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ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: Wed May 23 16:42:03 EDT 2007

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News Items in this Edition

Changes Related To Diabetic Cardiomyopathy Occur Soon After Diabetes Appears

“Dramatic” losses of a key biochemical substance in heart muscle tissue occur in the very earliest stages of diabetes induced in laboratory mice, scientists in Missouri are reporting in the May 29 issue of ACS’ Biochemistry, a weekly journal. Xianlin Han and colleagues did the study as part of a broader medical effort to understand diabetic cardiomyopathy. Heart abnormalities are the relatively common complication of diabetes and account for much of the increased mortality from heart disease in patients with diabetes.

The researchers used a powerful new technology termed “shotgun lipidomics” to show that hearts of diabetic mice lose large amounts of cardiolipin (CL), fatty materials essential for the heart's production of the energy needed for normal contraction. The changes, which involved a loss of CL followed by changes in the remaining CL, occurred as early as 5 days after rats became diabetic through administration of a compound that impairs insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.

Researchers observed the changes in two models of diabetes commonly used to study the two types of human diabetes. The changes happen before the appearance of toxic fatty materials regarded as a hallmark of diabetic cardiomyopathy and might be used as very sensitive biomarkers for the condition, the report indicates.

Beach Sand May Harbor Disease-Causing E. Coli Bacteria

New evidence implicating beach sand as a reservoir for E. coli — the bacterium that is used as an indicator that water has been contaminated by fecal material — has been reported by scientists at the University of Minnesota.

In the report, published in the April 15 issue of ACS’ Environmental Science & Technology, a biweekly journal, Michael J. Sadowsky and colleagues cite several previous studies showing that E. coli and bacteria indicating fecal contamination can accumulate and grow in beach sand. “These results indicate that E. coli originating from several sources may survive and potentially replicate in sand and sediment, possibly increasing fecal counts found on beaches,” the report states. The researchers point out that while most E. coli strains are harmless, some strains do cause gastrointestinal diseases in human. Symptoms include vomiting and diarrhea, as well as more serious conditions.

The 2-year study tracked seasonal variations in E. coli in water, sand, and sediment at the Duluth Boat Club Beach in Duluth-Superior Harbor on Lake Superior. It concluded that beach sand and sediment serve as sinks and sources for E. coli from humans and waterfowl that can contribute to beach closures.

Fireworks Displays Linked To Perchlorate Contamination in Lakes

Fourth of July fireworks displays, often held over lakes and other bodies of water to minimize the risk of fire, can deposit significant amounts of perchlorate into the water, according to a study scheduled for the June 1 issue of ACS’ Environmental Science & Technology, a semi-monthly journal.

The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Richard T. Wilkin and colleagues, who did the research, point out that concerns have arisen over the effects of environmental perchlorate on human health and wildlife. Sources of perchlorate range from lightening and certain fertilizers to the perchlorate compounds in rocket fuel and explosives. Scientists long suspected that community fireworks displays were another source, but few studies had been done on the topic.

Wilkin’s group definitely established fireworks displays as a source of perchlorate contamination by analyzing water in an Oklahoma lake before and after fireworks displays in 2004, 2005, and 2006. Within 14 hours after the fireworks, perchlorate levels rose 24 to 1,028 times above background levels. Levels peaked about 24 hours after the display, and then decreased to the pre-fireworks background within 20-80 days.

An Improved Fluorescent Sensor Material for Detecting Explosives

Scientists in the United States and China are reporting development of a new type of fluorescent sensing material that could lead to innovative devices for rapid detection of explosives in security screening, criminal investigations, and other applications. Their report is scheduled for the June 20 issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society, a weekly publication.

In the study, Southern Illinois University’s Ling Zang and colleagues at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the Chinese Academy of Sciences point out that fluorescent-based sensors signal the presence of explosives by losing their glow. Such existing devices, however, have serious limitations, which created the need for a new generation of sensor materials.

The new fluorescent film, made from nanofibrils, overcomes those disadvantages. In laboratory tests, it sensed the presence of vapors from TNT and a related explosives compound with greater effectiveness than existing materials. After sensing the compounds and losing its fluorescence, the material recovered its ability to fluoresce repeatedly during the tests. The experiments suggested that sensors made from the material would resist deterioration from exposure to sunlight, another drawback with existing sensor materials.

Mom & Pop Gold Miners Threaten New Wave Of Mercury Pollution

Could tons of neurotoxic mercury now stored in the United States wind up in the hands of poverty-stricken gold miners in developing countries and eventually be released into the environment, where it could end up entering the human food chain? An article scheduled for the May 28 issue of Chemical & Engineering News, ACS’ weekly newsmagazine, explores that possibility in a script that reads like an environmental version of the hit film, Blood Diamond.

The article, written by C&EN Senior Editor Cheryl Hogue, reveals a little-known market for mercury, a toxic liquid metal now being phased out for most industrial uses in developed countries because of toxicity, among millions of small-scale gold miners in Asia, South America and Africa. Miners add mercury as they sift soil and rock, knowing that mercury will capture bits of the precious metal to form an alloy from which the gold then can be separated and sold. During the retrieval process, the alloy is heated and toxic mercury is driven into the air.

C&EN describes upcoming decisions in which U. S. government officials will influence the fate of tons of mercury now housed in 8 domestic industrial facilities, in the face of market forces involving intense demand for the toxic metal among small-scale gold miners. These decisions will also affect U.S. recycling companies that reclaim mercury from waste such as discarded compact fluorescent light bulbs and thermostats, and that financially depend on selling that mercury on the world market.

Journalists’ Resources

  • General Chemistry Glossary
    The General Chemistry Glossary can be found here.
  • Introducing ACS Updates: Forensic Science
    These updates feature timely information on hot research that can be a treasure trove for journalists seeking news and feature topics, or trying to keep current in rapidly-evolving scientific discipline of forensic science.
  • Forensic Science
    Concise summaries of articles on forensic science published from 2005-2006 in a dozen major journals, courtesy of ACS’ Analytical Chemistry. Download the PDF or view these summaries online.
  • Science Elements: ACS Audio Clips
    Listen to Science news podcasts from the American Chemical Society.
  • News, Features, Background, Sources from ACS National Meeting
    News media resources from the March 25-29 meeting in Chicago include more than 9,000 abstracts of technical presentations and more than 1,000 non-technical summaries in a searchable database, plus press releases, podcasts, and other material. If you are researching or sourcing stories on chemistry-related topics, this resource can be a treasure trove accessible by the following:
    ACS News Service’s National Meeting Press Book page
    ACS Chicago National Meeting News Page

    ACS Press Center
  • Green Goals for the Pharmaceutical Industry
    The ACS Green Chemistry Institute Pharmaceutical Roundtable has developed a list of priority research areas where “green” alternatives to conventional reactions are needed to develop medications with minimal impact on the environment. Their review paper, describes and prioritizes research needs. It can be a valuable resource for journalists writing about green chemistry. Although the paper focuses on pharmaceuticals, it includes reactions and processes used by the broader chemical enterprise.

Mark Your Calendars

11th Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference, Washington, DC

This pioneering conference on one of the hottest topics in chemistry will be held June 26-29, 2007 at the Capital Hilton hotel in Washington, DC.

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