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ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: Wed Jan 07 15:42:03 EST 2009

Note to Journalists and Other Viewers

Here is the latest American Chemical Society (ACS) News Service Weekly PressPac with 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 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

Clothing to crow about: Chicken feather suits and dresses

In the future, you may snuggle up in warm, cozy sweats made of chicken feathers or jeans made of wheat, enjoying comfortable, durable new fabrics that are “green” and environmentally friendly. Researchers in Australia are reporting that new advances are paving the way for such exotic new materials — made from agricultural waste or byproducts — to hit store shelves as environmentally-friendly alternatives to the estimated 38 million tons of synthetic fabrics produced worldwide each year. They review research on the development of these next generation eco-friendly fibers, which will produce fabrics with a conventional feel, in the November 26, 2008 issue of ACS’ Biomacromolecules, a monthly journal.

In the article, Andrew Poole, Jeffrey Church and Mickey Huson note that scientists first produced commercial fabrics made of nontraditional materials — including milk proteins, peanuts, and corn — almost 50 years ago. Although these so-called “regenerated” fabrics had the look and feel of conventional protein-based fabrics such as wool and silk, they tended to perform poorly when wet. This problem, combined with the advent of petroleum-based synthetic fibers, caused the production of these unusual fabrics to stop, the researchers say.

Amid concerns about the environment and consumer demand for eco-friendly products, renewable fabrics made from nontraditional agricultural materials are now poised to make a comeback, the scientists say. Promising fabric sources include agricultural proteins, such as keratin from scrap chicken feathers and gluten from wheat, they say. The scientists describe advances in nanotechnology and chemical cross-linking that can improve the strength and biodegradability of these fabrics, paving the way for commercial production of eco-friendly clothing, furniture upholstery and other products. — MTS

"Microswimmers" make a big splash for improved drug delivery

They may never pose a challenge to Olympic superstar Michael Phelps, but the “microswimmers” developed by researchers in Spain and the United Kingdom could break a long-standing barrier to improving delivery of medications for cancer and other diseases. They describe the development of tiny, magnetically controlled particles, called “microswimmers,” that doctors could use to precisely deliver medicine to diseased tissue. Their report appears in the December 25, 2008 issue of The Journal of Physical Chemistry B, a weekly ACS publication.

In the new study, Pietro Tierno and colleagues note that scientists tried for years to develop tiny engines that can move micro and nanomachines through tight spaces, such as blood vessels and lab-on-a chip devices. But existing engines are slow, difficult to maneuver, and must undergo alterations in their shape, chemistry or temperature in order to work. The design of simple, more practical engines to power these tiny, robotic machines remains a major challenge, the researchers say.

The scientists describe a solution — tiny beads, about 1/25,000 of an inch in diameter, made of plastic and magnetic materials. When exposed to a magnetic field, the particles spun like a gyroscope and could be easily directed to move though narrow channels of liquids inside a glass plate, the researchers say. The scientists could control the speed of the “microswimmers” by varying the strength of the magnetic field. — MTS

Toward a long-sought saliva test for autism

Researchers in Italy are reporting discovery of abnormal proteins in the saliva of autism patients that could eventually provide a clue for the molecular basis of this severe developmental disorder and could be used as a biomarker for a subgroup of patients with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Their study is in the January 2 issue of ACS’ Journal of Proteome Research, a monthly publication.

Autism involves social withdrawal, impaired emotional responses and communication skills, and other symptoms. With no laboratory test available, scientists are searching for biomarkers such as abnormal proteins that appear in the body fluids of individuals with autism that may provide a way to accurately diagnose autism and track its response to potential treatments.

Massimo Castagnola, Irene Messana, Maria Giulia Torrioli and Fiorella Gurrieri, compared proteins in the saliva of 27 children with ASD to those in a control group without ASD. They discovered that at least one of four proteins in 19 children in the ASD group had significantly lower levels of phosphorylation. That key body process activates proteins so that they can work normally. The results suggest that these abnormal proteins might be the clue for anomalies in the phosphorylation of proteins involved in development of central nervous system in early infancy that are involved in ASD. — MTS

New evidence that people make aspirin’s active principle — salicylic acid

Scientists in the United Kingdom are reporting new evidence that humans can make their own salicylic acid (SA) — the material formed when aspirin breaks down in the body. SA, which is responsible for aspirin’s renowned effects in relieving pain and inflammation, may be the first in a new class of bioregulators, according to a study in the December 24, 2008 issue of ACS’ biweekly Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

In the report, Gwendoline Baxter, Ph.D. and colleagues discuss how their past research revealed that SA exists in the blood of people who have not recently taken aspirin. Vegetarians had much higher levels, almost matching those in patients taking low doses of aspirin. Based on those findings, the researchers previously concluded that this endogenous SA came from the diet, since SA is a natural substance found in fruits and vegetables.

Now the group reports on studies of changes in SA levels in volunteers who took benzoic acid, a substance also found naturally in fruits and vegetables that the body could potentially use to make SA. Their goal was to determine whether the SA found in humans (and other animals) results solely from consumption of fruits and vegetables, or whether humans produce their own SA as a natural agent to fight inflammation and disease. The results reported in the study suggest that people do manufacture SA.

“It is, we suspect, increasingly likely that SA is a biopharmaceutical with a central, broadly defensive role in animals as well as plants,” they state. “This simple organic chemical is, we propose, likely to become increasingly recognized as an animal bioregulator, perhaps in a class of its own.” — JS

Shrinking US nuclear weapons labs poised for historic reinvention

Because of a changing global role for nuclear weapons, government officials are seeking to cut the size of the U.S. nuclear weapons labs by a third-over the next 20 years. Along with the sweeping reductions, many scientists are calling for a historic reinvention of the weapons complex, which will be shaped in large part by President-Elect Barack Obama. An article on this topic is scheduled for the January 12 issue of Chemical & Engineering News, ACS’ weekly newsmagazine.

In the article, C&EN senior correspondent Jeff Johnson notes that the U.S. Department of Energy’s nuclear weapons complex currently includes some 37,000 weapons staff, almost half of them employed at three national labs: Lawrence Livermore, Sandia, and Los Alamos. But as the government reduces the size of its nuclear weapons arsenal, thousands of jobs at the labs have already been lost and experts project that job cutbacks will continue in the future, the article notes.

Decision-makers are split on what exactly the future of the weapons complex should be. Instead of focusing primarily on weapons manufacturing, testing, and maintenance, some experts are calling for the labs to direct more of their attention to research related to national security, energy, climate change, and other non-weapons scientific work. Other experts advocate development of new types of nuclear weapons, such as a “green” bomb that produce fewer environmental toxins. Notes one key political leader: “The labs missions have morphed and changed over the years and will continue to do so.”

Journalists’ Resources

  • ACS Office of Public Affairs creates press room page on Twitter
    The American Chemical Society’s Office of Public Affairs (OPA) has established a satellite press room on Twitter to increase availability of news from ACS’ 34 major peer-reviewed journals on health, energy, the environment, nanotechnology and other notable topics. 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, 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.
  • 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 debuts June 25 with new episodes through December. Subscribe at iTunes or listen and access other resources at the ACS GlobalChallenges website.
  • 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. Subscribe in iTunes.

    No iTunes? No problem. Listen to latest episodes of Bytesize Science in your web browser.
  • Science Elements: An ACS Science News Podcast
    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.



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.