FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: September 24, 2008
- Evidence that inexpensive device boosts fuel economy by up to 20 percent
- Natural Viagra? “Horny goat weed” shows promise in lab studies
- Current government regulations miss key pollutants in Los Angeles region
- Microscopic version of the CT scan reveals secrets of bone formation
- Unlocking the secrets of breast milk
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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
Amid sticker-shock fuel prices, researchers in Pennsylvania are reporting results of laboratory tests and road tests verifying that a simple, inexpensive device attached to a car engine’s fuel injector can boost gas mileage by up to 20 percent. That translates into several more precious miles per gallon, they say. Their study is scheduled for the November 19 issue of ACS’ Energy & Fuels, a bi-monthly journal.
In the new study, Rongjia Tao and colleagues describe development and testing of a new fuel economy booster. The small device consists of an electrically charged tube that can be attached to the fuel line of a car’s engine near the fuel injector. The device creates an electric field that thins fuel, or reduces its viscosity, so that smaller droplets are injected into the engine. That leads to more efficient and cleaner combustion than a standard fuel injector, the researchers say.
Six months of road testing in a diesel car showed that the device increased highway fuel from 33 miles per gallon (mpg) to 37 mpg. “We expect the device will have wide applications on all types of internal combustion engines, present ones and future ones,” the report states, citing engines powered by gasoline, biodiesel, and kerosene. Further improvements in the device could lead to even better mileage, they suggest. — MTS
Move over, Viagra! Researchers in Italy report that an ancient Chinese herbal remedy known as “horny goat weed” shows potential in lab studies as source for new future drugs to treat erectile dysfunction (ED). The study, which provides scientific evidence supporting the herb’s well-known use as a natural aphrodisiac, is scheduled for the October 24 issue of ACS’ Journal of Natural Products, a monthly publication.
In the new study, Mario Dell’Agli and colleagues point out that Viagra (sildenafil) and several other prescription drugs are now available for ED, or male impotence. ED affects an estimated 18 million men in the United States alone. Studies show, however, that these drugs may cause side effects such as headache, facial flushing, stomach upset, and visual disturbances.
To find better treatments, the scientists studied herbal extracts reputed to improve sexual performance. Scientists exposed the substances to an enzyme that controls blood flow to the penis and whose inhibition results in an erection. Of the extracts tested, “horny goat weed” was the most potent inhibitor of the enzyme. By chemical modification of icariin, the active ingredient purified from the extract, the scientists obtained a derivative with activity similar to Viagra and a potential for fewer side effects because it targeted the protein more precisely than sildenafil. — MTS
Existing regulations may not effectively target a large source of fine, organic particle pollutants that contribute to hazy skies and poor air quality over Los Angeles, according to a study scheduled for the October 15 issue of ACS’ Environmental Science and Technology, a semi-monthly journal.
In the study, Ken Docherty and colleagues point out that current air quality regulations target sources of ‘primary,’ or directly emitted, particles. Yet their new findings indicate that “secondary” or chemically formed, particles contribute more significantly to poor air quality.
The study found that most of the organic haze above the city is not directly emitted by vehicles or industrial processes, unlike previously thought — 75 percent of organic particle pollutants form when reactive, organic gases undergo chemical transformations and condense onto existing particles in the air. “Our study suggests that regulations need to focus much more attention on the organic gases that react chemically in the atmosphere, creating the secondary particles that make up a significant portion of haze,” Docherty said. — AD
A new version of the computerized tomography (CT) scan, which revolutionized medical imaging during the last 25 years, is giving scientists precious new information about how Mother Nature forms shells, bones, and other hard structures in animals ranging from guppies to mice. That information on “biomineralization” could form a knowledge base for understanding bone loss in humans and even snaring the Holy Grail of regenerative medicine — discovering how newts, starfish and other animals regrow amputated body parts.
Those are the observations in a new overview of the field scheduled for the November 12 issue of ACS’ Chemical Reviews, a monthly journal. In the article, Matthias Epple and Frank Neues describe ongoing research in which scientists use X-ray microcomputer tomography to study biomineralization, the process in which animals form bones, shells, and other hard structures. Microcomputer tomography is the high-resolution version of conventional CT. Like a CT microscope, it constructs three-dimensional images of structures in bones and shells too small for viewing with regular CT.
The article provides a sweeping overview of current research involving X-ray microcomputer tomography, and the implications for medicine, design of new materials, and other fields. “It is of interest in modern materials science to synthetically mimic these inorganic structures to create new coatings, materials or instruments for practical application,” the article states. “We are convinced that this method will be of high future value to study the spatially different mineralization processes in mineralizing animals and plants.” — AD
Researchers are reporting that new insights into the composition of human breast milk may lead to new ways to prevent and treat stomach illnesses and other diseases in babies and adults. An article on the topic is scheduled for the Sept. 29 issue of Chemical & Engineering News, ACS’ weekly newsmagazine.
In the C&EN cover story, Associate Editor Jyllian Kemsley notes that human breast milk is a complex fluid composed of several key components, including lactose, a sugar that provides energy for the infant, and lipids, which are thought to provide healthy fats to infants. But scientists are just now beginning to understand the composition and function of many of the components of human breast milk.
Researchers have found, for example, that certain sugars in breast milk could be developed into treatments that help fight necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a potentially deadly disease that affects about 10 percent of premature infants. Some types of sugars in breast milk appear to prevent bacterial infections, including those that cause severe diarrhea, the article notes. A better understanding of the chemistry and function of breast milk can also lead to the design of more nutritious infant formulas and cow’s milk products, the article suggests. “[Breast milk] is a remarkable fluid,” remarked one researcher. “It’s extremely embarrassing how little we still know about it.”
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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