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ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: July 08, 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

First evidence that weed killers improve nutritional value of a key food crop

Scientists are reporting for the first time that the use of weed killers in farmers’ fields boosts the nutritional value of an important food a crop. Application of two common herbicides to several varieties of sweet corn significantly increased the amount of key nutrients termed carotenoids in the corn kernels, according to a study scheduled for publication in the July 22 issue of ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a bi-weekly publication.

In the new study, Dean Kopsell and colleagues note that farmers grow about 240,000 acres of sweet corn in the United States each year, making it an important food crop. Corn is among only a few vegetable crops that are good sources of zeaxanthin carotenoids. Consuming carotenoid-rich vegetables may reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration (a leading cause of vision loss among older people), heart disease, and cancer, the study notes.

The scientists exposed several varieties of sweet corn plants to the herbicide mesotrione or a combination of mesotrione and atrazine, another commonly used weed killer, and harvested mature corn 45 days later. Herbicide applications made the corn an even-better source of carotenoids, boosting levels in the mature kernels of some varieties by up to 15 percent. It specifically increased levels of lutein and zeaxanthin, the major carotenoids in sweet corn kernels, which studies have linked to a reduced risk of age-related macular degeneration.

Clean fuels could reduce deaths from ship smokestacks by 40,000 annually

Rising levels of smokestack emissions from oceangoing ships will cause an estimated 87,000 deaths worldwide each year by 2012 — almost one-third higher than previously believed, according to the second major study on that topic. The study says that government action to reduce sulfur emissions from shipping fuel (the source of air pollution linked to an increased risk of illness and death) could reduce that toll. The study is in the current issue of ACS’ Environmental Science & Technology (ES&T), a semi-monthly publication.

James Winebrake and colleagues note that most oceangoing ships burn fuels with a high sulfur content that averages 2.4 percent. Their smokestacks emit sulfur-containing particles linked to increased risks of lung and heart disease. A 2007 study by the researchers estimated that about 60,000 people died prematurely around the world due to shipping-related emissions in 2002. The new study estimates that the toll could rise to 87,000 by 2012, assuming that the global shipping industry rebounds from the current economic slump and no new regulation occurs.

Policymakers now are considering limiting ships emissions by either restricting sulfur content in fuel or designating air pollution control areas to reduce air pollution near highly populated coastal areas. Requiring ships to use marine fuel with 0.5 per cent sulfur within 200 nautical miles of shore would reduce premature deaths by about 41,200, the study concludes. Lower sulfur reductions could reduce deaths even further, they say, adding that designated emission control areas will also have a positive impact.

2000-year old statue of an athlete sheds light on corrosion and other modern challenges

The restoration of a 2,000-year-old bronze sculpture of the famed ancient Greek athlete Apoxyomenos may help modern scientists understand how to prevent metal corrosion, discover the safest ways to permanently store nuclear waste, and understand other perplexing problems. That’s the conclusion of a new study on the so-called “biomineralization” of Apoxyomenos, is in the current issue of ACS’ Crystal Growth & Design, a bi-monthly journal. Best known as “The Scraper,” the statue depicts an athlete scraping sweat and dust from his body with a small curved instrument.

In the report, Davorin Medakovic and colleagues point out that Apoxyomenos was discovered in 1998 on floor of the Adriatic Sea. While the discovery was a bonanza for archaeologists and art historians, it also proved to be an unexpected boon to scientists trying to understand biomineralization. That’s the process in which animals and plants use minerals from their surroundings and form shells and bone. Apoxyomenos was encrusted with such deposits.

“As studies of long-term biofouled manmade structures are limited, the finding of an ancient sculpture immersed for two millennia in the sea provided a unique opportunity to probe the long-term impact of a specific artificial substrate on biomineralizng organisms and the effects of biocorrosion,” the report said. By evaluating the mineral layers and fossilized organisms on the statue, the researchers were able to evaluate how underwater fouling organisms and communities interacted with the statue as well as how certain mineral deposits on the bronze sculpture slowed its deterioration.

Faster, more cost-effective DNA test for crime scenes, disease diagnosis

Scientists in Japan are reporting development of a faster, less expensive version of the fabled polymerase chain reaction (PCR) a DNA test widely used in criminal investigations, disease diagnosis, biological research and other applications. The new method could lead to expanded use of PCR in medicine, the criminal justice system and elsewhere, the researchers say. Their study is scheduled for the July 15 issue of Analytical Chemistry, a semi-monthly journal.

In the new study, Naohiro Noda and colleagues note that PCR works by “amplifying” previously undetectable traces of DNA almost like photocopiers produce multiple copies of documents. With PCR crime scene investigators, for instance, can change traces of DNA into amounts that can be identified and linked to a suspect. Biologists can produce multiple copies of individual genes to study gene function, evolution, and other topics. Doctors can amplify the DNA from microbes in a patient’s blood to diagnose an infection. Current PCR methods, however, are too expensive and cumbersome for wide use.

The scientists describe development and testing of a new PCR method, called the universal QProbe system, that overcomes these problems. Existing PCR processes require several “fluorescent probes” to seek out DNA. QProbe substitutes a single “fluorescent probe” that can detect virtually any target, saving time and cutting costs. The new method also is more specific, accurately detecting DNA even in the presence of unfavorable PCR products in the samples that may interfere with quantification results.

Next generation electronic devices moving forward despite economic downturn

Despite the current economic downturn, consumers can expect an exciting array of new and innovative electronic devices in the near future, including smaller and more powerful computers, brighter flat-screen television displays, and flexible films for electronic paper. That’s because manufacturers are continuing to make steady advances in new electronic materials, according to an article scheduled for the July 13 issue of Chemical & Engineering News, ACS’ weekly newsmagazine.

C&EN senior correspondent Jean-Franåois Tremblay notes in the magazine’s cover story that a steep decline in demand for electronic chemicals — materials used to make electronic components — has lead to big declines in profits and production among electronics manufacturers during the past year. But the pace of new product development remains surprisingly steady, with some electronic materials suppliers preserving and even strengthening their research and development capabilities, the article notes.

This continued focus on research has produced advanced materials that are paving the way for new and improved electronic devices that are smaller, consume less power, and emit less heat. Semiconductor manufacturers, for example, are developing new materials that cram more memory into smaller computer chips. Manufacturers of flat screen displays are developing materials that allow flat-screen televisions and cell phones to show brighter images while using less power. One manufacturer is developing new films that could lead to breakthroughs in flexible displays, electronic paper, and solar cells. As a result of these and other innovations, better days are ahead for the electronics industry, 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: Quidditch for chemists
    Players wearing capes whip by on broomsticks. With one hand on broomstick, the other free to toss a white ball back and forth, each player tries to earn points for their team. No, this isn’t a Quidditch match in a Harry Potter movie. It’s a Quidditch match on a college campus. The matches were started in 2005 at Middlebury College in Vermont, patterned after the Quidditch matches in the Harry Potter books and movies. They’re going even stronger today, being played by students –– many science majors –– at more than 100 U.S. colleges and universities. For a copy of this Chemical & Engineering News 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.