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ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: Wed May 13 16:42:03 EDT 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

Advance in detecting melamine-adulterated food

Researchers in Indiana are reporting an advance toward faster, more sensitive tests for detecting melamine, the substance that killed at least 6 children and sickened 300,000 children in China who drank milk and infant formula adulterated with the substance. The improved tests may ease global concerns about food safety, the researchers say. Their report is scheduled for the May 27 issue of ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a bi-weekly publication.

In the new study, Lisa Mauer and colleagues note that tests already exist for melamine, which is widely used in plastics. Certain food manufacturers, however, have added melamine to food products marketed for humans and domestic pets to boost apparent protein content. Conventional tests, however, tend to be too slow, insensitive, and too complex for large-scale food screening applications. Researchers say that better detection tests are needed, particularly in the wake of new U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines limiting melamine in dairy products to 1 part per million (ppm) or less.

The scientists describe a trio of promising detection methods based on near- and mid-infrared spectroscopy, analytical techniques that identify a substance based on its chemical fingerprint when exposed to specific kinds of light. In laboratory studies, the scientists used these tests to screen infant formula spiked with different concentrations of melamine. They found that these methods accurately detected the substance at levels as low as 1 ppm, meeting the new FDA detection guidelines. The techniques take as little as 5 minutes to detect melamine and are relatively simple to use, requiring little or no sample preparation.

Cloud Computing Brings Cost of Protein Research Down to Earth

The amazingly powerful computers at Amazon.com — where online customers order books, CDs, and other products — are giving scientists an inexpensive tool to crunch massive amounts of data being generated by efforts to understand proteins. Termed proteomics, the large-scale study of all the proteins in an organism, promises new ways of diagnosing and treating hundreds of diseases. In a report scheduled for the June 5 issue of ACS’ monthly Journal of Proteome Research, scientists describe the development of free tools using Amazon’s “cloud computing” service that can help shoulder scientists’ data crunching needs with its brawny network of computers.

In the report, Brian D. Halligan and colleagues note that a major challenge in proteomics research involves obtaining and maintaining the costly computational infrastructure required for analysis of data. “Cloud computing,” using a large network of computers to tackle one complex task, may make this mountain of data easier to manage.

The researchers describe development of a new approach to proteomics data analysis called ViPDAC (virtual proteomics data analysis cluster) that uses Amazon Web Service’s inexpensive “cloud computing” service. It allows people to rent processing time on Amazon’s powerful servers. The study describes one data analysis that took less than 6 days with ViPDAC, but would have required 140 days on a desktop computer. “For researchers currently without access to large computer resources, this greatly increases the options to analyze their data. They can now undertake more complex analyses or try different approaches that were simply not feasible for them before,” the report states.

Solving the mystery of how plants survive near Chernobyl

Twenty-two years after the Chernobyl nuclear power station accident in the Ukraine — the worst in history — scientists are reporting insights into the mystery of how plants have managed to adapt and survive in the radioactive soil near Chernobyl. Their research is the first to probe how production of key proteins in plants changes in response to the radioactive environment, according to the report. It is scheduled for the June 5 issue of ACS’ Journal of Proteome Research, a monthly publication.

Martin Hajduch and colleagues note in the new study that plants growing in the Chernobyl area following the April 26, 1986 disaster somehow adapted to the radioactive environment and thrived. But until now, nobody knew what biochemical changes in the plants accounted for this miracle and enabled plants to adapt.

The researchers found that soybean plant seeds exposed to radiation produced different amounts and types of protein than seeds from unexposed plants. The proteins protected the seeds from radio-contaminated environment. Interestingly, plants from contaminated fields produced one-third more of a protective protein called betaine aldehyde dehydrogenase — the same protein known to protect human blood from radiation damage.

New insights into the mystery of “high risk platelets” from diabetic donors

Amid emerging concerns that blood platelets donated for transfusion by individuals with Type 2 diabetes may be unsafe, scientists are reporting the first detailed identification and analysis of a group of abnormal proteins in platelets from diabetic donors. The study could lead to screening tests to detect and monitor these so-called “high risk platelets,” the researchers say. Their study is scheduled for the June 5 issue of ACS’ Journal of Proteome Research, a monthly publication. About 18 million people in the United States have Type 2 diabetes, and the disease is spreading with the epidemic of obesity.

David Springer and colleagues point out in the new study that thousands of patients receive potentially lifesaving transfusions of platelets each year to treat bleeding from trauma and for a wide range of medical conditions. Scientists have known that abnormal platelets in the blood of diabetics may predispose these individuals to heart disease. It led to concern that platelets from these individuals stored for transfusion may be less effective and even unsafe. However, scientists know little about how diabetic platelets differ from those of healthy people.

The new study identified 122 proteins that differed in the platelets of individuals with diabetes compared to the platelets of non-diabetics. They also found that freshly collected platelets from diabetics show almost as many abnormal changes (more than 100) in protein content as healthy donor platelets stored for up to 5 days. These findings could lead to new tests for detecting and monitoring abnormal platelets to improve the outcome of blood transfusions from both diabetic and healthy individuals, the researchers say.

Revealing a surprising link between diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease

Blindness, heart disease, nerve damage, and kidney failure are not the only complications facing the nation’s estimated 24 million people with diabetes. Although not widely known, those with the disease face up to double the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease (AD) than non-diabetics, according to an article scheduled for the May 18 issue of Chemical & Engineering News, ACS’ weekly newsmagazine.

C&EN senior editor Sophie Rovner explains in the article that people with diabetes tend to have a higher risk of getting AD, and possibly get it at an earlier age, than the general population. Five million people in the United States have Alzheimer’s, a brain disorder that causes severe memory loss. Diabetes results from the body’s inability to produce or use insulin. Newer research now suggests that insulin is critical for healthy nerve cells in the brain. As the hormone declines in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s, so does their memory.

Some research even suggests that diabetes and Alzheimer’s are part of the same disease process that affects different parts of the body and that Alzheimer’s may be considered “Type 3” diabetes. If so, then doctors might treat Alzheimer’s in the same way as diabetes, which includes giving patients insulin or other medications — including so-called “insulin sensitizing” drugs — the article states.

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.
  • 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: Water purification is becoming big business in China
    In the wake of growing shortages of clean drinking water worldwide, water purification is becoming big business in China, the world’s most populated country. An estimated 200 million and 300 million people throughout the Chinese countryside do not have access to a safe source of water. The country’s government is responding to this crisis with plans to spend billions of dollars over the next few years building new water treatment facilities, with help from major international companies with expertise in water purification. To receive a free copy of this must-read C&EN story about China’s water needs, 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. 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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 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.
  • Save the Date: Green Chemistry conference on sustainability begins June 23
    Jean-Michel Cousteau, noted explorer, film-producer and environmentalist, and Len Sauers, Ph.D., Vice President of Global Sustainability for The Procter & Gamble Company, are the featured keynote speakers at the upcoming 13th annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference in June in College Park, Md. The focus of this year’s conference, June 23-25 at the Marriott Inn and Conference Center, is on progress made toward research objectives identified in the National Academy of Sciences’ 2006 report, “Sustainability in the Chemical Industry: Grand Challenges and Research Needs.” Sauers will address the convention on June 24, Cousteau on June 25. For more information on the conference, please visit www.gcande.org.

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. Launched in 2008, this award-winning series continues in 2009 with updates and fresh content. 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


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.