This issue of the American Chemical Society (ACS) News Service Weekly Press Package (PressPac) is a special edition with selections from scientific presentations scheduled for the ACS’ 237th National Meeting in Salt Lake City. Our regular coverage of reports from ACS’ 34 major peer-reviewed journals and Chemical & Engineering News will resume with the April 1, 2009, edition.
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Results of the first human clinical studies confirm that a new yogurt fights the bacteria that cause gastritis and stomach ulcers with what researchers describe as almost vaccine-like effects, scientists in Japan will report here today at the 237th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society.
Researchers have long known that yogurt, a fermented milk product containing live bacteria, is a healthy source of calcium, protein, and other nutrients. Some brands of yogurt are now made with "probiotics" — certain types of bacteria — intended to improve health. The new yogurt represents a unique approach to fighting stomach ulcers, which affect 25 million people in the United States alone, and is part of a growing "functional food" market that now generates $60 billion in sales annually.
"With this new yogurt, people can now enjoy the taste of yogurt while preventing or eliminating the bacteria that cause stomach ulcers," says study coordinator Hajime Hatta, Ph.D., a chemist at Kyoto Women's University in Kyoto, Japan. The new yogurt is already on store shelves in Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. The study opens the door to possible arrival of the product in the U.S., the researchers suggest. — MTS
EMBARGOED FOR RELEASE: Sunday, March 22, 10:55 a.m. Mountain Time
Scientists report that confusion about what constitutes plagiarism — not malicious intent — is the leading cause of plagiarism at the graduate school level. George M. Bodner, Ph.D., who serves on the Ethics Committee of the American Chemical Society (ACS), was among a panel of scientists who discussed plagiarism at the ACS' 237th National Meeting. Their presentations were part of an ACS initiative to educate the larger scientific community about ethics in chemistry.
Titled "Plagiarism: What is it? What Can We Do About It?," the symposium featured eight speakers and was scheduled for Sunday, March 22 at 8:30 a.m. in the Marriot City Center — Capitol B, Oral. In his talk, Bodner described one effort to address the problem of plagiarism called LANGURE for Land Grant University Research Ethics, which involves more than 130 faculty and graduate students dedicated to developing a model curriculum in research ethics for doctoral candidates in science, engineering, and other fields.
Confusion about what constitutes plagiarism may be rooted in undergraduate education, said Bodner, a chemistry professor at Purdue University. "There is something happening at the undergraduate level. We don't require enough writing and we do not do careful editing of what students write and, therefore, within the context of their own education, students are not properly educated and are more likely to fall into traps." — RK
EMBARGOED FOR RELEASE: Sunday, March 22, 8:30 a.m., Mountain Time
Researchers in Canada are reporting that proteins found in a common garden pea show promise as a natural food additive or new dietary supplement for fighting high blood pressure and chronic kidney disease (CKD). Those potentially life-threatening conditions affect millions of people worldwide. The study, which will be presented here today at the American Chemical Society's 237th National Meeting, is the first reporting that a natural food product can relieve symptoms of CKD, the scientists say.
Peas long have been recognized as nutritional superstars, with healthful amounts of protein, dietary fiber, and vitamins wrapped in a low-fat, cholesterol-free package. The new research focuses on the yellow garden pea, a mainstay pea variety enjoyed as a veggie side-dish and used as an ingredient in dozens of recipes around the world.
"In people with high blood pressure, our protein could potentially delay or prevent the onset of kidney damage," says study presenter Rotimi Aluko, Ph.D., a food chemist at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada. "In people who already have kidney disease, our protein may help them maintain normal blood pressure levels so they can live longer."
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a major risk factor for CKD, a condition that has been affecting an increasing number of people in the United States and other countries. Estimates suggest that 13 percent of American adults — about 26 million people — have chronic kidney disease, up from 10 percent, or about 20 million people, in the 1990s. — MTS
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Researchers are describing a long-awaited advance toward applying the marvels of nanotechnology in the battle against cancer. They have developed the first hollow gold nanospheres — smaller than the finest flecks of dust — that search out and "cook" cancer cells. The cancer-destroying nanospheres show particular promise as a minimally invasive future treatment for malignant melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, the researchers say. Melanoma now causes more than 8,000 deaths annually in the United States alone and is on the increase globally.
