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Chemistry News Archive October 2007

Chemistry News October 2007

News of the year 2007 in the fields of chemistry and chemistry-related topics like biochemistry, nantechnology, medicinal chemistry etc.

Main focus: press releases, scientific research results and summaries of chemistry articles, that are published in chemistry journals.

Please send us a eMail to publish your press release!

Chemistry news archive 2007 - ordered by month














October 2007


Scientists discover new way to make water
Scientists at the University of Illinois have discovered a new way to make water. Not only can they make water from unlikely starting materials, such as alcohols, their work could also lead to better catalysts and less expensive fuel cells.


Read article ...

MU researchers go nano, natural and green
Using only soybeans and water, scientists discover a clean process for making nanoparticles.


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Going Live With Click Chemistry:
Berkeley Researchers Create a Copper-free Version of the Technique


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Drug commonly used to treat bipolar disorder dramatically increases lifespan in worms
Buck Institute study involves lithium.


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Chemical evolution
University of Georgia team suggests new answer: The mechanism of the formation of adenine under prebiotic conditions.


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Evolution in the Nanoworld
Scientists published images resolving molecules which have organized themselves into patterns according to size.


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Natural gas nanotech
Could nanotechnology revolutionize natural gas industry?


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Fuel cells gearing up to power auto industry
UH Team�s Breakthrough in Fuel Cell Research May Ease Reliance on Gasoline.


Read article ...

Chemical in red wine, fruits and vegetables stops cancer, heart disease, depending on the dose - Research in the FASEB Journal lays the groundwork for safe, new cancer therapy.


Artikel lesen ...

New system would use rotating magnetic field to detect pathogens
Researchers at Purdue and Duke universities have developed a technique that uses a magnetic field to selectively separate tiny magnetic particles, representing a highly sensitive method for potentially diagnosing disease by testing samples from patients.

ACS News:


 Submicroscopic particles of PVC

Submicroscopic particles of PVC (shown via electron microscope) and other plastics may pose a previously unrecognized pollution threat.

Image ďż˝ by Emma Teuten, University of Plymouth, UK

"Microplastics" may pose previously unrecognized pollution threat

Microscopic particles of plastic debris that litter marine environments may pose a previously unrecognized threat to marine animals by attracting, holding, and transporting water pollutants, a new study by British researchers is reporting. It is scheduled for the Nov. 15 issue of ACS' Environmental Science & Technology, a semi-monthly journal.

Emma L. Teuten and colleagues note long-standing awareness that large pieces of plastic waste, including cargo wrapping sheet plastic and six-pack rings, can sicken and kill fish, birds, turtles and other animals. Seawater eventually breaks down these large pieces into microplastics, which can adsorb high levels of PCBs and other toxins. Microplastics also enter the environment directly from use as "scrubbers" in household and industrial cleaning products. However, little research has been done on the environmental impact of these tiny, pollution-packed pellets.

In the new study, researchers exposed several different types and sizes of microplastics to phenanthrene, a major marine pollutant, and used a model to predict their effects on a group of sediment-dwelling marine worms (lugworms). The scientists found that addition of just a few millionths of a gram of contaminated microplastics to the sediments caused an 80% increase in phenanthrene accumulation in the tissues of the worms. Since lugworms are at the base of the food chain, phenanthrene from microplastics would be passed on and biomagnified in other marine animals. The finding suggests that microplastics are an important agent in the transport of pollutants in marine organisms and throughout the global environment, the researchers say.

Environmental Science & Technology: "Potential for Plastics to Transport Hydrophobic Contaminants" [PDF]


A Rosetta Stone for traditional Chinese medicine

Scientists in the United Kingdom have "decoded" the inscrutable language of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), revealing its strong chemical foundation in a way that may help scientists mine age-old Chinese medicines to develop tomorrow's new drugs. Their study is scheduled for the Nov./Dec. issue of ACS' bi-monthly Journal of Chemical Information and Modeling.

David J. Barlow, Thomas M. Ehrman, and Peter J. Hylands point out that traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) - regarded by many Western experts as an archaic system doomed to extinction 50 years ago - has undergone a "remarkable renaissance" in recent years. However, the arcane language used to describe categories of medication in TCM has hindered effective understanding of one of the most developed and mature systems of alternative medicine in existence.

To overcome that barrier, the researchers analyzed patterns among 8411 compounds from 240 Chinese herbs in relation to the categories found in traditional Chinese medicine. Organizing their findings in a kind of herbal "map," their results reveal that many categories in Chinese medicine are amenable to translation to Western terminology. TCM's "fire poison" group, for example, is comparable to today's family of anti-inflammatory medicines. Now, future researchers will better understand the chemical basis of remedies that have been in use for thousands of years, the study indicated.

"This is likely to be of benefit both in the search for new drugs and, equally significantly, in understanding how Chinese medicine works," say the authors.

