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ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: September 16, 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

Toward the design of greener consumer products

So you’re a manufacturer about to introduce a new consumer product to the marketplace. Will that product or the manufacture of the product contribute to global warming through the greenhouse effect? Until now, there was no clear way to answer that question. Scientists are reporting development of a new method for screening molecules and predicting how certain materials, ranging from chemicals used in carpeting to electronics, will contribute to global warming. Their study is scheduled for the Nov. 12 issue of ACS’ Journal of Physical Chemistry A, a weekly publication.

In the new study, Timothy Lee, Partha Bera, and Joseph Francisco note that carbon dioxide is the main greenhouse gas, which traps heat near Earth’s surface like the panes of glass in a greenhouse. However, other gases have the same effect, and in fact are even more efficient greenhouse gases than carbon dioxide. Scientists know that the molecules in gases differ in their ability to contribute to global warming. But they know little about the hows and whys – the molecular basis of those differences.

The scientists analyzed more than a dozen molecules involved in global warming to find out which chemical and physical properties are most important in determining their inherent radiative efficiency, and thus possess the largest potential to contribute to global warming. They found that molecules containing several fluorine atoms tend to be strong greenhouse gases, compared to molecules containing chlorine and/or hydrogen. They found for the first time that molecules containing several fluorine atoms bonded to the same carbon increase their radiative efficiency in a non-linear fashion. “It is hoped that the results from this study will be used in the design of more environmentally friendly materials,” the study notes.

Biofuel production could undercut efforts to shrink Gulf “Dead Zone”

Scientists in Pennsylvania report that boosting production of crops used to make biofuels could make a difficult task to shrink a vast, oxygen-depleted “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico more difficult. The zone, which reached the size of Massachusetts in 2008, forms in summer and threatens marine life and jobs in the region. Their study is scheduled for the Oct. 1 issue of ACS’ semi-monthly journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Christine Costello and W. Michael Griffin and colleagues explain that the zone forms when fertilizers wash off farm fields throughout the Mississippi River basin and into the Gulf of Mexico. The fertilizers cause the growth of algae, which eventually depletes oxygen in the water and kills marine life. Government officials hope to reduce fertilizer runoff and shrink the zone to the size of Delaware by 2015. But that goal could be more difficult to reach due to federally-mandated efforts to increase annual biofuel production to 36 billion gallons by 2022, the study says.

The scientists studied the potential effects of increased biofuel production on the “dead zone,” with a life-cycle analysis of nitrate fertilizer use on biofuel crops such as corn, soy, switch grass and stover (corn stems and leaves). They conclude that meeting the biofuel production goals will likely increase the depletion of oxygen compared to current levels in the Gulf due to more nutrient runoff.

New evidence that green tea may help improve bone health

Researchers in Hong Kong are reporting new evidence that green tea — one of the most popular beverages consumed worldwide and now available as a dietary supplement — may help improve bone health. They found that the tea contains a group of chemicals that can stimulate bone formation and help slow its breakdown. Their findings are in ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a bi-weekly publication. The beverage has the potential to help in the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis and other bone diseases that affect million worldwide, the researchers suggest.

In the new study, Ping Chung Leung and colleagues note that many scientific studies have linked tea to beneficial effects in preventing cancer, heart disease, and other conditions. Recent studies in humans and cell cultures suggest that tea may also benefit bone health. But few scientific studies have explored the exact chemicals in tea that might be responsible for this effect.

The scientists exposed a group of cultured bone-forming cells (osteoblasts) to three major green tea components — epigallocatechin (EGC), gallocatechin (GC), and gallocatechin gallate (GCG) — for several days. They found that one in particular, EGC, boosted the activity of a key enzyme that promotes bone growth by up to 79 percent. EGC also significantly boosted levels of bone mineralization in the cells, which strengthens bones. The scientists also showed that high concentrations of ECG blocked the activity of a type of cell (osteoclast) that breaks down or weakens bones. The green tea components did not cause any toxic effects to the bone cells, they note.

