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ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: April 04, 2007

Journalists’ Resources

Mark Your Calendars

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News Items in this Edition

Coffee: Aroma, Taste and Dietary Fiber

Already recognized as a source of healthful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds, coffee also contains significantly higher levels of soluble dietary fiber than other commonly consumed beverages, scientists in Spain report. Their study is scheduled for publication in the March 21 issue of ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a biweekly journal.

Fulgencio Saura-Calixto and M. Elena Diaz-Rubio point out that coffee is a complex chemical mixture that reportedly contains more than 1,000 different compounds, some of which have been linked to good and bad effects on human health. Scientists have known that coffee beans are rich in soluble dietary fiber (SDF) that can pass into brewed coffee, the researchers added, noting, however, that little research has been done on the topic.

In the new study, researchers used a special technique for measuring dietary fiber in beverages to show that brewed coffee contains a significant amount of SDF — 02.5 percent to 20.0 percent by weight of powdered coffee bean. “The dietary fiber content in brewed coffee is higher than in other common beverages such as wine or orange juice,” the study states.

The findings mean that consumption of 1 cup (about 200 milliliters) of coffee per day represents a contribution of up to 1.8 grams of the recommended intake of 20-38 grams of this essential nutrient, the researchers noted.

Toward Tapping the Potential of “Stranded” Natural Gas

Newly discovered chemical catalysts may be an answer to the century-long search for economical ways of using natural gas now burned or “flared” as waste in huge quantities, scientists in the United States and Germany report. Their study is scheduled for the March 7 issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society, a weekly publication.

Johannes A. Lercher and colleagues at the Technical University of Munich and Dow Chemical Company explain that 30 percent to 60 percent of the world’s natural gas is classified as “stranded,” meaning that it cannot be used locally or transported economically to other markets. When produced in the course of pumping crude oil, such gas is vented to the atmosphere or burned at the wellhead.

That wasted natural gas is mainly methane, a compound in great demand as a chemical feedstock, a basic raw material for making chemicals that are subsequently used to make hundreds of medical, commercial and industrial products. No practical technology has been available, however, for using the methane in natural gas as a chemical feedstock. The new study describes research on lanthanum-based catalysts that convert methane into a compound that would be an ideal chemical feedstock.

Transforming “Yellow Grease” Into Therapeutic Cosmetics

Waste cooking oil from restaurant deep fryers could become a much-sought inexpensive raw material for producing unusual biosurfactants with uses ranging from therapeutic cosmetics that regenerate damaged skin to controlling algae blooms in lakes and ponds, according to researchers in New York.

In a report scheduled for the April 9 issue of the ACS bimonthly journal Biotechnology Progress, Vishal Shah and colleagues estimate that restaurants in the United States generate about 25 billion gallons of waste cooking oil each week. The waste oil, marketed as “yellow grease,” long has been used in animal feed, with researchers exploring new applications such as biodiesel fuel.

"We have successfully demonstrated the use of restaurant waste oil as a potential low-cost lipid feedstock for sophorolipid production," the report states. “This method of waste oil disposal has the advantage of producing a value-added commercially viable byproduct.” Sophorolipids have a range of applications, including naturally derived ingredients in therapeutic cosmetics; germicidal solutions for washing fruits and vegetables; and anti-algal agents for environmental cleanups, the report notes.

Toward Powerful New Anticancer Drugs with New Ways of Targeting Tumors

The search for new anticancer drugs has led scientists in Pittsburgh to synthesize a compound that works in a different way than existing agents and is so potent that minute levels of 10 parts per trillion block the growth of tumor cells in laboratory experiments. Kazunori Koide and colleagues describe the compound as one of the most potent of all anticancer agents in a report scheduled for the March 7 issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

The parent compound, FR901464, inhibited the growth of cancer cells implanted into laboratory mice. Because of structural similarity between FR901464 and their analogue, called meayamycin, the Koide group is cautiously optimistic that meayamycin also will be effective against tumors in mice. The amount that the Koide employed against cancer cells is equivalent to 10 seconds in 32,000 years or one packet of sugar (5 grams) in a coffee cup the size of 400 Olympic-size pools.