Journal of Chemical Information and Modeling: "Phytochemical Informatics of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Therapeutic Relevance" [ PDF ]


Boiled peanuts

Boiled peanuts (shown) contain more antioxidants than roasted or raw peanuts.

Photo ďż˝ by Lloyd Walker, Alabama A&M University

Boiled peanuts pack big antioxidant punch

Boiled peanuts, a regional treat from the southern United States, may be as healthy as they are delicious. In the Oct. 31 issue of ACS' Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Alabama scientists report that boiling these legumes imbues them with more antioxidants than roasted peanuts or peanut butter.

Peanuts are usually consumed as processed products, mainly as peanut butter and roasted nuts. Studies have shown that peanuts contain powerful antioxidants called isoflavones which may reduce the risk of cancer, diabetes and coronary heart diseases. Although the effect of processing on the isoflavone content of legumes has been extensively studied, there has never been such a study on peanuts.

Lloyd Walker and colleagues evaluated the effect of boiling and oil- and dry-roasting on peanuts. They found that boiled peanuts - South Carolina's official snack food - contained up to four times more isoflavones than raw peanuts or oil- and dry-roasted ones.

Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry: "Changes in the Phytochemical Composition and profile of Raw, Boiled, and Roasted Peanuts" [ PDF ]


Toward a comprehensive test for dissolved phosphorous

A new method for measuring certain forms of phosphorus - the nutrient often responsible for algae blooms that devastate fish populations in lakes - has identified a major but previously overlooked source of the phosphorus that may heavily contribute to water quality problems, researchers from Australia and the United Kingdom are reporting. The study is scheduled for the Nov. 1 issue of ACS' Environmental Science & Technology, a bi-weekly journal.

In the study, Phil Monbet and colleagues point out that two types of dissolved phosphorus, organic and inorganic, contribute to eutrophication, the overgrowth of algae. Presently, however, scientists and water pollution control officials rarely measure or pay attention to dissolved organic phosphorus (DOP).

The new procedure recognizes that enzymes present in aquatic environments can convert DOP into inorganic phosphorus, releasing it to fuel algal growth. It overcomes the limitations of current phosphorus measurements, providing more accurate data on the potential of discharges from sewage treatment plants to contribute to eutrophication. "This work quantitatively highlights the potential of DOP to contribute to eutrophication in natural waters as a result of enzyme hydrolysis," the report states.

Environmental Science & Technology: "A Protocol to Assess the Enzymatic Release of Dissolved Organic Phosphorus Species in Waters under Environmentally Relevant Conditions" [ PDF ]


Unlocking the secrets of ripening for better tasting fruits and veggies

Researchers worldwide are learning to control the key chemical processes involved in ripening, a development that will lead to longer lasting, better tasting tomatoes, apples, and other fruits and vegetables, according to an article scheduled for the Oct. 29 issue of Chemical & Engineering News, ACS' weekly newsmagazine.

In the article, C&EN associate editor Sarah Everts explains what scientists know about the phenomenon of ripening and how they are leveraging that knowledge to optimize the flavor, aroma and shelf-life of fruits and vegetables. That knowledge is emerging at a time of growing consumer demand for high-quality produce available year-round and in virtually any location. Unfortunately, good taste and long shelf-life are often incompatible, but researchers are getting closer to this goal as they untangle the networks of hormones, genes and proteins that control fruit ripening, Everts notes.

The article points out, for instance, that ethylene has a profound effect on fruit development. Other important factors that influence ripening include sunlight and temperature, while some influential hormones probably remain to be discovered, the article states. "This research will aid the world-wide produce industry, which exports some 65 million tons of fresh fruits and vegetables annually. The U.S. retail produce industry alone made some $56 billion in sales in 2006," Everts writes.

In a separate C&EN article and photo spread, managing editor Ivan Amato discusses the psychology and environmental impact of cigarette smokers who discard used cigarette butts in public places - 50 million pounds worth annually in the United States alone.

Chemical & Engineering News: "Reining In Ripening"


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Video shows buckyballs form by 'shrink wrapping'
Experiments, simulations reveal birth secret of tiny carbon spheres.


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NIST demos industrial-grade nanowire device fabrication
Nanowires have attracted a great deal of interest for their potential to build unique atomic-scale electronics, but manufacturers will need efficient, reliable methods to build them in quantity. NIST researchers believe they have one solution.


Artikel lesen ... Read article ...

Microfluidics and optical trapping integrated for the first time in new lab-on-a-chip research
Researchers at Cornell University for the first time have integrated optical functions with microfluidic ones, enabling the sorting of particles by light.


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Cell Pathway, Disease Linked To Histone Action
In a study a protein was identified that modifies H2A, which in turn regulates normal cell pathways and cell growth. When the function of this protein was blocked in tadpole embryos, the front-to-back body patterning was altered during maturation, according to researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.


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Seismologists see Earth's interior as interplay between temperature, pressure and chemistry
A study by Nicholas Schmerr helps assess the role chemistry plays in the structure of Earth�s mantle.


