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ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: Wed Oct 21 16:42:03 EDT 2009

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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

Spider web glue spins society toward new biobased adhesives

With would-be goblins and ghosts set to drape those huge fake spider webs over doorways and trees for Halloween, scientists in Wyoming are reporting on a long-standing mystery about real spider webs: It is the secret of spider web glue. The findings are an advance toward a new generation of biobased adhesives and glues — “green” glues that replace existing petroleum-based products for a range of uses. A report on the study is in the October issue of ACS’ Biomacromolecules, a monthly journal.

Omer Choresh and colleagues note that much research has been done on spider web silk, which rivals steel in its strength. However, scientists know comparatively little about web glue, which coats the silk threads and is among the world’s strongest biological glues. Past studies revealed that spiders make web glue from glycoproteins, or proteins bits of sugar attached.

The scientists analyzed web glue from the golden orb weaving spider, noted for spinning intricate webs. They identified two new glycoproteins in the glue and showed that domains of these proteins were produced from opposite strands of the same DNA. “Once the cloned genes are over expressed in systems such as insect or bacterial cell cultures, large-scale production of the glycoprotein can be used to develop a new biobased glue for a variety of purposes,” the report notes.


Biomacromolecules

Scientists in Japan are reporting the first scientific explanation for one of the most widely known rules of thumb for pairing wine with food: “Red wine with red meat, white wine with fish.” The scientists are reporting that the unpleasant, fishy aftertaste noticeable when consuming red wine with fish results from naturally occurring iron in red wine. The study is in ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a bi-weekly publication.

Takayuki Tamura and colleagues note that wine connoisseurs established the rule of thumb because of the flavor clash between red wine and fish. They point out, however, that there are exceptions to the rule, with some red wines actually going well with seafood. Until now, nobody could consistently predict which wines might trigger a fishy aftertaste because of the lack of knowledge about its cause.


The scientists asked wine tasters to sample 38 red wines and 26 white wines while dining on scallops. Some of the wines contained small amounts of iron, which varied by country of origin, variety, and vintage. They found that wines with high amounts of iron had a more intensely fishy aftertaste. This fishy taste diminished, on the other hand, when the researchers added a substance that binds up iron. The findings indicate that iron is the key factor in the fishy aftertaste of wine-seafood pairings, the researchers say, suggesting that low-iron red wines might be a good match with seafood.


A scientific basis the “golden rule” of pairing wines and foods

Those pristine-looking Alpine glaciers now melting as global warming sets in may explain the mysterious increase in persistent organic pollutants in sediment from certain lakes since the 1990s, despite decreased use of those compounds in pesticides, electric equipment, paints and other products. That’s the conclusion of a new study, scheduled for the Nov. 1 issue of ACS’ Environmental Science & Technology, a semi-monthly journal.

In the study, Christian Bogdal and colleagues focused on organic pollutants in sediment from a model body of water –– glacier-fed Lake Oberaar in the Bernese Alps, Switzerland –– testing for the persistent organic pollutants, including dioxins, PCBs, organochlorine pesticides and synthetic musk fragrances. They found that while contamination decreased to low levels in the 1980s and 1990s due to tougher regulations and improvements in products, since the late 1990s flow of all of these pollutants into the lake has increased sharply. Currently, the flow of organochlorines into the lake is similar to or even higher than in the 1960s and 1970s, the report states.

The study attributed the most recent spike in the flow of pollutants into Lake Oberaar to the accelerated release of organic chemicals from melting Alpine glaciers, where contaminants were deposited earlier and preserved over decades. “Considering ongoing global warming and accelerated massive glacial melting predicted for the future, our study indicates the potential for environmental impacts due to pollutants delivered into pristine mountainous areas,” Bogdal said.

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Journal of Agricultural
and Food Chemistry

With potential adverse health and environmental effects often in the news about nanotechnology, scientists in Arkansas are reporting that carbon nanotubes (CNTs) could have beneficial effects in agriculture. Their study, scheduled for the October issue of ACS Nano, a monthly journal, found that tomato seeds exposed to CNTs germinated faster and grew into larger, heavier seedlings than other seeds. That growth-enhancing effect could be a boon for biomass production for plant-based biofuels and other agricultural products, they suggest.

