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Amid concern that people in the United States are consuming inadequate amounts of iodine, scientists in Texas have found that 53 percent of iodized salt samples contained less than the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended level of this key nutrient. Iodized table salt is the main source of iodine for most individuals, they note in a study scheduled for the Feb. 15 issue of ACS’ Environmental Science & Technology, a semi-monthly journal.
Purnendu K. Dasgupta and colleagues point out that iodine intake has been decreasing in the United States for decades. The reasons include reduced use of iodine-based additives in livestock feed and bread, and public health warnings about salt’s role in high blood pressure. Iodine is especially important for normal brain development in newborn infants and children, they state, noting a link between iodine deficiency and attention deficit disorder or ADD that has been suggested by other researchers.
To assess the adequacy of iodine nutrition, the researchers tested 88 samples of iodized salt and found that 47 did not meet the FDA’s recommended level. In addition, amount of iodine varied in individual packages and brands of salt. The researchers expressed particular concern about the adequacy of iodine nutrition in women who are pregnant or nursing. “If salt does supply a significant portion of the iodine intake of a pregnant/lactating woman in the United States (note that a large fraction of postnatal vitamins contain no iodine), and she is unfortunate enough to pick a can of salt that is low in iodine or in which distribution is greatly uneven, there is a potential for serious harm,” the study states. — JS
Scientists in Germany are reporting development of test that can answer one of the most frustrating questions in the animal kingdom: Is that bird a boy or a girl? Their study, a potential boon to poultry farmers and bird breeders, is scheduled for the Feb. 15 issue of ACS’ Analytical Chemistry, a semi-monthly journal.
Juergen Popp and colleagues point out that the boy-girl question can be difficult to answer in birds that lack distinctive, gender-related plumage. Since birds lack external genital organs, sexing a bird typically involves endoscopic examination of the animal’s gonads under general anesthesia or specific molecular biological methods. Since these methods are expensive, time-consuming, and stressful for the bird, scientists long have sought a quick, minimal-invasive sexing alternative.
In the new study, researchers describe such a test, which involves analysis of tissue pulp from birds’ feathers using a highly sensitive lab instrument. The method, called ultraviolet-resonance Raman (UVRR) spectroscopy, took less than a minute, and identified the birds’ sex with 95 percent accuracy, the scientists say. — MTS
Researchers in Washington and Oregon report an advance toward developing much-needed new drugs and vaccines for monkeypox. The disease occurs mainly among rodents, monkeys, and other animals in Africa, but has been transmitted to humans resulting in high mortality rates. Although this deadly viral disease rarely occurs naturally in the United States, it is a potential bioterrorism agent.
In an article scheduled for the March issue of the ACS' Journal of Proteome Research, Richard D. Smith and colleagues note that monkeypox is caused by a virus closely-related to smallpox. Naturally occurring smallpox has been eradicated worldwide thanks to a vaccine that has occasional serious side-effects. However, no safe and proven vaccine or effective medication currently exists for monkeypox.
In their study, mass spectrometry and other sensitive lab techniques were used to compare proteins produced by both monkeypox virus (MPV) and by the vaccinia virus (VV), which is the basis for current smallpox vaccines. The researchers identified nine proteins that were specific to MPV and eight that were specific to VV. Importantly, proteins present in MPV, but absent in VV seem to be critical for the high virulence of MPV, they point out. This knowledge may be the key to the development of new medications and vaccines for preventing and treating monkeypox, as well as to the production of safer versions of more general pox-related vaccines, the researchers say. — MTS
Journal: Journal of Proteome Research
Journal Article: “Comparative Proteomics of human Monkeypox and Vaccinia Intracellular Mature and Extracellular Enveloped Virions”
They’re here, there, and everywhere: Toxins produced by a common fungus are spreading beyond food crops and invading the environment, including water supplies, with unknown consequences, researchers in Switzerland report. Their study, which reveals a need for stronger monitoring and control of these overlooked “micropollutants,” is scheduled for the Feb. 13 issue of ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a bi-weekly publication.
The contaminants are members of a larger family fungal-produced toxins called mycotoxins. In the report, Thomas Bucheli and colleagues note that scientists have studied two of the most common mycotoxins — deoxynivalenol and zearalenone — in food and animal feed products for decades. However, scientists know very little about the distribution of these toxins elsewhere in the environment.
In the new study, the researchers exposed a winter wheat field to Fusarium graminearum, a major fungal source of deoxynivalenol and zearalenone, and subsequently monitored these toxins in the field’s drainage water before, during and after harvest. Using high-tech lab instruments, they found that levels of these toxins increased significantly after harvest. Levels of deoxynivalenol, for instance, rose by almost 4,000-fold. Traces of these toxins were also found in a number of Swiss rivers, they note.— MTS
A In a modern-day counterpart to Mao Zedong’s program to modernize the Chinese economy, China’s pharmaceutical industry is quietly taking its own Great Leap Forward — as a major force in drug discovery and development, according to an article scheduled for the Feb. 4 issue of Chemical & Engineering News, ACS’ weekly newsmagazine.
China already is an important source of active ingredients that large pharmaceutical companies in the United States and other countries use to make prescription and over-the-counter drugs. C&EN’s cover story, by Senior Correspondent Jean-Franåois Tremblay, notes that China is playing an increasingly important, yet mostly unrecognized role in drug discovery. Companies based in China that undertake research projects on behalf of foreign companies have in the past three years beefed up their range of services. From Shanghai to Beijing, new companies are being launched with research capabilities that, in terms of the time it takes to produce results, exceed those of Western pharmaceutical companies. A growing number of Chinese firms offer a full range of drug research and development services, including synthesis, process research and scale up, and animal testing, the article states. Within two years, the first drug to be mostly developed in China could begin human trials in the U.S., Tremblay says.
The growth in pharmaceutical services in China seems to be part of a major trend. “Last century, we saw the pharmaceutical industry move from Europe to the United States,” C&EN quotes a manager at one drug discovery company. “Now, it’s perhaps moving to China and India.”
In a discovery that could score a touchdown for better health, chemists in Australia have made a “superbowl” molecule. Chemists in Australia used that name because the molecule has a bowl-shape that evokes images of sports venues like University of Phoenix Stadium, home to Sunday’s Super Bowl XLII. Molecules are atoms bound together. They are building blocks of everything in our everyday lives, including the real Super Bowl stadium and every person inside. A press release is available. To view full text of the research article, click here.
Mark your calendars for one of the year’s largest and most important scientific events — the 235th National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), which will be held April 6-10, 2008, in New Orleans, La.
With more than 160,000 members in the United States and other countries, ACS is the world’s largest scientific society. About 12,000 scientists and others are expected for the event, which will include more than 9,000 reports on new discoveries in chemistry. Those reports span science’s horizons from astronomy to zoology and include a special focus on health, energy, food, environment, and alternative fuels.
In addition to coverage of breaking science news, the meeting provides an opportunity for independent reporting on disaster recovery efforts in the region prior to the June 1 start of the 2008 hurricane season.
For media registration, please click here. Housing reservations are now open for those who plan to attend the meeting. The ACS Press Center will be located in Room 206 of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. It will include a media workroom with staff to assist in arranging interviews, press conferences, wireless Internet access, telephones, computers, photocopy and fax services, and refreshments.
For reporters planning to cover the meeting from their home bases, the ACS Office of Communications will provide an expanded suite of resources, including press releases, non-technical summaries of research presentations, and access to news briefings.
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.