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ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: March 04, 2009

Note to Journalists and Other Viewers

Here is the latest American Chemical Society (ACS) Weekly PressPac from the Office of Public Affairs. It has 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

Simple upgrades in rural sanitation could save 1.2 million lives annually

Improving rural sanitation by 65 percent could save as many as 1.2 million lives a year worldwide, scientists in Pennsylvania conclude in a new study on diarrheal disease. Their report, in the current edition of ACS’ semi-monthly journal Environmental Science & Technology, found that developing countries in Africa and Asia would experience the greatest savings in life.

In the study, Sean T. Green and colleagues note that diarrhea causes 2.2 million deaths a year worldwide. It is the third leading cause of childhood mortality after neonatal disorders and respiratory infections. Many previous studies have tried to identify the factors that contribute to child mortality. Only a few, however, have evaluated the factors contributing to diarrheal disease at a national level, leaving a major information gap on the topic.

The researchers developed a new computer model for that purpose using an artificial intelligence technique called Classification and Regression Trees. They used it to predict diarrheal illness nationally, based on data from 192 countries. Using the model, the scientists identified improvements in rural sanitation — such as providing safe disposal of feces —as the measure in their study with the single greatest impact in reducing deaths from diarrheal disease. “The most important variable for reducing diarrheal illness in the worst afflicted countries is rural sanitation, a message that can be obscured with a ‘one size fits all’ linear regression model” like those used in the past. - MB

Gooda, Gouda! Solving the 800-year-old secret of a big cheese

Almost 800 years after farmers in the village of Gouda in Holland first brought a creamy new cheese to market, scientists in Germany say they have cracked the secret of Gouda’s good taste. They have identified the key protein subunits, or peptides, responsible for the complex, long-lasting flavor of the popular cheese. That discovery could lead to development of more flavorful cheeses and other dairy products. Their study is in the current issue of ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a bi-weekly publication.

Thomas Hofmann, Simone Toelstede and Andreas Dunkel note that the scientists have tried for years to pinpoint the natural molecules responsible for the long-lasting taste and wonderful texture of Gouda cheese. It develops during the aging or ripening stage, with aged Gouda more full and complex, with longer-lasting flavor, than the younger version. Cheese lovers prize this characteristic taste, known as the “kokumi sensation.”

The scientists solved the age-old mystery by applying a molecular sensory science approach. It combined mass spectroscopy and other high-tech analytical instruments and sophisticated sensory tools to identify six gamma-glutamyl peptides that appear to be mainly responsible for the kokumi sensation in Gouda. This knowledge could be used to enhance the flavor of dairy products by technological means, the researchers say. - MTS

New genre of sugar-coated “quantum dots” for drug delivery

Scientists in Switzerland are reporting an advance that could help tap the much-heralded potential of “quantum dots”— nanocrystals that glow when exposed to ultraviolet light — in the treatment of cancer and other diseases. They are publishing the first study showing that giving quantum dots an icing-like cap of certain sugars makes these nanoparticles accumulate in the liver but not other parts of the body. That selective targeting could be used to deliver anti-cancer drugs to one organ, without causing the body-wide side-effects that occur with existing cancer drugs, they suggest. Their study is in the Feb. 18 issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society, a weekly publication.

In the new report, Peter H. Seeberger and colleagues note that quantum dots, about 1/5,000th the width of a human hair, are used in solar cells, medical diagnostic imaging, and electronics. Scientists believe these particles also show promise for drug delivery for treating cancer and other diseases. However, researchers still have not found an ideal way to target these dots to specific tissues or organs in order to maximize their effectiveness and limit toxicity.

They describe development of a new type of quantum dot coated with certain sugar molecules that are attracted to receptors in specific tissues and organs. In a study with laboratory mice, the scientists coated quantum dots with either mannose or galactosamine, two sugars that accumulate selectively in the liver. The sugar-coated dots became three times more concentrated in the mice livers than the regular dots, demonstrating their higher specificity, the researchers say. - MTS

Old soles: 800-year-old shoe soles yield clues about preservation of leather

Ancient garbage can be like gold to archaeologists. During excavation of an 800-year-old trash dump in Lyon, France, scientists discovered the archaeological equivalent of golden shoe soles: A trove of leather soles of shoes, which is helping scientists understand how leather stays preserved in wet, oxygen-free environments. That knowledge could aid restoration of other leather artifacts, according to a report on analysis of the old soles scheduled for the current issue of ACS’ semi-monthly journal Analytical Chemistry.

