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ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: July 22, 2009

Note to Journalists and Other Viewers

Here is the latest American Chemical Society (ACS) Office of Public Affairs 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 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

Stop and smell the flowers — the scent really can soothe stress

Feeling stressed? Then try savoring the scent of lemon, mango, lavender, or other fragrant plants. Scientists in Japan are reporting the first scientific evidence that inhaling certain fragrances alter gene activity and blood chemistry in ways that can reduce stress levels. Their study appears in ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a bi-weekly publication.

In the new study, Akio Nakamura and colleagues note that people have inhaled the scent of certain plants since ancient times to help reduce stress, fight inflammation and depression, and induce sleep. Aromatherapy, the use of fragrant plant oils to improve mood and health, has become a popular form of alternative medicine today. And linalool is one of the most widely used substances to soothe away emotional stress. Until now, however, linalool’s exact effects on the body have been a deep mystery.

The scientists exposed lab rats to stressful conditions while inhaling and not inhaling linalool. Linalool returned stress-elevated levels of neutrophils and lymphocytes — key parts of the immune system — to near-normal levels. Inhaling linalool also reduced the activity of more than 100 genes that go into overdrive in stressful situations. The findings could form the basis of new blood tests for identifying fragrances that can soothe stress, the researchers say.

An inner “fingerprint” for personalizing medical care

Fingerprints¬ move over. Scientists are reporting evidence that people have another defining trait that may distinguish each of the 6.7 billion humans on Earth from one another almost as surely as the arches, loops, and whorls on their fingertips. In a study scheduled for the Aug. 7 issue of ACS’ monthly publication the Journal of Proteome Research, they report evidence from studies in humans for the existence of unique patterns in metabolism.

Metabolism is a whole caboodle of chemical processes. Metabolism enables the body to turn food into energy, grow, repair damage from diseases and injuries, use medicines, and carry out other functions necessary to continue living. In the new study, Ivano Bertini and colleagues cite growing evidence that each individual has a unique metabolic profile. It’s a biochemical counterpart to fingerprints that can be detected by analyzing the chemical whorls and grooves that result from metabolism and can be detected in the urine.

Doctors have dreamed of using such tests for the early diagnosis of disease and personalized medical care. They could pick drugs and treatments that are best for each individual, rather than today’s one-size-fits all medicine. To do so, however, doctors need evidence that the metabolic fingerprint remains stable over a period of years, with changes due to disease or medications, for instance, but not advancing age or other factors. The new study provides that evidence, based on the analysis of over 1,800 urine samples from people monitored for 2-3 years. Researchers could identify individual patients from their metabolic profiles with an accuracy of over 99 percent. The study could pave the way for using metabolic profiling to apply personalized medical care, the researchers suggest.

Biodiesel on the wing: A “green” process for biodiesel from feather meal

Scientists in Nevada are reporting development of a new and environmentally friendly process for producing biodiesel fuel from “chicken feather meal,” made from the 11 billion pounds of poultry industry waste that accumulate annually in the United States alone. Their study is scheduled for the July 22 issue of ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a bi-weekly publication.

In the study Mano Misra, Susanta Mohapatra, Narasimharao Kondamudi, and Jason Strull note that chicken feather meal consists of processed chicken feathers, blood, and innards that have been processed at high temperatures with steam. Currently feather meal is used as animal feed and fertilizer because of its high protein and nitrogen content. With as much as 12 percent fat content, feather meal has potential as an alternative, nonfood feedstock for the production of biofuel, the report says.

The researchers describe a new process for extracting fat from chicken feather meal using boiling water and processing it into biodiesel. Given the amount of feather meal generated by the poultry industry each year, they estimate this process could create 153 million gallons of biodiesel annually in the U.S. and 593 million gallons worldwide. In addition, they note that removal of fat content from feather meal results in both a higher-grade animal feed and a better nitrogen source for fertilizer applications.

New silver nanoparticle skin gel for healing burns

Scientists in India are reporting successful laboratory tests of a new and potentially safer alternative to silver-based gels applied to the skin of burn patients to treat infections. With names like silver sulfadiazine and silver nitrate, these germ-fighters save lives and speed healing. The researchers describe gel composed of silver nanoparticles — each 1/50,000th the width of a human hair — that appears more effective than these traditional gels. Their study is scheduled for the Aug. 3 issue of ACS’ Molecular Pharmaceutics, a bi-monthly journal.

Kishore Paknikar and colleagues note that antimicrobial silver compounds have been used for decades on burn patients, whose damaged skin is highly vulnerable to bacterial infections. However, topical silver agents now in use can loose effectiveness in the body, cause skin discoloration, and damage cells. Drug-resistant bacteria can make these treatments less effective.

