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ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: Wed Jun 03 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

Wine in a box? Think “good” not “gauche”

In a surprise discovery that may help boxed wine shake off its image as a gauche alternative to bottles, scientists in Canada are reporting that multilayer aseptic cartons (a.k.a. ‘boxes’) may help reduce levels of substances that contribute odors to wine and can lower its quality. Their study, the first comprehensive comparison of packaging type to wine quality, is scheduled for the June 10 issue of ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a bi-weekly publication.

Gary Pickering and colleagues note that trace amounts of chemicals called alkyl-methoxypyrazines (MPs) are generally negative to wine quality, masking the desirable fruity and floral flavors and giving wine an unpleasant green taste. With the wine industry still searching for a way of reducing MP levels, the scientists decided to look at the effects of wine packaging and closures like corks and screw caps.

They added MPs to red and white wines and monitored levels of MPs for 18 months in wine packaged in boxes and bottles with natural cork, synthetic cork, or screw caps. Boxed wine had less MPs — up to 45 percent less — than any other packaging. Bottles sealed with synthetic cork and screw caps performed best, with natural corks associated with the highest levels of MPs. One concern with the boxed wine, however, was evidence of greater oxidation of the wine, which itself is undesirable during wine storage.

A newly discovered chemical weapon in poison frogs’ arsenal

New research documents a surprising chemical weapon used by some Amazonian poison frogs. The study identified for the first time a family of poisons never before known to exist in these brightly colored creatures or elsewhere in Nature, the N-methyldecahydroquinolines. The authors then speculated on its origin in the frogs’ diet, most likely ants. The report is scheduled for the June 26 issue of ACS’ Journal of Natural Products, a monthly publication.

H. Martin Garraffo and colleagues note there are more than 500 alkaloids, potentially toxic substances, known to exist in the skin of poison frogs of the family Dendrobatidae. Frogs use them as a chemical defense to discourage predators from biting and eating them. Western Colombian natives have used skin extracts from another group of frogs, unrelated to those in the new study, to coat blow-darts for hunting.

Frogs get nearly all of the alkaloids from their diet, removing alkaloids from ants, mites, small beetles, millipedes and possibly other small arthropods, concentrating them with incredible efficiency, and storing them in their skin. However, Garraffo’s group was not certain about the origin of the newly discovered N-methyldecahydroquinolines, which could also be produced in the frogs’ own bodies. Feeding experiments with alkaloids fed to captive frogs are planned, which might settle this point.

The scientists analyzed alkaloids from the skin of 13 of the more than 25 species of the genus Ameerega of poison frogs. They identified the new toxins in the frogs as being of the N-methyldecahydroquinoline class, which were present among several other alkaloids.

Overcoming non-scientific barriers to making sustainability a reality

With sustainability emerging as a top priority for businesses and industries, a workshop of 40 experts has identified and published a set of recommendations for businesses to overcome the nontechnical barriers to applying sustainable industrial practices. Their article is scheduled for the June 15 issue of ACS’ Environmental Science & Technology, a semi-monthly journal.

In the article, Martin A. Abraham and colleagues point out that important scientific, or technical, advances are occurring in green chemistry and green engineering. These enable industry to embrace more environmentally friendly processes that minimize the use of potentially toxic substances, for instance, and produce less waste. Despite such technical advances, other barriers to implementing sustainable practices remain.

The American Chemical Society and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers convened the workshop to identify approaches for overcoming these nontechnical hurtles to implementing sustainability – often defined as the ability to meet present needs without compromising those of future generations. The group identified five major approaches to overcoming barriers, which include economic, regulatory, educational and cultural factors. One, for instance, involves a shift in mindset in which business executives view sustainability not just as regulatory compliance but as a pathway to innovation.

Toward new drugs that turn genes on and off

Scientists in Michigan and California are reporting an advance toward development of a new generation of drugs that treat disease by orchestrating how genes in the body produce proteins involved in arthritis, cancer and a range of other disorders. Acting like an “on-off switch,” the medications might ratchet up the production of proteins in genes working at abnormally low levels or shut off genes producing an abnormal protein linked to disease. Their report is in the current issue of ACS Chemical Biology, a monthly journal.

In the study, Anna K. Mapp and colleagues discusses molecules that cause genes to be active and churn out proteins — so-called transcriptional activators. That’s because because they control a key process known as transcription, in which instructions coded in genes produce proteins. Malfunctions in these activators could lead to altered transcription patterns that lead to disease. For example, variations in the tumor suppressor gene p53 are found in more than half of all human cancers.

Mapp describes discovery of a group of molecules that could be used to help scientists better understand transcription. Known as activator artificial transcriptional activation domains, these small molecules mimic natural activators and could provide insights on how mistakes in gene regulation result in various diseases. “Evidence suggests that these small molecules mimic the function and mechanism of their natural counterparts and present a framework for the broader development of small molecule transcriptional switches,” Mapp states.

Growing demand for certain metals creates new push for sustainability

Growing demand for certain metals used in automotive catalytic converters, computers, and other widely-used products — combined with a limited supply — is fostering a quest for ways to apply the principles of sustainability to humanity’s use of metals. That’s the topic of an article on sustainability — the effort to meet the needs of society today without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs —scheduled for the June 8 issue of Chemical & Engineering News, ACS’ weekly newsmagazine.

C&EN senior editor Steve Ritter explains that metals are limited natural resources, just like crude oil and fresh water. He described copper, zinc, platinum, and certain other metals as “endangered species,” which could be depleted by the end of this century. That’s because such metals are being used faster than they can be replenished through recycling.

Proposed solutions for making the use of metals sustainable include smarter design of consumer products so that people can more easily recycle and use the metal content. Other solutions involve encouraging companies to adapt more efficient recycling strategies and providing more financial incentives to encourage people to recycle. Other possibilities include mining new sources of metals, such as those found in metal sulfide deposits near deep-sea hydrothermal vents or manganese nodules found in deep-sea sediments. While such innovative mining approaches are expensive and not practical today, new technology may enable their use in the future, 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.
  • Save the Date: Green Chemistry conference on sustainability begins June 23
    Jean-Michel Cousteau, noted explorer, film-producer and environmentalist, and Len Sauers, Ph.D., Vice President of Global Sustainability for The Procter & Gamble Company, are the featured keynote speakers at the upcoming 13th annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference in June in College Park, Md. The focus of this year’s conference, June 23-25 at the Marriott Inn and Conference Center, is on progress made toward research objectives identified in the National Academy of Sciences’ 2006 report, “Sustainability in the Chemical Industry: Grand Challenges and Research Needs.” Sauers will address the convention on June 24, Cousteau on June 25. For more information on the conference, please visit www.gcande.org.
  • 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: Keepers of the gate
    Advanced imaging and detection technologies help identify terrorist threats at U.S. airports, but the Feds concede that screening passengers and their bags is an “enormously challenging detection problem.” Since some of the terrorist tools are so tiny, law enforcement officials have to downsize their equipment with one device the size of a fingernail used to find vapors of various explosives. To receive a free copy of this C&EN 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 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

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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.