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Three first-ever atomic nuclei created at NSCL
New super-heavy aluminum isotopes may exist.


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Designing new piezoelectric materials
Polymer-based piezoelectric materials are currently the object of great interest in the world of industry because they enable their use in new applications in sectors such as transport and aeronautics, amongst others.


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Yerba Mate Tea Chemistry
More on mate tea: lower cholesterol and an international agreement.


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Firing clay in unvented kilns may be a source of exposure to dioxins
Firing clay in unvented kilns could be a significant source of dioxins in people exposed regularly and over long periods, a new study suggests.


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Platinum-rich shell, platinum-poor core
New class of catalyst for fuel cells beats pure platinum by a mile.


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Nanowire makes own electricity
Microscopic wire has photovoltaic properties.


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The sensitive side of carbon nanotubes: Creating powerful pressure sensors
Blocks of carbon nanotubes can be used to create effective and powerful pressure sensors.


Read article ...

Uranium isotope ratios are not invariant, researchers show
For years, the ratio of uranium�s two long-lived isotopes, U-235 and U-238, has been considered invariant, despite measurements made in the mid-1970s that hinted otherwise. Now, with improved precision from state-of-the-art instrumentation, researchers unequivocally show this ratio actually does vary significantly in Earth materials.


Read article ...

MIT gel changes color on demand
Material could lead to fast, inexpensive sensors.


Ammonium dihyrogen phosphate crystal

Read article ...

The solution to a 7-decade mystery is crystal-clear to FSU chemist

A Florida State University researcher has helped solve a scientific mystery that stumped chemists for nearly seven decades. In so doing, his team�s findings may lead to the development of more-powerful computer memories and lasers ...


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Glue inside the cell: Ubiquitin builds up an immune response


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New inhibitor has potential as cancer drug
Laboratory experiments have previously shown that cancer cells overproduce an enzyme, heparanase, which splits the body�s own polysaccharide heparan sulfate into shorter fragments.


ACS News:


Tiny capers, shown in different sizes, are rich in disease-fighting antioxidants.

Tiny capers, shown in different sizes, are rich in disease-fighting antioxidants.

Photo: Courtesy of Victoria Packing Corp.

Tiny capers pack big disease-fighting punch

Capers, used in such culinary delights as chicken piccata and smoked salmon, may be small. But they are an unexpectedly big source of natural antioxidants that show promise for fighting cancer and heart disease when added to meals, particularly meats, researchers in Italy are reporting in the current (Oct. 17) issue of ACS' Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a bi-weekly publication.

The flower buds of a small bush, capers have been used for centuries in Mediterranean cuisine, where they provide a salty tang and decorative flair to a variety of meats, salads, pastas and other foods. In the new study, Maria A. Livrea and colleagues note that other foods in the so-called Mediterranean diet have gotten plenty of attention for their health benefits. Capers, however, have been largely overlooked.

Their laboratory study involved adding caper extracts to grilled ground-turkey, and analyzing byproducts formed during simulated digestion. The scientists found that caper-extract helped prevent the formation of certain byproducts of digested meat that have been linked by others to an increased risk of cancer and heart disease. That beneficial effect occurred even with the small amounts of caper typically used to flavor food. "Caper may have beneficial health effects, especially for people whose meals are rich in fats and red meats," the study concluded.

Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry: "Bioactive Components of Caper (Capparis spinosa L.) from Sicily and Antioxidant Effects in a Red Meat Simulated Gastric Digestion" [ pdf ]


Chemistry of San Andreas Fault may offer clues to earthquake mysteries

Scientists have obtained core samples from deep inside California's San Andreas Fault for the first time, a finding that may lead to a better understanding of the underground molecular events associated with earthquakes, according to an article scheduled for the Oct. 22 issue of Chemical & Engineering News, ACS' weekly newsmagazine.

The 800-mile-long fault that bisects California is infamous as the source of the region's most devastating earthquakes. Conventional sampling of the fault yields slurries of rock chips that are fragmented and difficult to study. In the article, C&EN senior editor Elizabeth K. Wilson describes how new technology borrowed from the oil-drilling industry allows scientists to reach more than 2 miles into the earth to bring up virtually intact core samples from the San Andreas Fault Observatory at Depth in Parkfield, Calif. The core samples will provide an unprecedented picture of the minerals and fluids that are produced at an earthquake source, including new information about the chemistry behind plate movements and fluid flow in fault zones, the writer notes.

"Earthquake scientists around the world have been invited to a "sample party" at Stanford University in December, where they'll get a chance to inspect the cores and request pieces for them to study," Wilson writes.

Chemical & Engineering News: "Sampling The San Andreas".


