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ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: Wed Aug 26 16:42:03 EDT 2009

Note to Journalists and Other Viewers

Here is the latest American Chemical Society (ACS) Office of Public Affairs 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 Office of Public Affairs 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

Nuisance or nutrient? Kudzu shows promise as a dietary supplement

Kudzu, the nuisance vine that has overgrown almost 10 million acres in the southeastern United States, may sprout into a dietary supplement. Scientists in Alabama and Iowa are reporting the first evidence that root extracts from kudzu show promise as a dietary supplement for a high-risk condition — the metabolic syndrome — that affects almost 50 million people in the United States alone. Their study appears in the current issue of ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a bi-weekly publication.

J. Michael Wyss and colleagues note in the new study that people with metabolic syndrome have obesity, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, and problems with their body’s ability to use insulin. Those disorders mean a high risk for heart attacks, strokes, and other diseases. Scientists have been seeking natural substances that can treat the metabolic syndrome. The new study evaluated kudzu root extracts, which contain healthful substances called isoflavones. People in China and Japan long have used kudzu supplements as a health food.

The study found that a kudzu root extract had beneficial effects lab rats used as a model for research on the metabolic syndrome. After two months of taking the extract, the rats had lower cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, and insulin levels that a control group not given the extract. Kudzu root “may provide a dietary supplement that significantly decreases the risk and severity of stroke and cardiovascular disease in at-risk individuals,” the article notes.

People vary widely in ability to eliminate arsenic from the body

Large variations exist in peoples’ ability to eliminate arsenic from the body, according to a new study that questions existing standards for evaluating the human health risks from the potentially toxic substance. The study found that some people eliminate more than 90 percent of the arsenic consumed in the diet. Others store arsenic in their bodies, where it can have harmful effects. The research, based on the first application of new methods for studying arsenic, is scheduled for the Sept. 21 issue of ACS’s Chemical Research in Toxicology, a monthly journal.

In the study, Kevin Francesconi and colleagues point out that drinking water in many parts of the world, including some regions of the United States, contain amounts of arsenic that exceed the World Health Organization’s maximum acceptable levels. Consumption of seafood, the article notes, is another major source of arsenic contamination. Health effects from chronic arsenic exposure include skin and internal cancers, cardiovascular disease, and possibly diabetes, it adds.

The scientists describe monitoring arsenic excretion in the urine of human volunteers. They found that ability to eliminate arsenic from the body varied greatly, with some participants excreting up to 95 percent of the ingested arsenic but others eliminating as little as four percent. “This observed individual variability in handling [arsenic] exposure has considerable implications for the risk assessment of arsenic ingestion,” the paper states. It adds that further study is needed to assess potential risks to humans consuming seafood products. “The data presented here suggest that the long held view that seafood arsenic is harmless because it is present mainly as organoarsenic compounds needs to be reassessed.”

Heat forms potentially harmful substance in high-fructose corn syrup

Researchers have established the conditions that foster formation of potentially dangerous levels of a toxic substance in the high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) often fed to honey bees. Their study, which appears in the current issue of ACS’ bi-weekly Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, could also help keep the substance out of soft drinks and dozens of other human foods that contain HFCS. The substance, hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF), forms mainly from heating fructose.

In the new study, Blaise LeBlanc and Gillian Eggleston and colleagues note HFCS’s ubiquitous usage as a sweetener in beverages and processed foods. Some commercial beekeepers also feed it to bees to increase reproduction and honey production. When exposed to warm temperatures, HFCS can form HMF and kill honeybees. Some researchers believe that HMF may be a factor in Colony Collapse Disorder, a mysterious disease that has killed at least one-third of the honeybee population in the United States.

The scientists measured levels of HMF in HFCS products from different manufacturers over a period of 35 days at different temperatures. As temperatures rose, levels of HMF increased steadily. Levels jumped dramatically at about 120 degrees Fahrenheit. “The data are important for commercial beekeepers, for manufacturers of HFCS, and for purposes of food storage. Because HFCS is incorporated as a sweetener in many processed foods, the data from this study are important for human health as well,” the report states. It adds that studies have linked HMF to DNA damage in humans. In addition, HMF breaks down in the body to other substances potentially more harmful than HMF.

A better test to detect DNA for diagnosing diease, investigating crimes

Researchers in Singapore are reporting development of a new electronic sensor that shows promise as a faster, less expensive, and more practical alternative than tests now used to detect DNA. Such tests are done for criminal investigation, disease diagnosis, and other purposes. The new lab-on-a-chip test could lead to wider, more convenient use of DNA testing, the researchers say. Their study is scheduled for the Sept. 2 issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society, a weekly publication.

In the new study, Zhiqiang Gao and colleagues note that current methods for detecting DNA involve the used of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR). This technique “amplifies” or makes multiple copies of trace amounts of DNA, much as a photocopier produces multiple copies of documents, in order to detect the genetic material more easily. The amplification step is one reason why tests involving PCR can be too expensive, cumbersome, and imprecise for wider use.

