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ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: March 25, 2009

Note to Journalists and Other Viewers

This issue of the American Chemical Society (ACS) News Service Weekly Press Package (PressPac) is a special edition with selections from scientific presentations scheduled for the ACS’ 237th National Meeting in Salt Lake City. Our regular coverage of reports from ACS’ 34 major peer-reviewed journals and Chemical & Engineering News will resume with the April 1, 2009, edition.

CONTENT IS EMBARGOED FOR VARIOUS TIMES AS INDICATED

Note for reporters' use only: For full information about the Salt Lake City meeting, including full-length press releases on these and other topics, and access to abstracts of more than 7,000 scientific papers and hundreds of non-technical summaries, visit http://oasys.acs.org/output/process_last_run/acs/237nm/acs-237nm-newsservice-webprogram-cgi.html. The user name is news and the password is media. Menu for accessing nontechnical summaries, news releases, etc. is at the top of the home page.

Reporters attending the meeting can gather with scientists in an informal setting in our Press Center Chat Room at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Hall A. Click here to view the Press Briefing Schedule for ACS' 237th national meeting.

Please cite the American Chemical Society as the source of this information or indicate that the research was presented at a meeting of the American Chemical Society.

News Items in this Edition

New measurement standard for vitamin D may lead to better bone health

In a development that could help improve the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis, rickets, and other bone diseases, government chemists are reporting an advance in developing an accurate, reliable set of standards for measuring vitamin D levels in blood. Their findings could affect the health of millions of people worldwide, particularly children, women, and the elderly, who suffer from or are at risk of these debilitating diseases. The study will be presented here today at the American Chemical Society’s 237th National Meeting.

The advance comes in the midst of a growing awareness that many children and adults are not getting enough vitamin D. New studies also link vitamin D deficiency to a higher risk of diseases ranging from cancer to cognitive impairment in the elderly. Everyone needs ample vitamin D not just to absorb calcium and maintain bone strength but to promote good overall health.

People produce the vitamin naturally when sunlight shines on their skin. Concerns about skin cancer, however, have reduced exposure to sunlight. Likewise, declines in consumption of certain dairy products have reduced intake of another natural source of vitamin D. The vitamin also is available as a dietary supplement.

Despite concerns about adequate vitamin D intake, there is no standard laboratory test for measuring vitamin D levels in humans, and no universal agreement on what are considered “normal” or “optimal” vitamin D levels. “No one really knows what methods or assays are correct at this point,” says Mary Bedner, Ph.D., an analytical chemist with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, Md. “Right now, you can send a blood sample to two different labs and get completely different results for vitamin D.” — MTS

Pilgrims’ progress: Genetic data from 1630s backs health benefits of cancer screening

In the 1630s, the Fry family came to the New World with more than just dreams of prosperity and freedom — they also came with a genetic mutation that increased the likelihood of colon cancer in hundreds, if not thousands, of their descendants. The scientists who traced that gene back almost 370 years are now reporting that routine screening and education can prevent people with the mutated gene from developing cancer.

Their new report on Mr. and Mrs. George Fry, who likely arrived in Massachusetts colony aboard the William & Mary, was presented today at the 237th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS).

Deb Neklason, Ph.D., and colleagues explained how they used cancer records and a massive genealogic archive known as the Utah Population Database (UPDB) to trace the genetic condition to a Utah pioneer family and their 7,000 descendents. A New York family with the same genetic condition was also linked to the Utah group, which helped trace the two families back 16 generations to the Frys. The gene mutation causes a condition known as attenuated familial adenomatous polyposis (AFAP). AFAP causes the growth of colorectal polyps that have the potential to become cancerous.

“Our work demonstrates that colon cancer can be prevented with proper screening and care. Aggressive education and clinical intervention over a seven-year window in the Utah family has already prevented seven colon cancers,” says Neklason. — AD

“First economical process” for making biodiesel fuel from algae

Chemists reported development of what they termed the first economical, eco-friendly process to convert algae oil into biodiesel fuel — a discovery they predict could one day lead to U.S. independence from petroleum as a fuel. The study will be presented here today at the American Chemical Society’s 237th National Meeting.

