The American Chemical Society (ACS) News Service Weekly press package (PressPac) offers information on reports selected from 36 major peer-reviewed journals and Chemical & Engineering News.
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In an advance toward earlier diagnosis of cancer and other disorders, scientists are reporting development of a potentially fast, simple and inexpensive blood test to detect disease “biomarkers.” The study is scheduled for the Dec. 26 issue of ACS’ Journal of the American Chemical Society, a weekly publication.
Cagri A. Savran and colleagues explain that serum biomarkers can reveal critical information about the onset and progression of many diseases. Several roadblocks hinder clinical use of existing biomarker tests, which will demand smaller sensors, faster detection times, and less expensive ways of analyzing samples of blood and other body fluids.
The study describes development of an integrated serum biomarker detection system for the folate receptor and testing of blood samples from patients with different types of cancer. Researchers captured the folate receptors — proteins that are biomarkers for the growth of cancer cells — with microscopic magnetic beads and assembled them to form a structure termed a “diffraction grating.”
A laser beam focused on the grating yielded a pattern that could potentially be used to determine the biomarker concentration and thus the state of tumor growth. “The same principles presented here should apply for detection of many other disease markers present in various body fluids,” the researchers stated. “Due to its simplicity and high sensitivity, we expect this method to be extremely useful both in research laboratories and in development of devices for point-of-care diagnostics.” — AD
Here’s another reason to “keep off the grass.” Researchers in Canada report that marijuana smoke contains significantly higher levels of several toxic compounds — including ammonia and hydrogen cyanide — than tobacco smoke and may therefore pose similar health risks. Their study, termed the most comprehensive to date on the chemical content of marijuana smoke, is scheduled for the Dec. 17 issue of ACS’ Chemical Research in Toxicology, a monthly journal.
David Moir and colleagues note that researchers have conducted extensive studies on the chemical composition of tobacco smoke, which contains a host of toxic substances, including about 50 that can cause cancer. However, there has been relatively little research on the chemical composition of marijuana smoke.
In this new study, researchers compared marijuana smoke to tobacco smoke, using smoking machines to simulate the smoking habits of users. The scientists found that ammonia levels were 20 times higher in the marijuana smoke than in the tobacco smoke, while hydrogen cyanide, nitric oxide and certain aromatic amines occurred at levels 3-5 times higher in the marijuana smoke, they say. The finding is “important information for public health and communication of the risk related to exposure to such materials,” say the researchers. — MTS
A new analysis has concluded that use of existing biotechnology in the production of so-called bulk chemicals could reduce consumption of non-renewable energy and carbon emissions by 100 percent. The study appeared in the Nov. 15 issue of ACS’ Environmental Science & Technology, a semi-monthly journal.
Bulk chemicals like ethylene, butanol or acrylic acid are the basic raw materials used in the production of everything from plastics and fertilizers to electronic components and medicines. Currently derived from crude oil and natural gas, bulk chemical production creates billions of tons of carbon dioxide each year. Still, the application of industrial biotechnology for the production of bulk chemicals has received much less attention than alternative fuel or biomass-derived energy production.
B. G. Hermann and colleagues analyzed current and future technology routes leading to 15 bulk chemicals using industrial biotechnology, calculating their carbon emissions and fossil energy use. With biotechnology advances in the future, the researchers suggest that worldwide CO2 savings in the range of 500-1000 million tons per year are possible. Even today, bio-based bulk chemicals “offer clear savings in non-renewable energy use and green house gas emissions with current technology compared to conventional petrochemical production.” — AD
Consumer demand for dietary supplements containing large amounts of plant-based antioxidants has outpaced scientific knowledge on the actual health benefits, best dosages, and risks of those phytochemicals, according to an editorial in the December (current) issue of ACS’ Molecular Pharmaceutics, a bi-monthly journal. It is part of a special edition of the journal devoted to research on phytochemicals, substances found in fruits and vegetables, which show promise in preventing cancer, aging, heart disease and other conditions.
Guest Editor Ming Hu issues “a call to arms” for more relevant research on antioxidants, especially in the high doses used in dietary supplements. Many past studies on the potential health benefits of these compounds have been done in animals and their exact effects in humans are uncertain, he notes, without adequate attention to bioavailability — how much of a dose actually can be used by the body — and how phytochemicals interact with prescription drugs.
Hu calls for more studies exploring how these antioxidants are utilized in the body, particularly by targeted areas such as the heart and breast tissue. He notes, for example, that millions of women in the United States are taking soy-based phytoestrogens to relieve menopausal symptoms. Recent studies, however, found that a compound in soy might stimulate the growth of breast cancer. — MTS
After recalls and fires involving Lithium-ion batteries, battery manufacturers and scientists have launched an intensive effort to improve the safety of these rechargeable power packs found in dozens of consumer electronics products, according to an article scheduled for the Dec. 17 issue of Chemical & Engineering News, ACS’ weekly newsmagazine.
In the article, C&EN Senior Editor Mitch Jacoby points out that fires and explosions involving Lithium-ion batteries are rare, occurring in anywhere from one in 1 million to one in 10 million batteries, according to the best estimates. Still, these widely-publicized incidents have worried consumers and forced costly recalls of millions of batteries.
Researchers in industry and academe do not fully understand why Lithium-ion batteries sometimes catch fire or explode, Jacoby notes. Possible explanations include impurities that short circuit the batteries and yet unidentified reactions that underlie the problem. Nevertheless, researchers are exploring new battery materials, including components that generate less heat and reduce the risk of mishaps. Manufacturers are already selling or planning to sell safer Lithium-ion batteries for power tools and electric vehicles, with more improvements on the way, according to the article.
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