Excess female to male births in Canada linked to chronic dioxin exposure

Almost 90 Canadian communities have experienced a shift in the normal 51:49 ratio of male to female births, so that more girls than boys are being born, according to two studies in the Oct. 1 issue of ACS' Environmental Science & Technology, a semi-monthly journal. James Argo, who headed the research, attributes this so-called "inverted sex ratio" of the residents in those communities to dioxin air pollutants from oil refineries, paper mills, metal smelters and other sources.

The studies analyzed information in the Environmental Quality Database (EQDB), an inventory of pollution sources, cancer data, and other factors developed for Canadian government research on how early exposure to environmental contaminants affects the health of Canadians. Argo points out that the EQDB enables researchers to pinpoint the location of 126,000 homes relative to any of about 65 air pollution sources-types and the occurrence of cancer among residents of those homes.

Argo focused on air pollutants from those sources and the corresponding incidence of cancer among more than 20,000 residents and 5,000 controls. He identified inverted male sex ratios, sometimes as profound as 46:54 in almost all of the communities. The ratio indicated that more females than males were born, a situation that Argo attributed to chronic exposure of parents to dioxin, based on previous studies. The study "may represent one of only a few studies explicitly designed to identify the impact of carcinogens from industrial sources on residents at home," Agro stated.

Environmental Science & Technology: "Chronic Disease and Early Exposure to Air-Borne Mixtures: 1. The Environmental Quality Database" and "Chronic Disease and Early Exposure to Air-Borne Mixtures: 2. Exposure Assessment" [ pdf ]


Workers strip wire to recover copper and other metals at e-waste recycling site in China.

Credit: Courtesy of Ming H. Wong, Hong Kong Baptist University

Recycling of e-waste in China may expose mothers, infants to high dioxin levels

With China now the destination for 70 percent of the computers, TVs, cell phones, and other electronic waste (e-waste) recycled worldwide each year, a new study has concluded that Chinese recycling methods significantly increase dioxin levels in women and their breast-fed infants. The study is scheduled for the Nov. 15 issue of ACS' Environmental Science & Technology, a semi-monthly publication.

Ming H. Wong and colleagues did one of what they describe as "very few" studies of dioxin levels among women of child bearing age at an e-waste recycling site, and compared those levels to women in an area without e-waste recycling. They analyzed levels of dioxins - compounds linked to cancer, developmental defects, and other health problems - in samples of breast milk, placenta, and hair.

Samples from the e-waste site showed significantly higher levels of dioxins than those taken at the reference site. Researchers estimated that the daily intake of infants from 6 months of breast feeding at the recycling site was more than double that of the reference site. Therefore, this implies that these levels at the recycling site and the reference site were at least 25 times and 11 times higher, respectively, than the World Health Organization tolerable daily limit for adults regarding dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs. The study includes descriptions of recycling methods, which include heating scrap electronic components over coal fires in the open air.

Environmental Science & Technology: "Body Loadings and Health Risk Assessment of Polychlorinated Dibenzo-p-dioxins and Dibenzofurans at an Intensive Electronic Waste Recycling Site in China" [ pdf ]


NMR researchers unlock hydrogen�s secrets to spot polymorphism in pharmaceuticals
Researchers at the University of Warwick and Astra Zeneca have found a new way to use solid-state NMR equipment to crack the secrets of hydrogen atoms and thus spot unwanted polymorphs in pharmaceuticals. [read article]


Sticky mussels inspire biomedical engineer yet again
Mussels are well known for sticking to virtually all inorganic and organic surfaces and doing so with amazing tenacity. Northwestern University researchers already have developed a material that mimics the strength of the bonds ... [read article]


Toxic releases down from North American industry leaders, increasing from other facilities
New Mexican data support first trinational analysis of pollutant release and transfers. [read article]


Novel gate dielectric materials: perfection is not enough

Displacement of hafnium atoms in the structure of hafnium oxide

For the first time theoretical modeling has provided a glimpse into how promising dielectric materials are able to trap charges, something which may affect the performance of advanced electronic devices [read article]


Bouncing Bucky Balls
Bucky balls have the moves ... [read article]


Researchers measure carbon nanotube interaction
Researchers for the first time have been able to measure a specific interaction for a single functional group with carbon nanotubes using chemical force microscopy. [read article]


Gold nanorods shed light on new approach to fighting cancer
Researchers have shown how tiny "nanorods" of gold can be triggered by a laser beam to blast holes in the membranes of tumor cells, setting in motion a complex biochemical mechanism that leads to a tumor cell's self-destruction. [read article]


Binding site for flavonoids

Plant substances govern cellular processes

For the first time, scientists from Dresden, Germamy,  proved that plant substances such as those found in red wine, soy, or green tea can accelerate or retard vital processes in cells.