The topic of a report presented here today at the American Chemical Society's 237th National Meeting, the hollow gold nanospheres are equipped with a special "peptide." That protein fragment draws the nanospheres directly to melanoma cells, while avoiding healthy skin cells. After collecting inside the cancer, the nanospheres heat up when exposed to near-infrared light, which penetrates deeply through the surface of the skin. In recent studies in mice, the hollow gold nanospheres did eight times more damage to skin tumors than the same nanospheres without the targeting peptides, the researchers say.
"This technique is very promising and exciting," explains study co-author Jin Zhang, Ph.D., a professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of California in Santa Cruz. "It's basically like putting a cancer cell in hot water and boiling it to death. The more heat the metal nanospheres generate, the better." — MTS
EMBARGOED FOR RELEASE: Sunday, March 22, 11:00 a.m., Mountain Time
Scientists from Germany today reported a major advance toward opening the doors of a carbohydrate-based medicine chest for the 21st Century. Much more than just potatoes and pasta, these carbohydrates may form the basis of revolutionary new vaccines and drugs to battle malaria, HIV, and a bevy of other diseases.
Speaking at the 237th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society, Peter H. Seeberger, Ph.D., described development of an automated carbohydrate synthesizer, a device that builds these intricate molecules in a few hours — rather than the months or years required with existing technology.
"Our automated synthesizer is now the fastest method to make complex carbohydrates," says Seeberger, principal investigator for the research. "There are currently no competitive methods available. Today, if people working in biology run into a problem related to carbohydrates, they usually drop it because there are no tools available. They can't buy anything from a catalogue."
Carbohydrates are tough molecules to build because of their complicated, branched structure. So instead of trying to build carbohydrates from scratch, scientists today use molecules isolated from nature, a painstaking process that could take months. "We make things chemically that people used to isolate," explains Seeberger. "The automated synthesizer puts single sugars, the building blocks of carbohydrates, together like beads on a string." — AD
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Exploiting a little-known punch/counterpunch strategy in the ongoing battle between disease-causing fungi and crop plants, scientists in Canada are reporting development of a new class of "green" fungicides that could provide a safer, more environmentally-friendly alternative to conventional fungicides. They will report on the first pesticides to capitalize on this unique defensive strategy here today at the 237th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society.
Developed with sustainable agriculture in mind, the new fungicides — called "paldoxins" — could still do the work of conventional pesticides, helping to protect corn, wheat and other crops. These crops increasingly are used not just for food, but to make biofuels. The new fungicides also could help fight the growing problem of resistance, in which plant pests shrug off fungicides, the researchers suggest.
Most fungicides today are made based on chemicals that can kill potentially beneficial organisms and have other adverse environmental effects. The new materials are more selective, stopping fungi that cause plant diseases without harming other organisms. They work in a unique way, disrupting a key chemical signalling pathway that the fungi use to breakdown a plant's normal defenses. As a result, the plants boost their natural defenses and overcome fungal attack without harming people and the environment, the researchers say. "Conventional fungicides kill constantly," explains study leader Soledade Pedras, Ph.D., a professor of chemistry at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada. "Our products only attack the fungus when it's misbehaving or attacking the plant. And for that reason, they're much safer." — MTS
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EMBARGOED FOR RELEASE: Monday, March 23, 8:30 a.m., Mountain Time
Researchers are reporting compelling new scientific evidence for the existence of low-energy nuclear reactions (LENR), the process once called "cold fusion" that may promise a new source of energy. One group of scientists, for instance, describes what it terms the first clear visual evidence that LENR devices can produce neutrons, subatomic particles that scientists view as tell-tale signs that fusion reactions are occurring.
Low-energy nuclear reactions could potentially provide 21st Century society a limitless and environmentally-clean energy source for generating electricity, researchers say. The report, which injects new life into this controversial field, will be presented here today at the American Chemical Society's 237th National Meeting. It is among 30 papers on the topic that will be presented during a four-day symposium, "New Energy Technology," March 22-25, in conjunction with the 20th anniversary of the first description of cold fusion.