Mariya Khodakovskaya, Alexandru Biris, and colleagues note that considerable scientific research is underway to use nanoparticles — wisps 1/50,000th the width of a human hair — in agriculture. The goals of “nano-agriculture” include improving the productivity of plants for food, fuel, and other uses.

The scientists report the first evidence that CNTs penetrate the hard outer coating of seeds, and have beneficial effects. Nanotube-exposed seeds sprouted up to two times faster than control seeds and the seedlings weighed more than twice as much as the untreated plants. Those effects may occur because nanotubes penetrate the seed coat and boost water uptake, the researchers state. “This observed positive effect of CNTs on the seed germination could have significant economic importance for agriculture, horticulture, and the energy sector, such as for production of biofuels,” they add.


Glacial melting may release pollutants in the environment

Museums are increasingly seeking help from chemists in an effort to understand and preserve the artistic and cultural heritage of the treasures in their collections. That’s the topic of the cover story in the current issue of Chemical & Engineering News, ACS’ weekly newsmagazine.

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C&EN News Editor William Schultz points out that scientists have done research on art museum collections since at least the 1930s. Over the past 30 years, many museums have been adding scientists to their ranks, particularly chemists, in order to gain new cultural insights into the collections under their care. Called conservation science or cultural heritage science, the field now covers archaeological objects, fine arts collections, archives, buildings, monuments and more. The National Science Foundation recently provided a boost to this effort by announcing plans to issue grants to fund conservation science research specifically, the article notes.

The article describes how scientists are seeking ways to use non-destructive methods to analyze works of art or cultural heritage objects, to study the performance of plasters in order to maximize the preservation of building materials, and to investigate the original colors used in a Roman sculpture. Although conservation science efforts are going strong at larger museums, smaller museums still need help in this area. One conservation scientist emphasizes that “it’s critical to have scientists heavily engaged in studying cultural heritage objects.”


Environmental Science
& Technology

  • Press releases, briefings, and more from ACS’ 238th National Meeting
    http://www.eurekalert.org/acsmeet.php

    http://www.ustream.tv/channel/acslive
  • National Chemistry Week Oct. 18-24, 2009
    Activities will be held in communities around the United States Oct. 18-24 to celebrate National Chemistry Week, the American Chemical Society’s annual showcase of chemistry’s central role in our lives. This year’s theme is “Chemistry—It’s Elemental!” It focuses on chemical elements, which make-up everything on Earth and beyond, from people and plants to stars and other celestial objects a million billion years across the universe. During the week, thousands of students will learn about these building blocks of everything. For more information, including the location of local NCW events, please visit http://www.chemistryweek.org
  • Must-reads from C&EN: Scientists say proposed lab rules would hinder research
  • are concerned that proposed federal legislation tightening laboratory security could hamper biological research. The legislation, which would cover labs where researchers work with the deadliest pathogens, is designed to protect against terrorist attacks. But scientists contend that such new restrictions, in addition to those adopted after the 2001 anthrax attacks, would have a chilling effect on vital infectious disease research. For a copy of this story, e-mail m_bernstein@acs.org.
  • Writing on Green Chemistry?
    Here is a treasure trove of important scientific research articles published in 2008.
    http://pubs.acs.org/stoken/presspac/presspac/full/10.1021/op900082k

  • 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
    Press releases
    on a variety of chemistry-related topics.
  • Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) 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 includes about 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.
  • Science Connections from 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. Topics range 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.

Advance in “nano-agriculture:” Tiny stuff has huge effect on plant growth

  • Bytesize Science, a podcast for young listeners
    Bytesize Science is a science podcast for kids of all ages that entertains and educates, with new high-definition 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.
  • Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions
    This special series of ACS podcasts on some of the 21st Century’s most daunting challenges, and how and how chemists and other scientists are finding solutions. Subscribe at iTunes or listen and access other resources at the ACS web site www.acs.org/GlobalChallenges.
  • Science Elements: Science Elements is a podcast of PressPac contents that makes cutting-edge scientific discoveries from ACS journals available to a broader public audience. 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.