[read article]


Stevens researchers provide new information about mass spectrometry
Report from Attygalle and colleagues in Center for Mass Spectrometry. [read article]


Chemistry turns killer gas into potential cure
Despite its deadly reputation, the gas carbon monoxide (CO) could actually save lives and boost health in future as a result of leading-edge UK research. [read article]


Novel semiconductor structure bends light 'wrong' way
... the right direction for many applications: A research team has created an easy-to-produce material from the stuff of computer chips that has the rare ability to bend light in the opposite direction from all naturally occurring materials. [read article]


FLASH facility in Hamburg breaks its own world record
DESY's free-electron laser generates light flashes with the world's smallest wavelength of 6.5 nanometres. [read article]


ACS News:


Detecting illegal steroids in urine

This instrument provides a faster, more efficient method for detecting illegal steroids in urine.

Photo: Courtesy of Zheng Ouyang, Purdue University

Faster, more efficient method for detecting illegal steroids in urine

Amid growing concerns about sports �doping,� researchers in Indiana and China report development of a faster and more efficient method for detecting the presence of illegal anabolic steroids in urine. Their new method, which takes only a few seconds and involves no time-consuming sample preparation, will be described in the Nov. 1 issue of ACS� Analytical Chemistry, a semi-monthly journal.

The study notes that use of banned substances by professional athletes to build muscle and gain a competitive advantage is a growing problem in sports such as track and field, baseball, football and cycling. Although effective methods exist for detecting the presence of illegal steroids in urine, current methods are time-consuming and involve cumbersome preparation steps.

Zheng Ouyang, R. Graham Cooks, and colleagues developed a new steroid-testing method that combines two state-of-the-art testing techniques called desorption electrospray ionization (DESI) and tandem mass spectrometry. In laboratory studies, the researchers used it to analyze fresh urine samples for the presence of tiny amounts of seven different anabolic steroids. The new method accurately identified the steroids in only a few seconds using only a single drop of urine, they say.

Analytical Chemistry: �Rapid Screening of Anabolic Steroids in Urine by Reactive Desorption Electrospray Ionization� [ pdf ]


Multiple fluorescent dyes reveal sites of new bone formation caused by a promising nonsteroidal compound that stimulates bone formation and increases bone density and strength.

Image Courtesy of Arjan van Oeveren, Ligand Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

Toward a better drug for treating muscle, bone loss in elderly men

The search for alternatives to steroid medications for treating millions of Baby Boomer males with age-related declines in the sex hormone testosterone has led researchers in California to report development of a nonsteroidal compound that shows promise as a new treatment for loss of muscle mass, bone tissue, and other problems linked to low testosterone. Their study will appear in the Oct. 18 issue of the ACSďż˝ Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, a bi-weekly publication.

In the report, Arjan van Oeveren and colleagues point out that the potential side effects of testosterone, a steroid medication, limit its use to older men with low testosterone levels. Testosterone replacement therapy may increase the risk of prostate cancer and stroke, for instance, and cannot be given orally. People take it via skin patches or rub-on gels.

The new study describes a nonsteroidal compound that in lab rats attaches to testosterone receptors in cells and triggers the same desired effects as actual testosterone in tests in laboratory animals. In comparison to other testosterone replacement treatments, the compound showed similar improvement in muscle mass and strength while having little effect on the prostate, the researchers say. It also significantly improved bone density and strength in the lab rats.

Journal of Medicinal Chemistry: �Substituted 6-(1-Pyrrolidine) quinolin-2(1H)-ones as Novel Selective Androgen Receptor Modulators� [ pdf ]


Early detection of human papilloma and other viral infections

Scientists in Iowa are reporting development of a new, amazingly sensitive method for identifying the earliest stages of infection with human papilloma virus (HPV), a common virus that can increase the risk of cervical cancer in women. The test also has the potential for early identification of infection with other so-called DNA viruses, which cause a range of diseases that includes genital herpes and hepatitis. Their report is scheduled for the Nov. 1 issue of ACSďż˝ Analytical Chemistry, a semi-monthly journal.

In the study, Edward S. Yeung and colleagues point out that the most sensitive existing test for viral infections has drawbacks. That test is the Nobel Prize-winning polymerase chain reaction (PCR), used to detect DNA in settings ranging from medical labs to crime scenes. PCR requires an initial step in which scientists �amplify,� or copy, a DNA sample a thousand-fold before virus detection can begin. However, amplification increases the risk of false-positives and false-negatives, especially when a sample has even a tiny amount of contaminants. Since over 50 million Pap smears are performed in the United States each year to test for HPV - the leading cause of cervical cancer - a fast, simple, accurate diagnosis is essential.

The new method skips the amplification step entirely, and yet can detect the presence of less than two copies of HPV per cell - a level corresponding to very early infection. The technique, called single-molecule spectroscopy, could be easily integrated into the Pap smear method. �It can become a good clinical screening or quantification method for viral DNA in cells,� opening the door to improved screening tests for hepatitis B, herpes and other diseases.

Analytical Chemistry: �Single-Molecule Detection of Surface-Hybridized Human Papilloma Virus DNA for Quantitative Clinical Screening� [ pdf ]


Plastics recycling industry �starving for materials�

Consumers have unknowingly put the plastics recycling industry in the United States on a starvation diet by failing to recycle sufficient quantities of soft drink bottles and other waste. That�s the conclusion of the cover story scheduled for the Oct. 15 issue of Chemical & Engineering News, ACS� weekly newsmagazine.

