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Like the proverbial coal miners’ canary-in-the-cage, seagulls may become living sentinels to monitor oil pollution levels in marine environments, report scientists in Spain. Their study is scheduled for the Feb. 1 issue of ACS’ Environmental Science & Technology, a semi-monthly journal.
In the study, Alberto Velando and colleagues note that researchers have known for years that large oil spills can increase levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in marine environments. Studies have linked these compounds to cancer in humans. While oil spills quickly kill large numbers of seabirds and other animals, scientists do not fully understand the non-lethal biological effects of these spills, the Spanish researchers say.
The researchers measured PAH levels in the blood of Yellow-legged gulls living in the vicinity of the oil spill caused by the 2002 shipwreck of the Prestige, one of Europe’s largest oil spills. Gulls exposed to the oil showed twice the levels of PAHs in their blood than unexposed birds, even though these levels were measured 17 months after the initial spill, the researchers say. The findings “give support to the nondestructive use of seabirds as biomonitors of oil pollution in marine environments,” the article states. — MTS
Journal: Environmental Science & Technology
Journal Article: “Monitoring Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon Pollution in Marine Environment after the Prestige Oil Spill by Means of Seabird Blood Analysis”
A scientist in Wisconsin reports development of an edible and tasteless “antifreeze” that prevents the formation of ice crystals that can spoil the smooth, silky texture of ice cream and interfere with the palatability of other frozen foods. The study is scheduled for the Jan. 9 issue of ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a bi-weekly publication.
In the new report, Srinivasan Damodaran explains that preventing the formation of large ice crystals is a major challenge for frozen food manufacturers and consumers who store packages in home freezers. Although several different substances have been added to frozen foods to prevent ice crystal growth, none is really effective, the researcher says.
Damodaran’s solution is gelatin hydrolysate, a protein known to act as a natural antifreeze. In a controlled study using batches of ice cream prepared with and without the non-toxic compound, ice cream containing the antifreeze developed significantly smaller and fewer ice crystals than batches prepared without the compound, the researcher says. — MTS
The bright, metallic sheen of fish skin — source of endless fascination for fishermen and aquarium owners — is due to a sophisticated system of crystals that enhance light reflection and may help fish hide from predators in the wild, scientists in Israel are reporting. Their study is scheduled for the current issue of ACS’ Crystal Growth & Design, a bi-monthly journal.
In the new study, Lia Addadi and colleagues note that researchers have known for years that guanine crystals in the skin underneath the scales of fish reflect light to produce a mirror-like sheen. This silvery reflectance acts as a form of camouflage that helps protect fish from predators as fish swim near the water’s surface. However, the exact shape of these guanine crystals and how they work remained a mystery.
The researchers extracted guanine crystals from the skin of the Japanese Koi fish and analyzed the crystals using X-ray diffraction and an electron microscope. They compared the results to guanine crystals made in the laboratory. The researchers found that the biogenic crystals develop in an unexpected direction that differs from the lab-made crystals and that their unique shape improves light reflectivity. The arrangement represents a “strategy evolved by fish to produce more efficient photonic crystals,” the article states. — MTS
Scientists in the United States and India are reporting development of a high-protein variety of rice, dietary staple for half the world’s population. The study is scheduled for the Jan. 23 issue of ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a biweekly publication.
Researchers have been trying to bolster the protein in rice for five decades. Rice already is a main source of calories as well as protein intake for billions of people, and its enrichment of protein would have a positive impact on millions of poor and malnourished people in developing countries, the report says.
In the study, Hari B. Krishnan and colleagues created a hybrid by crossing a commonly cultivated rice species called Oryza sativa with a wild species, Oryza nivara. The product showed a protein content of 12.4 percent, which is 18 percent and 28 percent higher than those of the parents. The results demonstrate the potential for wild rice’s relatives for boosting the protein content in rice. The researchers conclude that the hybrid could serve as initial breeding material for new rice genotypes that could combine types with superior cooking quality with those of high protein content.
Journal: Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry
Journal Article: “Interspecific Rice Hybrid of Oryza sativa × Oryza nivara Reveals a Significant Increase in Seed Protein Content”
A compound formed during insulin production and once dismissed as irrelevant in diabetes may be a key to preventing the complications that make Type 1 diabetes such a serious disease, according to an article [http://pubs.acs.org/cen/science/86/8602sci1.html] scheduled for the Jan. 14 issue of Chemical & Engineering News, ACS’ weekly newsmagazine. Type 1 diabetes, also known as insulin-dependent diabetes, afflicts about 800,000 people in the U.S. alone, sharply increasing their risk of heart attacks, vision loss, kidney failure, and other complications.
In the article, C&EN Senior Editor Celia Henry Arnaud notes that scientists previously believed that the compound, called C-peptide, had little biological activity and was a useless byproduct of insulin production. In recent years, however, researchers have seen beneficial effects of C-peptide in patients with type 1 diabetes, including improved kidney function, nerve function, and blood flow. New laboratory research now bolsters that view, suggesting that the compound may work by enhancing the ability of red blood cells to utilize glucose similar to the role that insulin plays for other cell types but only when it binds a metal ion, the article notes.
Clinical studies on the compound, so far inconclusive, may determine if C-peptide can help prevent or delay complications of type 1 diabetes, Arnaud points out. The new research is “a significant contribution to our understanding of C-peptide biology,” according to the article.
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