In the article, researchers explain that existing chemotherapy medications work by targeting only a handful of vulnerable spots in a tumor, such as the DNA or hormone receptors. That limited range of targets has led scientists to seek new generations of medications that work in different ways.

A New Target in the War on Cancer

A new family of potential anti-cancer drugs is quietly causing excitement in the pharmaceutical industry as early data from clinical trials shows promising responses in patients, according to an article scheduled for the Feb. 26 issue of Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), the ACS’ weekly newsmagazine.

In the article, C&EN associate editor Lisa Jarvis explains that the new compounds may circumvent the long-standing problem of drug resistance, in which anti-cancer drugs gradually loose their effectiveness. The drugs focus on a new target in the war against cancer — a substance called heat shock protein 90 (Hsp90). Heat shock proteins are most active when the cell is exposed to elevated temperatures, infection, inflammation, toxins and other stresses that can cause a protein to unfold. Like housekeepers, heat shock proteins help those proteins — including mutated, cancer-causing proteins — get back into their proper shape.

When Hsp90's effects are blocked in cancer cells, those cancer-causing proteins cannot survive, potentially stopping the disease in its track. When Hsp90’s effects are blocked in cancer cells, damaged proteins accumulate, and the cell dies. Jarvis explains that cancer cells, with their horribly mutated proteins, seem to be especially dependent on Hsp90, and more vulnerable than other body cells when Hsp90’s effects are blocked. The article describes how new discoveries have changed heat shock proteins from laboratory curiosities into some of today’s most promising targets for developing new drugs.

Journalists’ Resources

  • General Chemistry Glossary

The General Chemistry Glossary can be found here.

  • An Editor Comments on the New Climate Change Report

Jerald L. Schnoor’s editorial from the current issue of ACS’s Environmental Science & Technology, a semi-monthly journal.

  • Earth Day, April 22
    ACS Video Contest for Students

    April 10 is the deadline for entries in the ACS’ video contest for college and university students. The cash-award competition is part of the “Chemists Celebrate Earth Day” observance.

    ACS Earth Day Poetry Contest

    Find more information on ACS’ illustrated haiku contest for students in grades Kindergarten-12.

    ACS Earth Day Fact Sheet

    Download the PDF
  • ACS Chemical Biology

Highlights from the American Chemical Society journal, ACS Chemical Biology, are now available on EurekAlert!, the online science news service for reporters. ACS Chemical Biology is a monthly journal exploring cellular function from both chemical and biological perspectives. In addition to research papers and reviews, the journal also publishes “Spotlight” — current research in chemical biology from other journals; “Profile” — experts in the field; and “Points of View” — comments from leading scientists. The journal’s Web site is updated weekly with new content, and features a WIKI and an “Ask the Expert” section.

Mark Your Calendars

ACS National Meeting — Chicago, March 25-29

The American Chemical Society’s 233rd national meeting promises to be one of 2007’s biggest and most productive science conferences, and a bonanza of spot news, feature topics and background for reporters covering science, medicine, energy, environment, food, business or the environment. We expect more than 9,000 scientific papers on topics spanning science’s horizons from astronomy to zoology. Visit the National Meeting page for preliminary program information, media registration and housing.

Special Event: Chicago News Media Tour/Briefing/Reception

News media are invited to a special event at the Art Institute of Chicago, scheduled during the ACS national meeting. The Art Institute, Northwestern University and Argonne National Laboratory are partners in a noted art conservation science program. Reporters will get briefings from program scientists and a behind-the-scenes tour of science and conservation labs, followed by a reception in the beautiful environs of the Institute. The event begins at 4 p.m. on March 26. Space is strictly limited, so register early by contacting Michael Woods at m_woods@acs.org or 202-872-6293.

On the Horizon: ACS Regional Meeting, May 16-19, Philadelphia

The Philadelphia Section, American Chemical Society, and Ursinus College will host the 39th ACS Middle Atlantic Regional Meeting.

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.