One of the problems with current methods for producing biodiesel from algae oil is the processing cost, and the New York researchers say their innovative process is at least 40 percent cheaper than that of others now being used. Supply will not be a problem: There is a limitless amount of algae growing in oceans, lakes, and rivers, throughout the world.

Another benefit from the “continuously flowing fixed-bed” method to create algae biodiesel, they add, is that there is no wastewater produced to cause pollution.

“This is the first economical way to produce biodiesel from algae oil,” according to lead researcher Ben Wen, Ph.D., vice president of United Environment and Energy LLC, Horseheads, N.Y. “It costs much less than conventional processes because you would need a much smaller factory, there are no water disposal costs, and the process is considerably faster.” — MB

New nanogenerator may charge iPods and cell phones with a wave of the hand

Imagine if all you had to do to charge your iPod or your BlackBerry was to wave your hand, or stretch your arm, or take a walk? You could say goodbye to batteries and never have to plug those devices into a power source again.

In research presented here today at the American Chemical Society’s 237th National Meeting, scientists from Georgia describe technology that converts mechanical energy from body movements or even the flow of blood in the body into electric energy that can be used to power a broad range of electronic devices without using batteries.

“This research will have a major impact on defense technology, environmental monitoring, biomedical sciences and even personal electronics,” says lead researcher Zhong Lin Wang, Regents’ Professor, School of Material Science and Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. The new “nanogenerator” could have countless applications, among them a way to run electronic devices used by the military when troops are far in the field.

The researchers describe harvesting energy from the environment by converting low-frequency vibrations, like simple body movements, the beating of the heart or movement of the wind, into electricity, using zinc oxide (ZnO) nanowires that conduct the electricity. The ZnO nanowires are piezoelectric — they generate an electric current when subjected to mechanical stress. The diameter and length of the wire are 1/5,000th and 1/25th the diameter of a human hair. — MB

Nutritious new low-sugar juice targeted for diabetics, individuals with high blood sugar

Scientists in China are reporting development of a low-calorie, low-sugar vegetable juice custom-designed for millions of individuals with diabetes and pre-diabetic conditions that involve abnormally high blood sugar. They reported on the new drink here at the 237th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society.

Heqin Xing, Ph.D., and Xiuqi Liu of Jilin University in Changchun, China, described a cost-effective method of preparing a special type of vegetable drink using lactic acid-producing bacteria (LAB) to remove carbohydrates while retaining good taste, vitamins and other nutrients.

“This is an exciting development,” Liu said. “The process significantly removes sugar but retains the nutritional content of the juice’s raw materials.” To develop the juice — made from pumpkin, balsam pear, onion and carrots — Xing and Liu turned to an age-old technique in the art of food production. For thousands of years, people have cultured food — including everyday eats such as yogurt, cheeses and sausage — by using the same LAB.

In the study, LAB reduced sugar content of the vegetable juice by transforming carbohydrates into lactic acid by a routine conversion process called fermentation. As this process increases the juice’s acidity, it extends its shelf life as it inhibits growth of other bacteria. Compared to other microorganisms, LAB are known for their ability to withstand acidic environments. In addition to the lactic acid’s protection against contamination, the acidity from fermentation could enhance flavors in the beverage. — JS

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Nanoparticles in cosmetics/personal care products may have adverse environmental effects

Using aquatic microbes as their “canary-in-a-cage,” scientists from Ohio today reported that nanoparticles now being added to cosmetics, sunscreens, and hundreds of other personal care products may be harmful to the environment.

Their report was part of symposia that included almost two dozen papers at the 237th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society where scientists grappled to understand the environmental and human health effects of nanotechnology.

