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ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: December 13, 2006
Mark Your Calendars
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News Items in this Edition
If Russet Ranger were a kid rather than a potato, it might be eyeing top potato Russet Burbank and singing the last refrain in the one-potato, two-potato handclapping rhyme: “Icha bacha, soda cracker, out goes Y-O-U!” For Russet Burbank’s long reign as top potato for French fry production in the United States may be in jeopardy after scientists have muted the genes that left Russet Ranger undesirable for French fries.
Caius M. Rommens and colleagues in Idaho describe their successful modification of Russet Ranger — without inserting any foreign DNA into the plant’s genome — in a report scheduled for the Jan. 10 issue of ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a bi-weekly publication. They explain that Russet Burbank has been the preferred variety for French fry production mainly because of its excellent storage characteristics. Russet Ranger grows better with higher yields, but stores poorly and bruises easily.
The researchers used gene-silencing technology to reduce Ranger’s production of enzymes responsible for poor storage and the unsightly bruising. In addition to being tastier, for instance, French fries made from the new Ranger had lower levels of acrylamide, a compound that has been a source of health concerns about fried foods.
Scientists in Austria are reporting detection of previously unrecognized proteins that accumulate on the surface of silicone breast implants after implants are in the body. Georg Wick and colleagues say that the proteins may be involved in causing immune reactions in patients from breast implants and other types of silicone implants.
Their research involved 23 healthy women who were undergoing breast augmentation for cosmetic reasons, including some who were removing or replacing implants due to complications.
In an article in the current (December) issue of ACS’ Journal of Proteome Research, a monthly publication, the scientists describe using a targeted proteomics approach to identify proteins adsorbed to the surface of silicone because those proteins have been identified as key components in local immune reactions to silicone. “Thus far we have identified the 30 most abundant proteins deposited on the surface of silicone, the largest known inventory of such proteins so far.”
Noting uncertainty about any link between autoimmune disease and silicone implants, they state that the new report “shows that silicone promotes at least the adhesion of altered self-proteins, which in turn may trigger an autoimmune response of the immune system.”
Further improvements are needed before a promising new technology can be used to upgrade air quality in commercial jetliner cabins, scientists from Austria, Denmark and the United States have concluded in a study scheduled for the Jan. 1 issue of ACS’ Environmental Science & Technology, a semi-monthly publication.
Armin Wisthaler and colleagues studied photocatalytic oxidation, a leading candidate for improving the quality of air in commercial jetliners. Existing air purification technology removes airborne particles, but not odors and the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that may cause eye and nose irritation. Photocatalytic oxidation units can remove VOCs, and aircraft manufacturers have considered using that technology in combination with existing air filtration systems.
The researchers checked the ability of two prototype air cleaners, combining filtration and photocatalytic oxidation, during simulated seven-hour flights. A seemingly trivial event — opening of alcohol-moistened wet wipes distributed with airline meals for hand cleaning — tipped off the researchers to an unanticipated problem with the photocatalytic technology.
Photocatalytic oxidation changed airborne alcohol from the wipes into unacceptably high levels of acetaldehyde in cabin air. Alcohol also can get into cabin air from other hygienic products, alcoholic beverages, cosmetics and medicines, the researchers note.
Scientists are reporting discovery of technology that may simplify construction of those much-discussed Micro Total Analysis Systems (micro-TASs) — “labs-on-a-chip” with whole medical and scientific laboratories shrunk to the size of computer chips.
The University of Michigan’s Edgar Meyhofer and colleagues report the first demonstration that microtubules, envisioned as key components of micro-TASs, can be steered in any desired direction with externally applied electric fields. Their study is scheduled for publication in the Dec. 13 issue of ACS’ Nano Letters, a monthly journal. Microtubules ― microscopic tube-shaped weaves of proteins ― serve as roadways inside cells, pathways for delivering neurotransmitters to the tips of nerve cells, positioning chromosomes for cell division and transporting molecules.
On micro-TASs, microtubules would be used as molecular tracks in the chip for filtration, dilution, separation, reactions, detection and other steps in an analysis. The new steering technology may provide an easier way of positioning microtubules in the desired orientation on chips, thus reducing the amount of microfabrication typically needed to manufacture guide channels, the researchers said.
In one of the season’s first lists of top science stories of 2006, Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN) — the ACS’ weekly newsmagazine — unveils its selections of the year’s most important discoveries in chemistry. Chemistry is an interdisciplinary science that covers fields ranging from astronomy to zoology.
On the 2006 list are discoveries in organic chemistry, carbohydrate chemistry, structural biology, nanotechnology, space chemistry and other fields. One of C&EN’s picks in organic chemistry, for instance, was the development of new methods for making oseltamivir phosphate, the active ingredient in the antiviral drug, Tamiflu. New insights into the nature of comets and interstellar clouds got C&EN’s nod in the space chemistry category.
In the article, scheduled for the Dec. 18 issue, senior correspondent Stu Borman explains the process that C&EN editors use to compile the annual list, which includes an evaluation of the novelty and breakthrough nature of individual scientific developments covered in C&EN’s news stories.
“Efforts to identify the ‘best’ research developments are always fraught with difficulties,” Borman notes. “Nevertheless, we believe the selections we make this year and every year are advances that will continue to shape the field of chemistry, both in the near term and for a good number of years into the future.”
- ACS Evergreens — Holiday Story Ideas
‘Tis the season for evergreens — those evergreen feature stories that are fresh to every new generation of readers, viewers and listeners. Here are a few of our favorites from the ACS News Service, with links to press releases and full texts of the corresponding original scientific journal articles.
Yes, Virginia, some snowflakes are the same
Tweaking bubbly’s bubbles
O Christmas tree: Your bark may fight arthritis
Cranberries contain a natural antibiotic
“Gift of the Magi” bears anti-cancer agents
Cinnamon helps lower sugar levels in diabetes
Mark Your Calendars
Chemistry has an increasingly important role in research on cancer diagnosis, prevention and treatment.
To spotlight that role, the American Chemical Society (ACS) and the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) will cosponsor a special conference entitled Chemistry in Cancer Research: A Vital Partnership on Feb. 4-7 in San Diego, Calif.
The program will feature presentations by prominent scientists on drug discovery, proteomics, the chemical biology of carcinogenesis, biomarkers and analytical chemistry, modeling and bioinformatics, and structural biology.
The American Chemical Society – the world’s largest scientific society – is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress 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.