In the article, C&EN senior editor Alexander H. Tullo explores the critical role of consumers in efforts to save energy and raw materials by transforming plastic wastes into new products. Tullo notes that barely 25 percent of the billions of pounds of plastic bottles and containers manufactured annually in the United States enter the recycling stream. While major cities like New York and San Francisco have shown that plastics recycling can be done successfully on a large scale, fueled by recycling educational programs and environmental pride, many municipalities are still falling far short of their desired recycling goals.

Financial concerns, technological difficulties, and stiff competition for raw materials by recyclers at home and abroad are among the combined challenges facing the plastics recycling industry, Tullo notes. But the fate of the plastics recycling industry may ultimately rest in the hands of consumers, he writes. Tullo�s bottom line is a quote from one recycling expert: �There is not enough scrap material being collected.�

Chemical & Engineering News: �From Refuse to Reuse�



First high-res 3D structures of mammalian HSP90 protein solved

First high-res 3D structures of mammalian HSP90 protein solved

Key to better targets for AIDS, sepsis, cancer drugs.

Dr. Dan Gewirth, Hauptman-Woodward senior research scientist, has just solved the structure of the first mammalian GRP94 protein implicated in immune diseases such as sepsis, AIDS and certain cancers. His work was published in a cover article in a top scientific journal - Molecular Cell.

[read more]


Thermally rearranged plastic membrane

New membrane strips carbon dioxide from natural gas faster and better

A modified plastic material greatly improves the ability to separate global warming-linked carbon dioxide from natural gas as the gas is prepared for use, according to engineers at The University of Texas at Austin who have analyzed the new plastic�s performance.

Like a sponge that only soaks up certain chemicals, the new plastic permits carbon dioxide or other small molecules to go through hour-glass shaped pores within it, while impeding natural gas (methane) movement through these same pores. The thermally rearranged (TR) plastic works four times better than conventional membranes at separating out carbon dioxide through pores.

[read more]


Study finds that people are programmed to love chocolate
For the first time, scientists have linked the all-too-human preference for a food - chocolate - to a specific, chemical signature that may be programmed into the metabolic system and is detectable by laboratory tests. [read article]


NAS report offers new tools to assess health risks from chemicals
Toxicogenomic technologies provide tools to better understand the mechanisms through which environmental agents initiate and advance disease processes ... [read article]

Genomic technologies to identify toxic chemicals should be developed
A new report from the National Research Council recommends that government agencies enhance their efforts to incorporate genomic data into risk assessments of chemicals and medicines, and calls for a concerted effort to fully develop these methods' potential to protect public health. [read article]


Researchers shed light on light-emitting nanodevice
An interdisciplinary team of Cornell nanotechnology researchers has unraveled some of the fundamental physics of a material that holds promise for light-emitting, flexible semiconductors. [read article]


Developing a modular, nanoparticle drug delivery system
With the support from a $478,000, five-year CAREER award from the National Science Foundation, chemist Eva Harth is creating a modular, multi-functional drug delivery system that promises simultaneously to enhance the effectiveness and reduce undesirable side-effects of a number of different drugs. [read article]


Nanofabrication method paves way for new optical devices
An innovative and inexpensive way of making nanomaterials on a large scale has resulted in novel forms of advanced materials that pave the way for exceptional and unexpected optical properties. [read article]



Argonne researcher studies what makes quantum dots blink
In order to learn more about the origins of quantum dot blinking, researchers have developed a method to characterize it on faster time scales than have previously been accessed. [read article]


Unveiling the structure of microcrystals
Microcrystals take the form of tiny grains resembling powder, which is extremely difficult to study. For the first time, researchers used X-ray diffraction at the synchrotron to determine the structure of microcrystal grains of one cubic micrometer. [read article]


Simplest circadian clocks operate via orderly phosphate transfers
3 proteins in a test tube, fueled by ATP, maintain accurate circadian rhythm for weeks. [read article]


Brown Researchers Make Major Signal Transduction Discovery
How cells sense and respond to chemical messages ďż˝ a process known as signal transduction ďż˝ is a fundamental force in biology, controlling key processes such as cell growth and immune response. Now researchers report a significant discovery in the field of signal transduction that could provide a new target for drugs that fight cancer, HIV and diseases. Results are published in Cell. [read article]


Bilberry extract - can it help prevent certain cancers?
A Leicester cancer research project, which receives funding from Hope Against Cancer, is investigating whether an extract from bilberries can prevent or delay the onset of certain cancers. [read article]


ACS News:


These cabbage plants were fertilized using human urineHuman urine as a safe, inexpensive fertilizer for food crops

Researchers in Finland are reporting successful use of an unlikely fertilizer for farm fields that is inexpensive, abundantly available, and undeniably organic - human urine. Their report on use of urine to fertilize cabbage crops was published in the Oct. 31, 2007, issue of ACS' Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a bi-weekly publication.