Spelling B-Y-U with DNA

College football fans cheer when marching bands spell out the home team’s name in gigantic letters on the field at halftime.  Now scientists in Utah are reporting the ultimate in one-upmanship: Development of a new technology for writing the school name in letters so small that 500 would fit across the diameter of a human hair (or hundreds of thousands would fit inside the diameter of a human hair). A report on the study, which helps overcome a long-standing challenge in nanotechnology, is scheduled for the October issue of ACS’ Nano Letters, a monthly journal.

In this report, Adam Woolley and co-authors Elisabeth Pound, Jeff Ashton and Hector Becerril have devised ways to fold DNA into nanoscale structures that have multiple branching points. They also describe procedures to form nanostructures of various different sizes using the method of “DNA origami.” This work has potential application in forming nanoelectronic devices.

In lab studies using the technique, and as a step toward Richard Feynman’s vision of information storage in “Plenty of Room at the Bottom,” they arranged segments of DNA into tiny letters that spell “BYU” — much like a marching band might form the initials for Brigham Young University. The letters are so small that hundreds of thousands would fit inside the period at the end of this sentence. The researcher note that these “small, thin structures with square junctions have potential applications in nanoelectronics, addressing the need for narrow, branched features for wiring.

Beyond genes: Mapping the “brave new world” of the epigenome

With the human genome — the “Book of Life” — in hand, scientists are trying to fill the pages of an anthology of closely related volumes that explain how simple chemical modifications to DNA and its packaging proteins turn genes on and off in ways that impact human health. Those companion tomes involve the human “epigenome,” the topic of the cover story in the current issue of Chemical & Engineering News, ACS’ weekly newsmagazine.

C&EN contributing editor Laura Cassiday notes in the article that the basic DNA sequence in the genome remains relatively constant throughout a person’s life. Epigenomic changes, however, can cause dramatic alterations how genes work without altering the underlying gene sequence. Studies link some of those changes to aging, cancer, certain birth defects, autoimmune diseases and other health problems.

The article describes ongoing epigenomics research and notes that the field is getting a boost from the National Institutes of Health Roadmap Epigenomics Program. It will fund more than $190 million in research over the next five years to support development of new technologies for mapping the epigenome. “With a brave new world awaiting exploration beyond the genome, it’s not surprising that epigenetics has risen from near obscurity to one of the hottest fields in biology,” the article notes.

Journalists’ Resources

  • Press releases, briefings, and more from ACS’ 238th National Meeting
    http://www.eurekalert.org/acsmeet.php

    http://www.ustream.tv/channel/acslive
  • Must-reads from C&EN: Emulating Nature’s Silicon Skills
    Chemists are trying to learn the secrets that single-celled microscopic algae called diatoms use to make their beautiful shells. Diatoms extract silicic acid from fresh or salt water, concentrate it and polymerize the silicic acid to form insoluble silica for their shells. With that knowledge in hand, scientists could develop better ways of making the silicon compounds used in commercial products ranging from caulk and grease to rubber and hair conditioners. They also could develop new types of silicon compounds. Please send an e-mail to m_bernstein@acs.org.
  • Writing on Green Chemistry?
    Here is a treasure trove of important scientific research articles published in 2008.
    http://pubs.acs.org/stoken/presspac/presspac/full/10.1021/op900082k


  • 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
    Press releases
    on a variety of chemistry-related topics.
  • Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) 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 includes about 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.
  • Science Connections from 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. Topics range 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

  • Bytesize Science, a podcast for young listeners
    Bytesize Science is a science podcast for kids of all ages that entertains and educates, with new high-definition 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.
  • Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions
    This special series of ACS podcasts on some of the 21st Century’s most daunting challenges, and how and how chemists and other scientists are finding solutions. Subscribe at iTunes or listen and access other resources at the ACS web site www.acs.org/GlobalChallenges.
  • Science Elements: Science Elements is a podcast of PressPac contents that makes cutting-edge scientific discoveries from ACS journals available to a broader public audience. 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.