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ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: Wed Sep 09 16:42:03 EDT 2009

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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

“Dung of the Devil” plant roots point to new swine flu drugs

Scientists in China have discovered that roots of a plant used a century ago during the great Spanish influenza pandemic contains substances with powerful effects in laboratory experiments in killing the H1N1 swine flu virus that now threatens the world. The plant has a pleasant onion-like taste when cooked, but when raw it has sap so foul-smelling that some call it the “Dung of the Devil” plant. Their report is scheduled for the Sept. 25 issue of ACS’ Journal of Natural Products, a monthly publication.

In the study, Fang-Rong Chang and Yang-Chang Wu and colleagues note that the plant, Ferula assa-foetida, grows mainly in Iran, Afghanistan and mainland China. People used it as a possible remedy during the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic that killed between 20 to 100 million people. Until now, however, nobody had determined whether the plant does produce natural antiviral compounds.

Chang and Wu identified a group of chemical compounds in extracts of the plant that showed greater potency against influenza A (H1N1) than a prescription antiviral drug available for the flu. “Overall, the present study has determined that sesquiterpene coumarins from F. assa-foetida may serve as promising lead components for new drug development against influenza A (H1N1) viral infection,” the authors write.

Baby Boomers Boon? LED light & green tea cream to smooth facial wrinkles

Scientists in Germany are reporting a major improvement in their potential new treatment for facial wrinkles that could emerge as an alternative to Botox and cosmetic surgery. The non-invasive technique combines high-intensity light from light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and a lotion made of green tea extract. It works ten times faster than a similar anti-wrinkle treatment that uses LEDs alone, the researchers say. Their study is scheduled for the Oct. 7 issue of ACS’ Crystal Growth & Design, a bi-monthly journal.

Andrei P. Sommer and Dan Zhu point out that researchers have used light-therapy, or phototherapy, for more than 40 years to help heal wounds. Recently the scientists showed that use of high-intensity LEDs, similar to those used in automotive tail lights and computers, could help reduce skin wrinkles when applied daily for several months. But exposure to intense LED light is also involved in generating high levels of reactive oxygen species as byproducts that can potentially damage cells. To combat that effect, the researchers combined the LED with a potent antioxidant in green tea extract called epigallocatechin gallate.

They applied a daily combination of LED light and green tea extract to the facial wrinkles of a human volunteer for one month. The combination treatment resulted in smoother skin, including "less pronounced wrinkle levels, shorter wrinkle valleys, and juvenile complexion," the scientists say. The treatment showed promising results in only one-tenth of the time it took for LED therapy alone to reduce wrinkles. The study could form the basis for "an effective facial rejuvenation program," and lead to a new understanding of the effect reactive oxygen species on cellular aging, they note.

Getting plants to rid themselves of pesticide residues

Scientists in China are reporting the “intriguing” discovery that a natural plant hormone, applied to crops, can help plants eliminate residues of certain pesticides. The study is scheduled for the Sept. 23 issue of ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a bi-weekly publication.

Jing Quan Yu and colleagues note that pesticides are essential for sustaining food production for the world’s growing population. Farmers worldwide use about 2.5 million tons of pesticides each year. Scientists have been seeking new ways of minimizing pesticide residues that remain in food crops after harvest — with little success. Previous research suggested that plant hormones called brassinosteroids (BRs) might be an answer to the problem.

The scientists treated cucumber plants with one type of BR then treated the plants with various pesticides, including chloropyrifos (CPF), a broad-spectrum commercial insecticide. BR significantly reduced their toxicity and residues in the plants, they say. BRs may be “promising, environmentally friendly, natural substances suitable for wide application to reduce the risks of human and environmental exposure to pesticides,” the scientists note. The substances do not appear to be harmful to people or other animals, they add.

Toward a nanomedicine for brain cancer

In an advance toward better treatments for the most serious form of brain cancer, scientists in Illinois are reporting development of the first nanoparticles that seek out and destroy brain cancer cells without damaging nearby healthy cells. The study is scheduled for the Sept. 9 issue of ACS’ Nano Letters, a monthly journal.

Elena Rozhkova and colleagues note the pressing need for new ways to treat the disease, glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), which often causes death within months of diagnosis. Recent studies show that titanium dioxide nanoparticles, a type of light-sensitive material widely used in sunscreens, cosmetics, and even wastewater treatment, can destroy some cancer cells when the chemical is exposed to ultraviolet light. However, scientists have had difficulty getting nanoparticles, each about 1/50,000th the width of a human hair, to target and enter cancer cells while avoiding healthy cells.

The scientists’ solution involves chemically linked titanium dioxide nanoparticles to an antibody that recognizes and attaches to GMB cells. When they exposed cultured human GMB cells to these so-called “nanobio hybrids,” the nanoparticles killed up to 80 percent of the brain cancer cells after 5 minutes of exposure to focused white light. The results suggest that these nanoparticles could become a promising part of brain cancer therapy, when used during surgery, the researchers say.

Delivering the silent treatment

Putting the next generation of medicines on pharmacy shelves hinges on an intensive search for ways of safely and effectively delivering a silencing message to genes that are at the basis of innumerable diseases. That’s the gist of an article about the status of drug development based on RNA interference—nature’s gene-silencing mechanism—in the Sept. 7 issue of Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), ACS’s weekly newsmagazine.

In the cover story, C&EN Senior Editor Lisa M. Jarvis explains that cells use it to control the activity of genes. Cells naturally use strands of material called silent interfering RNA, or siRNA, to reroute the instructions for making proteins so they never get made. For years, scientists have been excited by the idea of using siRNA as drugs, introducing it to patients to turn off production of disease-causing proteins. They initially thought that they could simply inject bits of siRNA into patients and knock down diseases.

Jarvis describes a growing realization that to get inside cells siRNA would need to hitch a ride. To date, the delivery vehicles of choice wrap siRNA inside a tiny bubble of lipids, polymers, or other materials. But those vehicles can reach only so many places, and they aren’t so good at unloading their genetic passengers. The article details a range of efforts underway in the pharmaceutical industry and academic labs to develop new and better siRNA delivery technologies.

Journalists’ Resources

  • 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 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.
  • 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. 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

  • Bytesize Science, a podcast for young listeners
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  • Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions
    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.
  • 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.