Despite the 'yuk!' factor, urine from healthy individuals is virtually sterile, free of bacteria or viruses. Naturally rich in nitrogen and other nutrients, urine has been used as fertilizer since ancient times. Urine fertilization is rare today. However, it has gained attention in some areas as farmers embrace organic production methods and try to reduce use of synthetic fertilizers.

In the new study, Surendra K. Pradhan and colleagues collected human urine from private homes and used it to fertilize cabbage crops. Then they compared the urine-fertilized crops with those grown with conventional industrial fertilizer and no fertilizer. The analysis showed that growth and biomass were slightly higher with urine than with conventional fertilizer. There was no difference in nutritional value of the cabbage. "Our results show that human urine could be used as a fertilizer for cabbage and does not pose any significant hygienic threats or leave any distinctive flavor in food products," the report concludes.

Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry: "Use of Human Urine Fertilizer in Cultivation of Cabbage (Brassica oleracea) ďż˝ Impacts on Chemical, Microbial, and Flavor Quality" [ PDF ]

[Photo: Courtesy of Helvi Heinonen-Tanski, University of Kuopio, Finland.]


This unusual device reduces airborne emissions by trapping and storing carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere.Cutting carbon: New tech traps, stores airborne emissions

In a finding that could shrink the massive carbon footprint of cars worldwide, a New York scientist has proposed an industrial technology that captures CO2 directly from the atmosphere. The study is scheduled to appear in the Nov. 1 issue of ACS' Environmental Science & Technology, a semi-monthly journal.

Current Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technologies focus on large, stationary sources like power plants. But even if the capture sites were at full deployment and efficiency, "more than 50 percent of global emissions would remain unabated," writes the author. The remaining emissions, often from dispersed and mobile sources, require other mitigation techniques. According to the author, "atmospheric CO2 emissions may double this century." These CO2 forecasts lend urgency to the search for a more comprehensive carbon capture system.

Frank Zeman addresses the ambient emissions with a new 'Air Capture' system that absorbs CO2 straight from the atmosphere. While it provides a very different approach to carbon capture, the CO2 storage technologies would be the same used in conventional CCS. The leading challenge of air capture technology arises from the low concentration of ambient CO2 - 4,697 cubic feet of ambient air must be processed to capture about 2 ounces of carbon dioxide! Zeman proposes a number of solutions, including a design that uses natural drafts to absorb vast amounts of air at little to no energy cost. The comprehensive devices could be installed anywhere, writes the author, and would trap and store carbon as efficiently as current capture technologies.

Environmental Science & Technology: "Energy and Material balance of CO2 Capture from Ambient Air" [ PDF ]

Photo: Courtesy of Frank Zeman, Columbia University.


Norway: A 'liquid goldmine' in the quest for new drugs

The fjords and arctic waters of Norway have become a 'liquid goldmine' for prospecting for the next blockbuster drugs for cancer, AIDS, and other ills, according to an article scheduled for the Oct. 8 issue of Chemical & Engineering News, ACS' weekly newsmagazine. In the article, C&EN associate editor Lisa M. Jarvis points out that Norway may not seem like the most logical place to look for compounds that may become best-selling new drugs. However, researchers believe that the rich diversity of marine life in Norway's waters represents what could amount to a previously unexplored pharmaceutical goldmine.

Scientists long have searched the world's oceans for new drug candidates. However, the quest has focused mainly on tropical waters. Part of Norway's promise, Jarvis explains, is due to a unique circulation pattern that mixes cold water from the Arctic with the warmer water of the Gulf Stream. That environment nurtures a rich and unique diversity of fish, invertebrates, algae and other organisms that may harbor medicinally or technologically intriguing natural chemicals. There are no guarantees of success, but the potential payoffs are enough that government, academic and industrial scientists are teaming up for the search, the article notes.

"Given their motivation, Norway's biotechnological promise may be limited only by the speed with which they can mine the country's icy waters," Jarvis writes.

Chemical & Engineering News: "Liquid Goldmine: Scientists in Norway are plumbing the seas for the next blockbuster medicine"


Targeting sugars may revolutionize treatment of bone disorders

Researchers in the United Kingdom and Germany are reporting that one of the most fundamental scientific beliefs about the structure of human bone is incomplete - a finding they say could have sweeping impact on treatments for osteoporosis and other bone disorders. Their study, published in the Oct. 16, 2007,  issue of ACS' Chemistry of Materials, a bi-weekly journal, concludes that sugars, not proteins, are key organic building blocks that account for bone's toughness and stiffness.

The University of Cambridge's David G. Reid and Melinda Duer and Christian Jaeger at and Federal Institute of Materials Research and Testing in Berlin, explain that scientists have long held that collagen and other proteins were the main organic molecules responsible for stabilizing normal bone structure. That belief has been the basis for existing medications for bone disorders, and bone replacement materials. At the same time, researchers paid little attention to roles of sugars (carbohydrates) in the complex process of bone growth.

