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ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: Wed Dec 03 15:42:03 EST 2008

Note to Journalists and Other Viewers

Here is the latest American Chemical Society (ACS) News Service 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 News Service 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

Advance toward early diagnosis of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Researchers in Finland are reporting identification of the first potential “biomarker” that could be used in development of a sputum test for early detection of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). That condition, which causes severe difficulty in breathing — most often in cigarette smokers — affects 12 million people in the United States.

In an article scheduled for the December 5 issue of ACS’ Journal of Proteome Research, a monthly publication, Vuokko L. Kinnula and colleagues point out that no disease marker for COPD currently exists, despite extensive efforts by scientists to find one. Past research pointed to a prime candidate — surfactant protein A (SP-A), which has a major role in fighting infections and inflammation in the lung.

The scientists compared levels of a variety of proteins obtained from the lung tissues of healthy individuals, patients with COPD, and those with pulmonary fibrosis. They found that the lungs of COPD patients contained elevated levels of SP-A. The scientists also found elevated levels of SP-A in the sputum samples of COPD patients. “This suggests that SP-A might represent a helpful biomarker in the early detection of COPD and other related disorders,” the article notes. — MTS

Clothing with a brain: “Smart fabrics” that monitor health

Researchers in United States and China are reporting progress toward a simple, low-cost method to make “smart fabrics,” electronic textiles capable of detecting diseases, monitoring heart rates, and other vital signs. A report on these straight-out-of-science-fiction-fibers, made of carbon nanotubes, is scheduled for the December 10 issue of ACS’ Nano Letters, a monthly publication.

In the new study, Nicholas A. Kotov, Chuanlai Xu, and colleagues point out that electronic textiles, or E-textiles, already are a reality. However, the current materials are too bulky, rigid, and complex for practical use. Fabric makers need simpler, more flexible materials to make E-fibers practical for future applications, they say.

The scientists describe development of cotton fibers coated with electrolytes and carbon nanotubes (CNT) — thin filaments 1/50,000 the width of a single human hair. The fibers are soft, flexible, and capable of transmitting electricity when woven into fabrics. In laboratory tests, the researchers showed that the new E-fibers could light up a simple light-emitting diode when connected to a battery. When coated with certain antibodies, the fibers detected the presence of albumin, a key protein in blood — a function that could be used to detect bleeding in wounded soldiers. The fabrics could also help monitor diseases and vital signs, they say. — MTS

Waste peel from pomegranate juice factories makes healthy cattle feed

Pomegranate peel left over from production of the juice renowned for its potential health benefits can make a nutritious feed supplement for cattle, researchers in Israel report in an article in the November 12 issue of ACS’ biweekly Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. The peel packs some of the weight-boosting and health-enhancing effects of antibiotics and hormones without the detrimental effects, and researchers say it may yield meat with higher levels of beneficial antioxidants.

In the new study, Ariel Shabtay and colleagues note that consumption of pomegranate products is increasing amid reports that the fruit may help fight cancer, infections, and other diseases in humans due to its high levels of antioxidants. Recent studies also have shown that boosting antioxidant levels in the diet of cattle may help improve their health. Those findings seemed to make pomegranate peel, a waste product of the pomegranate industry with higher antioxidant levels than the juice itself, an attractive candidate as a nutritional supplement for cattle feed.

To find out, the scientists fed calves either normal cattle feed or feed supplemented with pomegranate peels. After eight weeks, the calves supplemented with pomegranate had higher blood levels of alpha-tocopherol, a form of vitamin E that may help retain nutrients and extend the shelf life of meat by preventing spoilage. The pomegranate-fed animals gained more weight than the animals on standard feed. — MTS

New “wipes” for better decontamination of chemical warfare agents and toxic chemicals

Scientists in Texas, California, and Maryland are reporting development of high-tech “wipes” that are capable of quickly decontaminating people and equipment exposed to a broad range of military and industrial chemicals, including the deadly blister agent known as “mustard.” The next generation wipes, which are a major step toward a universal personal decontamination system for nearly any toxic or hazardous chemical, could help save the lives of soldiers and civilians. Their work will be described in an article scheduled for online publication today in ACS’ Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research, a bi-weekly journal.

