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ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: Wed Jan 28 15:42:03 EST 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

Edible fungus foils dangerous grapefruit-drug interactions

Scientists in Florida report that adding an edible mushroom-like fungus to grapefruit juice may help to reduce the serious side effects that can occur when people taking certain prescription drugs drink grapefruit juice. Their study is in the January 14 edition of the ACS’ bi-weekly Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

In the study, Kyung Myung and colleagues explain that furanocoumarins (FCs) — chemicals found in grapefruit and some other citrus — block a key enzyme critical for metabolizing, or breaking down, certain prescription medications. This “grapefruit/drug” interaction — sometimes called the “grapefruit effect” — can turn normal drug doses into toxic overdoses. Researchers have tried to remove FCs using chemical, physical and microbiological methods. Myung and colleagues, for example, had previously discovered that an inedible fungus can be used to remove most of the FCs from grapefruit juice.

Now they report that the edible fungus Morchella esculenta, which is from the same major fungal group as the previously tested inedible fungus, removed most of the furanocoumarins from the grapefruit juice. It also reduced grapefruit juice’s inhibition of the enzyme by 60 percent. Dried M. esculenta also worked, leading the researchers to suggest that it could be useful in removing the compound from grapefruit juice and identifying the specific components in the fungi that bind to furanocoumarins. — KSD

Toward a urine test for diagnosing heart disease

Researchers in Australia are reporting an advance toward the first urine test for diagnosing coronary artery disease (CAD), the condition responsible for most of the 1.5 million heart attacks that occur in the United States each year. The test could save lives in the future by allowing earlier diagnosis and monitoring of the disease, which is the No. 1 cause of death in the United States, the researchers say. Their report is in the Nov. 19, 2008 issue of ACS’ Journal of Proteome Research, a monthly publication.

In the new study, Karlheinze Peter and colleagues note that the most reliable test for diagnosing CAD is angiography, an invasive test in which doctors inject special dyes into the body to visualize, via X-rays, fatty plaque deposits in the arteries of the heart. However, the technique is invasive, expensive, time-consuming, and may miss CAD in its earliest stages, they say.

To develop a faster, more convenient test, the scientists collected urine samples from a group of 67 patients — 41 with CAD and 26 without — and analyzed the samples for differences in protein content. Using a newly developed method, they identified a group of 17 peptides (building blocks of proteins) that appear to be directly associated with CAD. These urine-based peptides indicated the presence of the disease with an 84 percent accuracy rate when compared to CAD cases confirmed using angiography, the researchers say, underscoring their potential for diagnostic screening. — MTS

Burying crop residues at sea may help reduce global warming

Imagine a massive international effort to combat global warming by reducing carbon dioxide - build up in the atmosphere. It involves gathering billions of tons of cornstalks, wheat straw, and other crop residue from farm fields, bailing it, shipping the material to seaports, and then burying it in the deep ocean. Scientists in Washington and California have concluded that this Crop Residue Oceanic Permanent Sequestration (CROPS) approach is the only practical method now available for permanently sequestering, or isolating, the enormous quantities of CO2 necessary to have a real impact on global warming.

In a report scheduled for the Feb. 15 issue of ACS’ Environmental Science & Technology, a semi-monthly journal, Stuart Strand and Gregory Benford conclude that (CROPS) could reduce global carbon dioxide accumulation by up to 15 percent per year. Plants remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere during photosynthesis, and release it when they decay. Ocean burial would prevent that carbon dioxide from re-entering the atmosphere.

After comparing known methods for carbon dioxide sequestration on the basis of efficiency, long-term effectiveness, practicality, and cost, the researchers concluded that CROPS is the only method feasible with existing technology. CROPS would be 92 percent efficient in sequestering crop residue carbon. They recommend that crop residue sequestration and its effects on the ocean should be investigated further and its implementation encouraged. - MTS

Quantum dots may be toxic to cells, environment under certain conditions

Researchers in Texas are reporting that quantum dots (QDs) — a product of the revolution in nanotechnology increasingly used in electronics, solar cells, and medical imaging devices — may be toxic to cells under acidic or alkaline conditions. Their study, the first to report on how different pH levels may affect the safety of QDs, appears in the Jan.15 issue of ACS’ Environmental Science & Technology, a semi-monthly journal.

In the new study, Pedro Alvarez, Shaily Mahendra, and colleagues note that QDs are semiconductor nanocrystals composed of a metal core surrounded by a shell composed of zinc or cadmium sulfide. Scientists are increasingly concerned that these submicroscopic dots, about 1/50,000th the width of a human hair, could decompose during normal use or after disposal. That decomposition could release toxic metals into the environment, posing a health risk to humans and animals.

To explore this concern, the scientists exposed two common types of bacteria that serve as models of cell toxicity and indicators of environmental health to QDs under different conditions of acidity and alkalinity. At near neutral pH levels, bacteria exposed to QDs experienced decreased rates of growth, but did not die. However, at moderately acidic or alkaline conditions, many of the QD-exposed bacteria died as QDs shells decomposed, releasing their content of toxic metals. However, proteins and natural organic matter may be able to mitigate toxicity by complexing metal ions or coating particles. The study cautions, “the release of toxic inorganic constituents during their weathering under acidic or alkaline conditions in the human body or the environment may cause unintended harm that might be difficult to predict with short-term toxicity tests.” - MTS

New NASCAR materials may save lives on the race track and highway

New materials for NASCAR promise to save lives and reduce injuries in automobile racing — a popular sport with a fan-base of 75 million — and everyday driving, according to an article scheduled for the Feb. 2 issue of Chemical & Engineering News, ACS’ weekly newsmagazine. NASCAR’s new racing season begins Feb. 7.

In the magazine’s cover story, C&EN Associate Editor Bethany Halford points out that for many years NASCAR (the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing) left safety innovations in the hands of mechanics and engineers tinkering in the garage. These innovations haven’t kept pace with NASCAR’s push for faster cars, the article notes. But a series of spectacular crashes that claimed the lives of several NASCAR stars brought about a new focus on safety.

Researchers recently established the NASCAR R&D Center to focus on safety innovations, leading to a major redesign of the stockcar to make it more crash resistant. Other innovations include clothing (for drivers and crews) that is more fire-resistant and the development of stronger safety barriers for the track walls. Some of these materials could be used in future passenger cars and highways, the article suggests.

Journalists’ Resources

  • Join the ACS satellite pressroom for daily news blasts on Twitter
    The American Chemical Society’s Office of Public Affairs (OPA) new satellite press room has quickly become one of the most popular science news sites on Twitter with daily updates on the latest research from ACS’ 34 peer-reviewed journals and other news, including links to compelling podcast series, information on the upcoming 237th National Meeting, and the latest recipients of ACS’ national awards. To receive press room updates, create a free account at https://twitter.com/signup. Then visit http://twitter.com/ACSpressroom and click the ‘join’ button beneath the press room logo.
  • Save the Date: ACS 237th National Meeting in 2009
    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.

  • 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 Public Affairs 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.