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ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: July 15, 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

Developing a safer form of acetaminophen

Scientists in Louisiana are reporting development of a process for producing large batches of a new and potentially safer form of acetaminophen, the widely used pain-reliever now the source of growing concern over its potentially toxic effects on the liver. Their study, which could speed development of a next-generation pain-reliever, is scheduled for the July 17 issue of ACS’ Organic Process Research & Development, a bi-monthly journal.

In June, an advisory panel of the U. S. Food and Drug Administration recommended banning certain prescription pain relievers containing acetaminophen because of the drug’s potential to cause liver damage when used in high doses. Mark Trudell and colleagues note in the study that scientists recently discovered a new form of acetaminophen that has similar potency to the original drug with a lower risk of liver toxicity. But until now, scientists have had difficulty producing this substance in quantities suitable for industrial scale-up.

The researchers describe a simple, efficient method for producing the new pain-reliever using only a few starting materials and a short series of chemical reactions. In laboratory studies, they used the new method to produce multigram quantities of the substance with 99 percent purity. The scientists point out that the new process can be performed on a much larger production level if needed.

Fighting drug-resistant flu viruses

Amid reports that swine flu viruses are developing the ability to shrug off existing antiviral drugs, scientists in Japan are reporting a first-of-its kind discovery that could foster a new genre of antivirals that sidestep resistance problems, according to an article scheduled for the July 23 issue of the ACS’ Journal of the Medicinal Chemistry, a bi-weekly publication.

Toshinori Sato and colleagues note in the new study that current antiviral drugs, including Tamiflu and Relenza, fight influenza by blocking key proteins that viruses need to reproduce. As the viruses reproduce, however, they can mutate into drug-resistant strains.

The researchers describe discovery of a new way to prevent flu viruses from infecting cells in the first place. They identified potential drugs that can block the first step in the infection process, and demonstrated that the substances work in cell cultures. “These results may lead to a new approach in the design of antiviral drugs,” they state, noting that it could be used to develop new drugs for a variety of other medical problems.

New evidence that popular dietary supplement may help prevent, treat cataracts

Researchers are reporting evidence from tissue culture experiments that the popular dietary supplement carnosine may help to prevent and treat cataracts, a clouding of the lens of the eye that is a leading cause of vision loss worldwide. The study is scheduled for the July 28 edition of ACS’ Biochemistry, a weekly journal.

In the new study, Enrico Rizzarelli and colleagues note that the only effective treatment for cataracts is surgical replacement of the lens, the clear disc-like structure inside the eye that focuses light on the nerve tissue in the back of the eye. Cataracts develop when the main structural protein in the lens, alpha-crystallin, forms abnormal clumps. The clumps make the lens cloudy and impair vision. Previous studies hinted that carnosine may help block the formation of these clumps.

The scientists exposed tissue cultures of healthy rat lenses to either guanidine — a substance known to form cataracts — or a combination of guanidine and carnosine. The guanidine lenses became completely cloudy, while the guanidine/carnosine lenses developed 50 to 60 percent less cloudiness. Carnosine also restored most of the clarity to clouded lenses. The results demonstrate the potential of using carnosine for preventing and treating cataracts, the scientists say.

Capturing CO2 in a bowl

The accidental discovery of a bowl-shaped molecule that pulls carbon dioxide out of the air suggests exciting new possibilities for dealing with global warming, including genetically engineering microbes to manufacture those CO2 “catchers,” a scientist from Maryland reports in an article scheduled for the August 3 issue of ACS’ Inorganic Chemistry, a bi-weekly journal.

J. A. Tossell notes in the new study that another scientist discovered the molecule while doing research unrelated to global climate change. Carbon dioxide was collecting in the molecule, and the scientist realized that it was coming from air in the lab. Tossell recognized that these qualities might make it useful as an industrial absorbent for removing carbon dioxide.

Tossell’s new computer modeling studies found that the molecule might be well-suited for removing carbon dioxide directly from ambient air, in addition to its previously described potential use as an absorbent for CO2 from electric power plant and other smokestacks. “It is also conceivable that living organisms may be developed which are capable of emplacing structurally ion receptors within their cell membranes,” the report notes.

Chemical technologies aim to help coal become a cleaner energy source

In an effort to make coal a cleaner energy source, an increasing number of companies are engaged in multimillion dollar efforts to develop and test technologies to capture and store carbon dioxide, a source of global warming. That’s the topic of a noteworthy article in the current issue of Chemical & Engineering News, ACS’ weekly newsmagazine.

C&EN senior correspondent Ann Thayer notes in the article that coal accounts for 40 percent of power generation worldwide and experts expect it to play an even larger role in the future as energy needs arise. Several organizations, including an intergovernmental policy advisor called International Energy Agency, have identified carbon capture and storage (CCS) as a promising approach to reducing emissions. The process can involve using certain chemicals to absorb carbon dioxide from power plant flue gases, compressing it, and then storing it elsewhere. Governments around the world have pledged billions for dollars for research and development and CCS demonstration projects, with some countries expected to have commercial-scale plants by 2020.

Several hurdles stand in the way. Companies developing the CCS projects will need to demonstrate that the technology works in coal-fired plants and that it is efficient and cost-effective. Other challenges include transporting and successful storage of the captured carbon dioxide. But with advances in chemical research, including more efficient materials and approaches for removing carbon dioxide, CCS projects are now much more affordable and achievable than previously thought, the article suggests.

Journalists’ Resources

  • Save the Date: ACS August National Meeting
    Join more than 11,000 scientists expected to gather in Washington, D. C., Aug. 16-20 for one of the year’s largest and most important scientific conferences. The 238th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society will feature 8,000 reports on new discoveries about chemistry, medicine, health, food, fuels, the environment and other topics. For advance complimentary news media registration: https://www.xpressreg.net/register/acsf089/media/start.asp.
  • Special National Meeting News Media Briefing and Reception
    What better time than mid-August for a science-based briefing on the myths and facts, the dos and don’ts, about grilling and barbequing meat, fish, and veggies — accompanied by foods right off the grill and ice cold beverages? World-renowned food chemists Sara Risch, Ph.D., and Shirley Corriher (also an award-winning cookbook author), will deliver the briefing in the Washington Convention Center at 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 17. All registered news media are invited to attend the reception, which is likely to produce news and feature material.
  • 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
  • Press releases, briefings, and more from ACS’ 237th National Meeting
    http://www.eurekalert.org/acsmeet.php

    http://www.ustream.tv/channel/acslive
  • Must-reads from C&EN: Using biomass to make biodegradable plastics
    Researchers are not just using farm crops to produce biofuels. They now are deeply involved in transforming biomass into the basic ingredients for the plastics that go into many everyday products. Chemists, for instance, have used technology developed for making biomass fuels to produce lactic acid and other compounds that companies use to make biodegradable polymers and other products. For a copy of this story, send an e-mail to m_bernstein@acs.org.
  • 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.