.

Indra Prakash, John F. Clos, and Grant E. DuBois note that so-called stevia sweeteners, derived from a South American plant, have been popular for years as a food and beverage additive in Latin America and Asia. But several factors have prevented its use as a sweetener in Europe and the United States. Those include concerns about safety and hints that exposure to sunlight degrades one of the key components of stevia.

In research that eases concerns about stevia’s stability, the scientists studied clear glass containers of cola and lemon-lime sodas containing the two major naturally sweet components in stevia. After exposing the beverages to sunlight for one week, they found no significant degradation in either component of the natural sweetener. — MTS

Toward a fast, life-saving test for identifying the purity of heroin

Scientists in Spain are reporting an advance toward a new method for determining the purity of heroin that could save lives by allowing investigators to quickly identify impure and toxic forms of the drug being sold on the street. Unlike conventional tests, it does not destroy the original drug sample, according to their report. It is scheduled for the Oct. 1 issue of ACS’ Analytical Chemistry, a semi-monthly journal.

In the new study, Salvador Garrigues and colleagues point out that the purity of heroin can vary widely, since pushers often mix it with chalk, flour, or other “cutting agents.” Because heroin users do not know the exact purity of the drug, they are at risk for overdose and even death. Conventional tests for determining the purity of street heroin involve destructive and time-consuming sample preparation, the scientists say.

They studied 31 illicit drug samples from Spain that contained 6 percent - 34 percent heroin. The scientists tested the samples using the new analytical method, called Diffuse Reflectance Near-Infrared Spectroscopy (DR-NIR). It involves shooting a beam of infrared light into a sample to determine its chemical composition based on the wavelength of light emitted. The method quickly and accurately determined the chemical content of the samples without any prior sample preparation, the scientists say. — MTS

Key proteins identified in the quest for male contraceptive

In an advance toward a long-sought new male contraceptive, researchers in China have identified key proteins in men that suppress production of sperm and could become new targets for a future male birth control pill. Their study is scheduled for the October 3 issue of ACS’ monthly Journal of Proteome Research.

Jiahao Sha and colleagues point out that scientists do not understand one effect of the male sex hormone, testosterone — how injections of the hormone suppress production of sperm. Building on a previous study showing almost total sperm suppression with an injectable testosterone combined with a synthetic hormone called levonorgestrel (LNG), the researchers sought new insights into how hormones affect sperm-producing cells in the testicles.

In a new study on men, they found that testosterone combined with LNG changed the body’s production of 31 proteins compared to only 13 proteins for men given only testosterone. The scientists identified proteins that could serve as both targets for new male contraceptives as well as medications for treating infertility. — JS

Toward more effective drugs, vaccines for fighting HIV

Researchers are reporting progress toward a wave of new drugs and vaccines that could significantly improve the health and lifespan of millions infected with or at risk for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, according to an article scheduled for the Sept. 22 issue of Chemical & Engineering News, ACS’ weekly newsmagazine. The findings offer hope for the estimated 33 million people worldwide who are currently infected with the virus.

In the C&EN cover story, Senior Correspondent Ann Thayer notes that when HIV was first identified almost 25 years ago, the life expectancy of an infected person was only about one year. Today, with more than 20 so-called antiretroviral drugs now available to treat the disease, an infected person can expect to live many years, at least in developed countries. With new insights into how the virus works in the body, pharmaceutical companies are now attempting to develop even more effective drugs that are safer and easier to use.

While there’s still no cure for the disease, Thayer notes in a companion article in C&EN, researchers are working hard to develop an effective HIV vaccine, considered the ultimate way to prevent infection. But there’s still a lot to learn about the virus itself and the human body’s response, as setbacks in recent clinical trials have shown, according to the article. “Failure is the norm in product development, particularly for something as difficult as HIV,” notes one researcher.

Journalists’ Resources

  • 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

  • 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.

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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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PressPac information is intended for your personal use in news gathering and reporting and should not be distributed to others. Anyone using advance PressPac information for stocks or securities dealing may be guilty of insider trading under the federal Securities Exchange Act of 1934.

The American Chemical Society — the world’s largest scientific society — is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.