"Our finding is very significant," says study co-author and analytical chemist Pamela Mosier-Boss, Ph.D., of the U.S. Navy's Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center (SPAWAR) in San Diego, Calif. "To our knowledge, this is the first scientific report of the production of highly energetic neutrons from an LENR device." — MTS
EMBARGOED FOR RELEASE: Monday, March 23, 8:30 a.m., Mountain Time
The research may also shed light on how life arose on Earth, by producing a self-sustaining molecule capable of Darwinian evolution and reproduction, much like one that many scientists suggest arose at the dawn of life on Earth nearly four billion years ago.
Led by Steven Benner, Ph.D., this team is rewriting the rulebook that Nobel laureates James Watson and Francis Crick started when they described DNA's structure in 1953. One of the crowning discoveries of 20th century science, Watson and Crick's discovery established how the four chemical "letters" of DNA — A, T, C and G — pair up.
"This is a man on the moon goal," says Steven Benner, Ph.D. "It has dragged us kicking and screaming into uncharted territory. But we've learned all sorts of reasons about how the Watson and Crick rules don't enable technology to do useful things like highly parallel amplification of DNA or highly parallel diagnosis of human diseases." — AD
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Diagnosed with an extremely aggressive form of cancer called anal sac adenocarcinoma, Oscar's future seemed bleak. Bedridden and unresponsive to chemotherapy or radiation, he would be lucky to survive three months. But thanks to an innovative new drug treatment, Oscar's cancer receded and he was walking again within two weeks.
Oscar's recovery was extraordinary enough, but his case was unusual for another reason. Oscar is a Bichon Frise, who scientists reporting here today at the 237th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society call "the Miracle Dog." Joseph A. Bauer, Ph.D., and colleagues described promising results with a drug called nitrosylcobalamin (NO-Cbl) in battling cancer in Oscar and three other canines without any negative side effects. While it gives profound hope to dog owners, NO-Cbl also points to a powerful new cancer treatment for humans — one that infiltrates cancer cells like a biological Trojan horse.
"We are one of the few research groups that is offering to treat dogs with cancer that otherwise have no hope," Bauer said. "With no other options available, most people in this situation opt to euthanize so that their pets don't go through the pain of disease and trauma of surgery."
About six million dogs are diagnosed with cancer each year in the United States. According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), pets with cancer provide a win-win opportunity for cancer researchers. Scientists can study new cancer treatments in animals other than lab mice. And pets get access to new treatments that provide hope and in instances like NO-Cbl, additional time. — AD
EMBARGOED FOR RELEASE: Monday, March 23, 11:30 a.m., Mountain Time
In the future, natural gas derived from chunks of ice that workers collect from beneath the ocean floor and beneath the arctic permafrost may fuel cars, heat homes, and power factories. Government researchers are reporting that these so-called "gas hydrates," a frozen form of natural gas that bursts into flames at the touch of a match, show increasing promise as an abundant, untapped source of clean, sustainable energy. The icy chunks could supplement traditional energy sources that are in short supply and which produce large amounts of carbon dioxide linked to global warming, the scientists say.
"These gas hydrates could serve as a bridge to our energy future until cleaner fuel sources, such as hydrogen and solar energy, are more fully realized," says study co-leader Tim Collett, Ph.D., a research geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in Denver, Colo. Gas hydrates, known as "ice that burns," hold special promise for helping to combat global warming by leaving a smaller carbon dioxide footprint than other fossil fuels, Collett and colleagues note.
They will present research on gas hydrates here today at the American Chemical Society's 237th National Meeting. It is among two dozen papers on the topic scheduled for a two-day symposium, "Gas Hydrates and Clathrates," March 23-24, held at the Hilton Salt Lake City, Grand Ballroom A. The symposium begins at 8 a.m. on Monday, March 23. — MTS
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Scientists from Japan today reported development of what could be the world's first "green" hair bleach, an environmentally friendly preparation for lightening the color of hair on the head and other parts of the body without the unwanted effects of the bleaches used by millions of people each year.
Speaking here at the 237th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society, Kenzo Koike, Ph.D., who is with the Kao Corporation's Beauty Research Center in Tokyo, pointed out that traditional hair bleaches rely on hydrogen peroxide. Peroxide is highly effective in oxidizing, or breaking down, melanin, the black pigment that gives hair a dark color.