The researchers describe development of a so-called “nanogap sensor” that appears to overcome those obstacles. The process uses a pair of micro-sized metal electrodes separated by a nanogap, 1/50,000 the width of a human hair, in combination with special chemical probes, to capture tiny segments of DNA. The newly formed “circuit” then translates the presence of DNA into an electrical signal so that it can be measured by a computer. In laboratory tests, the sensor showed “excellent” sensitivity at detecting trace amounts of human DNA and may eliminate the need for DNA amplification altogether, the researchers say.

Nuclear energy rebirth sparks growth in advanced materials

An upsurge of interest in nuclear power as an energy source in the era of global climate change is fostering development of a new generation of supermaterials to ensure the safety and reliable performance of tomorrow’s nuclear power stations. That’s the topic of the cover story of the current issue of Chemical & Engineering News, ACS’ weekly newsmagazine.

C&EN senior editor Mitch Jacoby notes that the 1979 Three Mile Island nuclear accident, combined with economic factors, led the electric utility industry to stop submitting new applications for nuclear power plants. The U. S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) got nary a single application in the 30 years after Three Mile Island. Now NRC’s construction permit inbox is filling up again, thanks in part to a growing interest in energy sources that do not emit carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas.

In just the past two years, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has received applications for 28 new nuclear power plants, the article notes. These will incorporate new designs that improve safety and performance, and require advanced materials that can withstand higher temperatures and more intense radiation, according to the article. Scientists are developing a variety of promising candidates, including novel types of steels and alloys as well as metals and ceramic composites made with nanoparticles.

Journalists’ Resources

  • Press releases, briefings, and more from ACS’ August National Meeting
    http://www.eurekalert.org/acsmeet.php

    http://www.ustream.tv/channel/acslive
  • Writing on Green Chemistry?
    Here is a treasure trove of some of the most significant scientific research articles published in 2008.
    http://pubs.acs.org/stoken/presspac/presspac/full/10.1021/op900082k
  • Must-reads from C&EN: What’s in those fabulously successful sports drinks?
    Sports drinks have grown into a $3.5 billion industry in the United States. The first of these beverages replaced sodium, potassium and other minerals lost in sweat and contained sugar for energy. The new generation contain ingredients purported to enhance an athlete’s performance. To learn how these drinks keep athletes going strong, go to http://pubs.acs.org/cen/science/87/8734sci2.html.
  • ACS pressroom blog
    The American Chemical Society’s Office of Public Affairs (OPA) has created a new pressroom blog to highlight prominent research from ACS’ 34 journals.
  • Bytesize Science blog
    Educators and kids, put on your thinking caps: The American Chemical Society has a new blog for Bytesize Science, a science podcast for kids of all ages.
  • ACS satellite pressroom: Daily news blasts on Twitter
    The American Chemical Society’s Office of Public Affairs (OPA) new satellite press room has quickly become one of the most popular science news sites on Twitter. To receive press room updates, create a free account at https://twitter.com/signup. Then visit http://twitter.com/ACSpressroom and click the ‘join’ button beneath the press room logo.
  • ACS Press Releases

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

  • New Web site on everyday chemicals
    Whether you want to learn more about caffeine, benzoyl peroxide (acne treatment), sodium chloride (table salt), or some other familiar chemical, CAS Common Chemistry can help. The new Web site provides non-chemists and others with useful information about everyday chemicals by searching either a chemical name or a corresponding CAS Registry Number. The site currently contains approximately 7,800 chemicals of general interest as well as all 118 elements from the periodic table, providing alternative names, molecular structures, a Wikipedia link, and other information.
  • From Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS)
    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. 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, with new video podcasts and some episodes available in Spanish. Subscribe to Bytesize Science in iTunes using iTunes No iTunes? No problem. Listen to latest episodes of Bytesize Science in your web browser.
  • Science Elements: An ACS Science News Podcast
    The ACS Office of Public Affairs is podcasting PressPac contents in order to make cutting-edge scientific discoveries from ACS journals available to a broad public audience at no charge. Subscribe to Science Elements using iTunes. Listen to the latest episodes of Science Elements in your web browser.
  • SciFinder® Podcasts
    Interested in healthful plant phytochemicals, nanotechnology, or green chemistry? Check out the SciFinder series of podcasts, which explore a vast array of current interest topics and new discoveries in the 21st century. The SciFinder podcasts are available in English, Chinese, Japanese, and Portuguese.

More ACS News


PressPac information is intended for your personal use in news gathering and reporting and should not be distributed to others. Anyone using advance PressPac information for stocks or securities dealing may be guilty of insider trading under the federal Securities Exchange Act of 1934.

The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With more than 154,000 members, ACS is the world’s largest scientific society 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.