Seshadri Ramkumar and colleagues note that the military long has used powders and liquids to decontaminate soldiers and equipment exposed to chemical warfare agents. But powders, such as activated carbon, can disperse into the air and damage the lungs, while water-based and reactive decontamination liquids target only a limited set of chemicals or can damage electronic equipment. Better materials are needed, the scientists say.

In the new study, the scientists describe development of a new fabric-based “wipe” composed of a layer of activated carbon sandwiched between layers of absorbent fibers. The researchers evaluated the ability of the new fabric to absorb and adsorb sulfur mustard, a toxic liquid that causes skin blistering, and compared the results to activated carbon particles and a standard military decontamination kit that uses powdered carbon mixed with other materials. The wipes were better than particulate carbon alone and as effective as the military decontamination kit, the researchers say, noting that the flexible and non-particulate wipes show promise for decontaminating a wide range of surfaces and toxic or hazardous chemicals. — MTS

Updated standards to reduce metal contaminants in prescription drugs

Prescription medicines in the United States could soon have lower levels of potentially harmful metals, as the organization that sets drug standards develops new limits for impurities like mercury, arsenic, and lead, according to an article scheduled for the December 8 issue of Chemical & Engineering News, ACS’ weekly newsmagazine.

In the article, C&EN Associate Editor Jyllian Kemsley notes that researchers have known for years that potentially toxic metals can wind up in pharmaceutical ingredients through raw materials, catalysts, equipment, and other sources. But the testing method currently prescribed by the U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP), the nonprofit organization that sets standards for the pharmaceutical industry, has not kept pace with that new knowledge. That method involves a 100-year-old test that is time-consuming, difficult to interpret, and generally not quantitative, according to the article.

USP now is developing new standards and testing methods that will be finished in 2010 and implemented over a span of years. USP will require drug makers to use improved methods and instruments to detect metal contaminants.

Journalists’ Resources

  • Press releases, chat room sessions, and more from ACS' 236th National Meeting

It's never too late to explore a treasure trove of news sources, background material and story ideas available from the ACS' latest National Meeting, which was held in Philadelphia from August 17-21, 2008. Reporters can view press releases, search an archive with abstracts of more than 9,000 scientific presentations and hundreds of non-technical summaries of those presentations, and access other resources at: www.eurekalert.org/acsmeet.php.

The ACS Office of Public Affairs also offers recorded video versions of its national meeting "chat room" briefings and accompanying chat transcripts by going to http://www.ustream.tv/channel/acslive. To use this site, you must first register with Ustream.tv by going to http://ustream.tv/sign-up-step-1. It's free and only takes a minute or two to sign up. To view the archived chat room sessions, proceed by clicking the "Login" button at the top right of the Ustream window and then selecting "Past Clips." Please note that Ustream requires the latest version of Adobe Flash, which can be downloaded without charge at http://www.adobe.com/products/flashplayer.

  • ACS Press Releases

General science press releases on a variety of chemistry-related topics.

  • From Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS)

CAS Registers 40 Millionth Substance
On November 21, CAS Registry Number 1073662-18-6 was assigned to a novel organic azulenobenzofuran derivative. CAS REGISTRY, the world's most authoritative collection of disclosed chemical substance information, now includes 40 million organic and inorganic substances.

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

  • Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions

Don’t miss 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. This sweeping panorama of challenges includes topics such as providing a hungry, thirsty world with ample supplies of safe food and clean water; developing alternatives to petroleum to fuel the global economy; preserving the environment and assuring a sustainable future for our children; and improving human health. An ongoing saga of chemistry for life — chemistry that truly matters — Global Challenges debuts June 25 with new episodes through December. Subscribe at iTunes or listen and access other resources at the ACS web site www.acs.org/GlobalChallenges.

  • Bytesize Science, a podcast for young listeners

Bytesize Science is a science podcast for kids of all ages that aims to entertain as much as it educates.

No iTunes? No problem. Listen to latest episodes of Bytesize Science in your web browser

The ACS Office of Communications is podcasting PressPac contents in order to make cutting-edge scientific discoveries from ACS journals available to a broad public audience at no charge.

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