However, peroxide bleaches have several disadvantages. "Bleach usually has to be repeated, for example, once every three months, in order to keep the satisfactory level of color because hair grows 1 cm. each month," explained Koike. "Repeated bleaching may compound another disadvantage of hydrogen peroxide — hair damage."
Koike described isolation of an enzyme from a strain of Basidiomycete ceriporiopsis, a type of "white-rot" fungus that has also shown potential to degrade and clean up pollutants in soil. The enzyme naturally degrades melanin. It has the added benefit of combating the effects of free radicals, highly reactive agents produced by hydrogen peroxide that are responsible for its damaging effects in making hair brittle, dull, and difficult-to-manage. "I think this is the first enzyme found that degrades melanin," he says, adding that it could be added to traditional hair bleaches to prevent hair damage, leading to hair care products that use less hydrogen peroxide. — JS
EMBARGOED FOR RELEASE: Tuesday, March 24, 2009, 2:00 p.m., Mountain Time
Chemists in Taiwan are reporting that an ingredient in licorice — widely used in various foods and herbal medicines — appears to block the absorption of cyclosporine, a drug used by transplant patients to prevent organ rejection. This drug interaction could potentially result in transplant rejection, causing illness and even death among patients worldwide who take cyclosporine and licorice together, the researchers caution.
The study is the first report of this potential drug interaction, the scientists say. Their findings will be presented here today at the American Chemical Society's 237th National Meeting.
"I would suggest that transplant patients avoid taking licorice," warns Pei-Dawn Lee Chao, Ph.D., a chemist at China Medical University in Taichung, Taiwan.
The researchers say they do not know exactly how much licorice it takes to have a toxic effect in humans. Since licorice-based products vary widely in their content of its main active ingredient, a substance called glycyrrhizin, Chao suggests that patients taking cyclosporine avoid licorice altogether. Thousands of patients also take cyclosporine for rheumatoid arthritis, certain skin conditions, and other diseases. — MTS
EMBARGOED FOR RELEASE: Tuesday, March 24, 2:00 p.m., Mountain Time
Concerns that terrorists could produce a new and particularly dangerous form of the explosive responsible for airport security screening of passengers' shoes and restrictions on liquids in carryon baggage are unfounded, scientists reported today.
Speaking here at the 237th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society, Gerard Harbison, Ph.D., and colleagues described using computer simulations to analyze a variety of potential peroxide-based explosives in the same chemical class as triacetone triperoxide (TATP). That powerful, easy-to-make explosive was used by the "shoe bomber," Richard Reid, in his failed attempt to blow up a transatlantic airline flight in 2001. TATP has also been used by suicide bombers in the Palestinian Intifada.
Harbison's team became intrigued by "Internet lore," reports circulating on the Web claiming creation of another explosive — tetracetone tetraperoxide (TeATeP) — which is reputedly a more lethal relative to TATP. Initially working on detection methods of peroxide explosives for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the group instead began to investigate the structure of TeATeP to evaluate likelihood of its use as a terrorist's weapon.
"Our analysis indicates that potentially new and destructive terrorist materials, which would tax our detection capabilities, may be too unstable for a practical synthesis," said Harbison, a chemist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. "We consider it unlikely that any of the previous syntheses were actually successful, and the Internet myths about TeATeP are nothing more than that. So the good news is basically this is something we don't have to worry about." — JS
It's never too late to explore a treasure trove of news sources, background material and story ideas available from the ACS' latest National Meeting, which was held in Philadelphia from August 17-21, 2008. Reporters can view press releases, search an archive with abstracts of more than 9,000 scientific presentations and hundreds of non-technical summaries of those presentations, and access other resources at: www.eurekalert.org/acsmeet.php.
The ACS Office of Public Affairs also offers recorded video versions of its national meeting "chat room" briefings and accompanying chat transcripts by going to http://www.ustream.tv/channel/acslive. To use this site, you must first register with Ustream.tv by going to http://ustream.tv/sign-up-step-1. It's free and only takes a minute or two to sign up. To view the archived chat room sessions, proceed by clicking the "Login" button at the top right of the Ustream window and then selecting "Past Clips." Please note that Ustream requires the latest version of Adobe Flash, which can be downloaded without charge at http://www.adobe.com/products/flashplayer.
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