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ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: Wed May 07 16:42:03 EDT 2008

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News Items in this Edition

Identifying abnormal protein levels in diabetic retinopathy

Researchers in Massachusetts are reporting an advance in bridging huge gaps in medical knowledge about the biochemical changes that occur inside the eyes of individuals with diabetic retinopathy (DR) — a leading cause of vision loss and blindness in adults. In a study scheduled for the June 6 issue of ACS’ monthly Journal of Proteome Research, they report discovery of 37 proteins that were increased or decreased in the eyes of patients with DR compared to patients without the disease.

Edward P. Feener and colleagues point out that DR is a complication of diabetes that affects the eyesight of millions of people. It involves damage to blood vessels in the retina, the light sensitive tissue in the back of the eye. Physicians know that vessels grow abnormally, swell, and leak in DR. However, they have little understanding of the biochemical changes underlying those damaging events.

The researchers studied eye fluid from individuals with and without DR who were undergoing eye surgery. They analyzed proteins in the vitreous, the gel-like material inside the eye between the retina and the lens. The study found 252 proteins in the fluid, including 37 proteins that showed changes that were associated with proliferative diabetic retinopathy, the most severe form of the disease. The study could lead to new insights into disease mechanisms and new treatments, the article states. — MTS

“Super yeasts” produce 300 times more protein than previously possible

Researchers in California report development of a new kind of genetically modified yeast cell that produces complex proteins up to 300 times more than possible in the past. These “super yeasts” could help boost production and lower prices for a new generation of protein-based drugs that show promise for fighting diabetes, obesity, and other diseases, the researchers suggest. Their study is scheduled for the May 14 issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society, a weekly publication.

In their report, Lei Wang and Qian Wang explain that the yeasts are intended for speeding production of proteins containing so-called “unnatural amino acids” (UAAs). Living things normally use the same basic set of 20 amino acids to make proteins. Scientists have made additional amino acids, the UAAs, which show promise for building new proteins with a broad range of medical and industrial applications. However, researchers had had difficulty in efficiently incorporating these UAAs into useful protein products.

Wang and Wang are reporting a solution to that problem. They inserted parts of the simple but highly efficient protein-making machinery of E. coli bacteria into the advanced but inefficient protein-making machinery of yeast cells. The result was a best-of-both world’s creation: A genetically-engineered yeast cell that produces complex proteins containing UAAs at levels 300 times higher than normal yeast cells. — MTS

Microwave zapping kills invasive species before the invasion

Scientists in Louisiana are reporting development and successful testing of a new cost-effective system to kill unwanted plants and animals that hitch a ride to the United States in the ballast water of merchant ships. These so-called “invasive species,” such as the notorious zebra mussel, devastate native organisms and infrastructure and cost taxpayers billions of dollars annually. The study is scheduled for the June 1 issue of ACS’ Environmental Science & Technology, a semi-monthly journal.

In the study, Dorin Boldor and colleagues point out that invasive species often travel in ballast tanks of international cargo ships. Ships pump sea water into these tanks for stability when a vessel leaves port with little or no cargo. They dump the water at their destination — along with zebra mussels, Asian clams and other organisms that may pose environmental risks.

The new study describes development and laboratory-scale tests of a continuous microwave system which, much like a kitchen microwave oven, used heat to inactivate zooplankton, algae, and oyster larvae in salt water. Researchers found that a 30-second zap, followed by a 200-second holding period, removed all marine life. Boldor noted that the high heating rates, low operating costs, and effectiveness in hazy water distinguish it from conventional heating methods. — JS

New process may convert toxic computer waste into safe products

Discarded computer parts could one day wind up fueling your car. That’s because researchers in Romania and Turkey have developed a simple, efficient method for recycling printed circuit boards into environmentally-friendly raw materials for use in fuel, plastic, and other useful consumer products. Their study is scheduled for the May 21 issue of ACS’ Energy & Fuels, a bi-monthly journal.

The boom in the use of computers has also created one of the world’s biggest environmental headaches: What to do with all the discarded circuit boards, which contain high levels of pollutants such as heavy metals and flame retardants that can potentially harm humans? Researchers are seeking ways to remove these toxins so that these scrap materials can be safely recycled.

In the new study, Cornelia Vasile and colleagues collected printed circuit boards from discarded computers and processed the boards with a combination of high temperatures, catalysts, and chemical filtration. The processing method removed almost all of the toxic substances from the scraps, resulting in oils that can be safely used as fuel or raw materials called feedstocks for a wide variety of consumer products, the researchers say. — MTS

Consumers warm up to “greener” personal care products, but labeling controversy broils

From soaps to body lotions to shampoos, consumers are increasingly drawn to personal care products that are labeled “green” or environmentally-friendly, a fast-growing market that chalks-up an estimated $4 billion in sales per year worldwide. Despite the hype over these products, there’s growing confusion by consumers and manufacturers alike over what it really means to be labeled as “green,” according to an article scheduled for the May 12 issue of Chemical & Engineering News, ACS’ weekly newsmagazine.

Written by C&EN Senior Correspondent Marc Reisch, the magazine’s cover story points out that there’s no universal consensus over what is green, organic, or sustainable. To the detriment of consumers, manufacturers sometimes produce misleading labels in an effort to cash-in on the hype, the article notes. Some manufacturers have even begun to certify their products as green under a variety of different standards and criteria or using different certifying bodies.

But change may be around the corner. Some groups in the U.S. and abroad are now working on establishing clearer standards for personal care products. Notes Reisch: “Unless ingredient makers and formulators sort out their differences, the subject of what is natural, organic, and sustainable may have to be sorted out in a court of law.”

Journalists’ Resources

  • Press releases, chat room sessions, and more from ACS’ 235th 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 New Orleans from April 6-10, 2008. Reporters can view press releases, search an archive with abstracts of 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 Communications also offers recorded video versions of its national meeting “chat room” briefings and accompanying chat transcripts by going to http://www.ustream.tv/channel/acs-live-from-new-orleans. 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.

  • ChemMatters Matters for Journalists

This quarterly ACS magazine for high school chemistry students, teachers, and others explains the chemistry that underpins everyday life in a lively, understandable fashion. ChemMatters is available at www.acs.org/chemmatters. You can also receive the most recent issues by contacting the editor, Pat Pages, at: 202-872-6164 or chemmatters@acs.org.

  • ACS Press Releases

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

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  • Science Elements: An ACS Science News Podcast
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  • ACS News



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