The scientists demonstrated that their gel killed a broad range of harmful bacteria, including Pseudomonas aeruginosa, one of the most common causes of burn infections, as well as several drug-resistant microbes. The gel, which contains 30 times less silver than silver sulfadiazine, did not have any apparent toxic effects when applied to the healthy skin of test animals. “These results clearly indicate that silver nanoparticles could provide a safer alternative to conventional antimicrobial agents in the form of a topical antimicrobial formulation,” the article states.

Protein drugs: Understanding a key component of modern medicine

With protein-based drugs poised for an expanding role in treating arthritis, cancer, and other diseases, scientists are providing drug developers with long-awaited tools for understanding how these drugs battle disease, cause side-effects and act in other ways in the body. That’s the topic of the cover story of the current issue of Chemical & Engineering News, ACS’ weekly newsmagazine.

C&EN associate editor Jyllian Kemsley notes in the article that protein-based drugs are large, complex molecules derived from living sources, such as humans, animals, and bacteria. Most other drugs are so-called “small molecules” with a simpler makeup. Protein drugs already have staked out a key role in medical care and will become more important in the future. In 2008, for instance, they accounted for four of the 15 best-selling drugs in the United States. All drugs must be proven safe and effective before going into general use, and a limited understanding of how proteins behave in the body hinders that task for scientists developing protein-based drugs.

The article describes how chemists are developing new tools and techniques that make it easier and faster to study the structure and function of these complex drugs. “Nobody ever said that analyzing biologic drugs was going to be easy,” the article notes. “But as analytical technology continues to advance, the goal of better understanding the workings of biologics is coming ever closer to realization.”

Journalists’ Resources

  • Save the Date: ACS August National Meeting
    Join more than 11,000 scientists expected to gather in Washington, D. C., Aug. 16-20 for one of the year’s largest and most important scientific conferences. The 238th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society will feature 8,000 reports on new discoveries about chemistry, medicine, health, food, fuels, the environment and other topics. For advance complimentary news media registration: https://www.xpressreg.net/register/acsf089/media/start.asp.
  • Special National Meeting News Media Briefing and Reception
    What better time than mid-August for a science-based briefing on the myths and facts, the dos and don’ts, about grilling and barbequing meat, fish, and veggies — accompanied by foods right off the grill and ice cold beverages? World-renowned food chemists Sara Risch, Ph.D., and Shirley Corriher (also an award-winning cookbook author), will deliver the briefing in the Washington Convention Center at 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 17. All registered news media are invited to attend the reception, which is likely to produce news and feature material.
  • Writing on Green Chemistry?
    Here is a treasure trove of some of the most significant scientific research articles published in 2008.
    http://pubs.acs.org/stoken/presspac/presspac/full/10.1021/op900082k
  • Press releases, briefings, and more from ACS’ 237th National Meeting
    http://www.eurekalert.org/acsmeet.php

    http://www.ustream.tv/channel/acslive
  • Must-reads from C&EN: NIH getting to know our body’s resident microbes better
    With literally trillions of bacteria calling our guts home, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has become so interested in the link between disease and our resident bacteria, fungi and archaea that it has created the Human Microbiome Project. Recently, NIH announced the next phase of the five-year $140 million study: comparing the microbes of health and sick people. For a copy of this story, send an e-mail to m_bernstein@acs.org.
  • ACS pressroom blog
    The American Chemical Society’s Office of Public Affairs (OPA) has created a new pressroom blog to highlight prominent research from ACS’ 34 journals.
  • Bytesize Science blog
    Educators and kids, put on your thinking caps: The American Chemical Society has a new blog for Bytesize Science, a science podcast for kids of all ages.
  • ACS satellite pressroom: 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. 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.
  • ACS Press Releases

General science press releases on a variety of chemistry-related topics.

  • New Web site on everyday chemicals
    Whether you want to learn more about caffeine, benzoyl peroxide (acne treatment), sodium chloride (table salt), or some other familiar chemical, CAS Common Chemistry can help. The new Web site provides non-chemists and others with useful information about everyday chemicals by searching either a chemical name or a corresponding CAS Registry Number. The site currently contains approximately 7,800 chemicals of general interest as well as all 118 elements from the periodic table, providing alternative names, molecular structures, a Wikipedia link, and other information.
  • 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. 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, with new video podcasts and some episodes available in Spanish. Subscribe to Bytesize Science in iTunes using 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 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. Subscribe to Science Elements using iTunes. Listen to the latest episodes of Science Elements in your web browser.
  • SciFinder® Podcasts
    Interested in healthful plant phytochemicals, nanotechnology, or green chemistry? Check out the SciFinder series of podcasts, which explore a vast array of current interest topics and new discoveries in the 21st century. The SciFinder podcasts are available in English, Chinese, Japanese, and Portuguese.

More ACS News


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 is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With more than 154,000 members, ACS is the world’s largest scientific society 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.