In the article, Michel Bardet and colleagues point out that leather consists of collagen, a tough protein that can remain intact hundreds of thousands of years under ideal conditions. The French soles were buried in mud in the absence of oxygen — good conditions for preservation.

They used laboratory technology called nuclear magnetic resonance to compare composition of the ancient leather to modern leather. It turned out that tannin, which helps to preserve leather, had been washed out of the old soles and replaced by iron oxides. The iron oxides, which leached into the leather from surrounding soil, helped preserve the soles in the absence of tannins. - AD

Advance toward “the $1,000 genome” may open door to personalized medicine

A new, more economical technology for decoding genes is shuttling the long-awaited era of personalized medicine — with doctors customizing prevention and treatment for each individual’s genetic endowment —closer to reality, according to an article scheduled for the March 9 issue of Chemical & Engineering News, ACS’ weekly newsmagazine.

In the article, C&EN deputy assistant managing editor Stu Borman describes a key advance toward a bargain-basement DNA sequencer, a device to determine the chemical instructions in the famed double helix molecule. Called a “nanopore sequencer,” it could replace higher-priced sequencing techniques currently in use. The nanopore can identify all four DNA building blocks (adenine, thymine, guanine, and cytosine) based on the amount of electric current these so-called nucleotides block as they squeeze through the pore. Nanopores could reduce the cost of gene sequencing to $1,000 for an individual’s genome, or complete genetic endowment. That compares with the $100,000 to $1 million for sequencing an entire genome using conventional techniques.

Although the nanopore sequencer still needs tweaking, scientists are optimistic about its future potential. “This is the first time a clear, feasible pathway to nanopore sequencing has been shown,” says one authority in the C&EN article.

Journalists’ Resources

  • Must-reads from C&EN: Potential new treatments for flu, tuberculosis
    Influenza and tuberculosis (TB) are among the world’s most serious infectious diseases. TB kills almost 1.6 million people annually. In an average year, 500,000 die worldwide from flu. But new treatments may soon be on the way. For an update on flu research, check this must-read article in Chemical & Engineering News, ACS’ weekly newsmagazine. For an article on a unique drug-combination that kills extensively drug-resistant TB strains, click here. For other newsworthy items in C&EN’s March 2 issue, click here.
  • New 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. The blog includes daily commentary on the latest news from the weekly PressPac, including video and audio segments from researchers on topics covering chemistry and related sciences, including nanotechnology, food science, materials science and the environment. The pressroom blog will also cover updates on ACS’ awards, the national meetings and other general news from the world’s largest scientific society.
  • New 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. The Bytesize blog contains entertaining video podcasts and audio episodes of the latest and greatest news from the frontiers of chemistry, including a video detailing a discovery about the bug-eating pitcher plant and an audio episode on a new use for magnolia tree bark.
  • Join the ACS satellite pressroom for 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 with daily updates on the latest research from ACS’ 34 peer-reviewed journals and other news, including links to compelling podcast series, information on the upcoming 237th National Meeting, and the latest recipients of ACS’ national awards. 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’s 237th National Meeting March 22-26
    ACS' 237th National Meeting in Salt Lake City, March 22-26, 2009. Expect more than 7,000 presentations on the broad spectrum of the sciences that involve chemistry — from astronomy to zoology. For advance complimentary news media registration: https://www.xpressreg.net/register/acsa039/media/start.asp
  • Press releases, briefings, and more from ACS' 236th National Meeting

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.

  • ACS Press Releases

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

  • 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. This sweeping panorama of challenges includes topics such as providing a hungry, thirsty world with ample supplies of safe food and clean water; developing alternatives to petroleum to fuel the global economy; preserving the environment and assuring a sustainable future for our children; and improving human health. An ongoing saga of chemistry for life — chemistry that truly matters — Global Challenges will continue in 2009. Subscribe at iTunes or listen and access other resources at the ACS web site www.acs.org/GlobalChallenges.

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.

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.