The study by Cyndee Gruden, Ph.D. and Olga Mileyeva-Biebesheimer focused on nano-titanium dioxide (nano-TiO2) particles found in cosmetics, sunscreens, and other personal care products. The particles are added to those products for their highly beneficial effects in blocking ultraviolet light in sunlight. Excess exposure can cause premature aging of the skin and skin cancer. “When they enter a lake, what happens?” asked Gruden, who is with the University of Toledo. “Would they enter an organism or bind to it? Maybe they kill it — or have nothing to do with it at all. These are important questions for determining the effects that nanoparticles may have on the environment. Right now, we’re not really sure of the answers.

”In a second study on nanotoxicity at the ACS National Meeting, scientists from Utah described development of a new biosensor that flashes like a beacon upon detecting nanoparticles in the environment.

Anne Anderson and colleagues at Utah State University and the University of Utah have inserted genes into a strain of Pseudomonas putida (P. putida) — a beneficial soil microbe — so that it emits light upon contact with nanoparticles of heavy metals. “The novelty of the biosensor is we’re able to get responses very, very quickly,” she said, “and we can get those answers in the absence of other factors that could bind the challenging compounds.” — JS

Journalists’ Resources

  • Must-reads from C&EN: Hawthorne wins 2009 Priestley Medal for pioneering research on boron
    The element boron forms the basis of a growing stream of important new chemical products ranging from cancer-fighting drugs to rocket fuels to futuristic nanomaterials. But few people are aware of the chemist who made many of these advances in boron research possible. His name is M. Frederick Hawthorne, Ph.D., and he’s this year’s winner of Priestley Medal, ACS’ highest honor. His inspiring story is the must-read cover story of this week’s Chemical & Engineering News, ACS’ weekly newsmagazine.
  • Resources for Covering Earth Day 2009
    The American Chemical Society’s (ACS) observance of Earth Day on April 22 – Chemists Celebrate Earth Day 2009 – will include community events focused on the theme, “Air — The Sky’s the Limit” based on understanding and protecting the planet’s atmosphere. For Earth Day 2009, ACS is sponsoring an illustrated haiku poetry contest about environmental chemistry for children in grades K-12 and a “Reduce Your Carbon Footprint” community program for children across the nation. Other events include presentations on global warming, the benefits of wind power and other educational projects. Check www.acs.org/earthday for details about Earth Day activities.
  • New 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. The blog includes daily commentary on the latest news from the weekly PressPac, including video and audio segments from researchers on topics covering chemistry and related sciences, including nanotechnology, food science, materials science and the environment. The pressroom blog will also cover updates on ACS’ awards, the national meetings and other general news from the world’s largest scientific society.
  • New 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. The Bytesize blog contains entertaining video podcasts and audio episodes of the latest and greatest news from the frontiers of chemistry, including a video detailing a discovery about the bug-eating pitcher plant and an audio episode on a new use for magnolia tree bark.
  • 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.
  • 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
  • "Live from Salt Lake City:" See the Press Briefing Schedule for ACS' 237th National Meeting
    The American Chemical Society (ACS) Office of Public Affairs is offering the news media the opportunity to join press briefings whether covering the meeting onsite or from a remote location. This format during ACS' 237th national meeting March 22-26 in Salt Lake City will provide access to the increasing number of journalists who cover scientific meetings from their home base. Borrowing the popular chat room concept from the Internet, we will provide news media with access to both real and virtual chat room sessions during the Salt Lake City. With more than 7,000 research presentations, this is one of the year's largest and most significant scientific conferences. Reporters attending the meeting can gather with scientists in an informal setting in our Press Center Chat Room, Hall A, at the Salt Palace Convention Center. Scientists will summarize their research and field questions. Offsite reporters can enter a virtual version of this chat room over the Internet. In addition to seeing and hearing the real-world activity, offsite reporters can submit questions
  • 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. Subscribe to Bytesize Science 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 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.

More ACS News


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