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ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: February 18, 2009

Note to Journalists and Other Viewers

Here is the latest American Chemical Society (ACS) Weekly PressPac from the Office of Public Affairs. It has news from ACS’ 34 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 Office of Public Affairs 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

Egg-irony: High cholesterol food may reduce blood pressure

Researchers in Canada are reporting evidence that eggs — often frowned upon for their high cholesterol content — may reduce another heart disease risk factor — high blood pressure.

They describe identification of egg proteins that act like a popular group of prescription medications in lowering blood pressure. The report appeared in the Feb. 11 issue of ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a bi-weekly publication.

In the new study, Jianping Wu and Kaustav Majumder note that eggs are an inexpensive source of high-quality protein and other nutrients. Egg consumption, however, has decreased during the last 40 years amid concerns about cholesterol. Recent studies do suggest that healthy people can eat eggs without increasing their heart disease risk. Other research hinted that certain egg proteins might have effects similar to ACE inhibitors, prescription drugs used to treat high blood pressure.

Pursuing that lead in laboratory studies, the scientists identified several different peptides in boiled and fried eggs that act as potent ACE inhibitors. The scientists showed that enzymes in the stomach and small intestine produce these peptides from eggs. Fried eggs had the highest ACE inhibitory activity. It will take studies in humans to determine if the egg proteins do lower blood pressure in people, the scientists emphasized. Funding for the research came from livestock and poultry industry groups. -MTS

New test to identify illegal steroids in cattle

In an effort to curb the illegal use of steroids in the European beef industry, scientists in the United Kingdom are reporting the development of a new test that can identify steroids with higher accuracy, more convenience, and less cost than conventional doping tests. Their report is in the current issue of Analytical Chemistry, a semi-monthly journal.

In the new study, Rodat Cunningham and colleagues note that the European Union banned use of growth-promoting agents in cattle. However, widespread abuse of steroids continues and remains difficult to detect, they say. The standard methods for detecting steroid abuse —mass spectrometry and gas chromatography — involve directly measuring these substances in cattle. But the tests are expensive and can’t detect some of the newer steroid hormones.

The scientists describe a new test that measures steroids indirectly based on chemical changes associated with growth and muscle development in steroid-treated cattle. Using a commercial blood analyzer commonly found in hospitals, the researchers measured 20 chemical markers, including proteins and cholesterol, in cattle treated with and without commonly used steroids over a 42-day study period. The new test detected the steroids with accuracy between 91 and 96 percent. The study opens the door to on-site steroid testing with portable instrumentation, the researchers say. - MTS

Injections of licorice ingredient show promise as treatment for cocaine addiction

An ingredient in licorice shows promise as an antidote for the toxic effects of cocaine abuse, including deadly overdoses of the highly addictive drug, researchers in Korea and Pennsylvania are reporting. Their study is in the Jan. 2 issue of ACS’ Journal of Proteome Research, a monthly publication.

In the new study, Meeyul Hwang, Chae Ha Yang, and colleagues note that there is currently no effective medicine for treating cocaine abuse or addiction. Recent animal studies conducted by the researchers show that a licorice ingredient called isoliquiritigenin (ISL) can block the nervous system’s production of dopamine. That neurotransmitter is involved in emotion, movement, and other brain activities.

Cocaine and other addictive drugs stimulate dopamine and help produce the pleasurable and addictive effects. Drugs that block dopamine block this response. The scientists used rats as model animals to show that rats injected with ISL just prior to cocaine-administration showed 50 percent less of the behavioral effects associated with the illicit drug. They also showed that ISL injections protected nerve cells in the brain from cocaine-associated damage. -MTS

Soybean product fights abnormal protein involved in Alzheimer’s disease

A vegan food renowned in Asia for its ability to protect against heart attacks also shows a powerful ability in lab experiments to prevent formation of the clumps of tangled protein involved in Alzheimer’s disease, scientists in Taiwan are reporting. Their study is in the Feb. 11 issue of ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a bi-weekly publication.

Rita P. Y. Chen and colleagues point out that people in Asia have been eating natto — a fermented food made from boiled soybeans —for more than 1,000 years. Natto contains an enzyme, nattokinase, that has effects similar to clot-busting drugs used in heart disease. Nattokinase is sold a dietary supplement to improve the body’s circulatory system. The scientists term this the first study on whether nattokinase also can dissolve amyloids. Those tangled proteins are involved in Alzheimer’s disease and several other health problems.

In the study, the nattokinase degraded several kinds of amyloid fibrils, suggesting its possible use in the treatment of amyloid-related diseases. “Moreover, since natto has been ingested by humans for a long time, it would be worthwhile to carry out an epidemiological study on the rate of occurrence of various amyloid-related diseases in a population regularly consuming natto,” the scientists say. - JS

Ocean becoming more acidic, potentially threatening marine life

A dramatic increase in carbon dioxide levels is making the world’s ocean more acidic, which may adversely affect the survival of marine life and organisms that depend on them, such as humans. An article on this topic is scheduled for the Feb. 23 issue of Chemical & Engineering News, ACS’ weekly newsmagazine.

In the article, C&EN Associate Editor Rachel Petkewich notes that the increased use of fossil fuels has caused levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to nearly double since the Industrial Revolution. The ocean absorbs large amounts of carbon dioxide — about 22 million tons a day — causing the water’s pH to decrease or acidify. The pH scale measures how acidic or alkaline substances are. The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14. A pH of 7 is neutral. A pH less than 7 is acidic. A pH greater than 7 is alkaline. The ocean’s pH is currently about 8.1, down from 8.2 in the 18th century, the article notes. Scientists project that the ocean’s pH will fall by about 0.3 more units in the next 50 to 100 years.

Researchers worldwide are now reporting that these lower pH levels could affect many aspects of the biochemistry, development, and reproduction of marine organisms, including jellyfish, sea anemones, plankton, and coral. Lower pH levels may even affect the ability of the ocean to transmit sound, which could affect the way some mammals communicate by sonar, the article notes. “To what extent the oceans will continue to acidify is uncertain and whether marine organisms can adapt to the changes in store also remains to be seen,” the article notes.

Journalists’ Resources

  • Join the ACS satellite pressroom for daily news blasts on Twitter
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  • ACS’s 237th National Meeting March 22-26
    ACS' 237th National Meeting in Salt Lake City, March 22-26, 2009. Expect more than 7,000 presentations on the broad spectrum of the sciences that involve chemistry — from astronomy to zoology. For advance complimentary news media registration: https://www.xpressreg.net/register/acsa039/media/start.asp
  • Press releases, briefings, 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.

  • From Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS)

CAS - Science Connections is a series of articles that showcases the value of CAS databases in light of important general-interest science and technology news. Ranging in topics from fruit flies to Nobel Prize winners, the CAS - Science Connections series points to the CAS databases for a more complete understanding of the latest news.

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 will continue in 2009. Subscribe at iTunes or listen and access other resources at the ACS web site www.acs.org/GlobalChallenges.

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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.