In the new report, researchers describe experiments on mineralization in horse bones using an analysis tool called nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR). They found that sugars, particularly proteoglycans and glycosaminoglycans, appear to play a larger role than proteins in controlling the bone mineralization process and may be a key to maintaining healthy bones.

"This could exert a major impact on the pharmacological management of bone disorders by directing novel therapeutic approaches, as it suggests new molecular targets for drug discovery," the report states. "It also offers new disease biomarkers for diagnosis."

Chemistry of Materials: "Organic-Mineral Interface in Bone is Predominately Polysaccharide" [ PDF ]


Hyped-up hopes for hairy roots as biofactories

Scientists are reporting an advance towards tapping the immense potential of 'hairy roots' as natural factories to produce medicines, food flavorings and other commercial products. Their study is scheduled for the November/December issue of ACS' Biotechnology Progress, a bi-monthly journal.

The new research makes use of structures formed by a common soil bacterium that infects plants and incorporates its own DNA into the plant's genome. By inserting a specific gene into the bacterium, researchers can integrate that gene into the host's DNA. Eventually, the host plant develops a system of fuzzy roots near the site of the infection. These so-called 'hairy roots' can be grown in cell cultures that churn out the product of the inserted gene - a natural-product based or a protein-based drug, for instance -- with a stability and productivity not possible with most other plant cell cultures.

In the new study, Ka-Yiu San and colleagues point out that scientists have long wanted to harness the production prowess of hairy roots for industry, but first needed to determine the long-term stability of genetically-altered roots.

They report maintaining growth of a transgenic hairy root culture for more than 4.5 years. At the outset, they infected a species of periwinkle with a hairy root bacterium carrying a gene encoding a fluorescent protein. Through this process they were able to generate transgenic hairy roots that contain the fluorescent protein. By transferring root tips into fresh liquid every four weeks, the researchers created a root culture that was genetically stable throughout that period, glowing appropriately in response to a special chemical signal. The integrated DNA also remained unaltered throughout the experiment. "This observation has important implications for the use of hairy root cultures in industrial applications," the report states.

Biotechnology Progress: "Long-term Maintenance of a Transgenic Catharanthus roseus Hairy Root Line" [ PDF ]



New research into plant colors sheds light on antioxidants
Scientists have made an important advance in understanding the genetic processes that give flowers, leaves and plants their bright colors ...


Stopping atoms
With atoms and molecules in a gas moving at thousands of kilometres per hour, physicists have long sought a way to slow them down to a few kilometres per hour to trap them.


Nanotube forests grown on silicon chips for future computers, electronics
Engineers have shown how to grow forests of tiny cylinders called carbon nanotubes onto the surfaces of computer chips to enhance the flow of heat at a critical point where the chips connect to cooling devices called heat sinks.


Chemical compound found in tree bark stimulates growth, survival of brain cells
Researchers have identified a compound in tree bark that mimics the chemical reactions of a naturally occurring molecule in the brain responsible for stimulating neuronal cell signaling.


ACS News:


Subway dust may trigger lung damage

Subway trains produce airborne dust particles that could damage the lungs of commuters, scientists in France are reporting in a study of the Paris subway system in the October 2007 issue of ACSďż˝ Chemical Research in Toxicology, a monthly journal.

Sophie Lanone and colleagues point out that previous studies of the London and Stockholm subway systems also have identified such particulate matter. In their new study, the researchers collected dust samples from platform surfaces in two heavily traveled subway stations in the Paris Metro, which carried one million passengers daily. They exposed live mice and cultured mice cells to the dust over a 24-hour period.

Exposure to the subway dust triggered transient lung inflammation in the mice and increased levels of several substances produced by the immune system that might cause tissue damage. Some but not all effects occur with exposure to diesel exhaust, and other common urban air pollutants, the study said. Subway dust contained large amounts of iron particles and very low levels of endotoxin, a potentially toxic compound produced by bacteria.

�To the best of our knowledge, this is the first evaluation of the biological effects of particulate matter from the Paris subway system as well as the first comprehensive study to evaluate the in vivo effect of subway particulate matter,� the report states.

Chemical Research in Toxicology: �Biological Effects of Particles from the Paris Subway System� [ PDF ].



Ginger shows promise for fighting a deadly type of infant diarrhea.

Photo: Courtesy of the American Chemical Society


Ginger may combat deadly infant diarrhea in developing world

The popular spice ginger shows promise as a treatment for bacteria-induced diarrhea, the leading cause of infant death in developing countries, according to a preliminary study in animals conducted by researchers in Taiwan. If confirmed by further studies, the findings could lead to an inexpensive, easy-to-obtain alternative to drug therapy for the condition, the researchers say. Their study appeared in the Oct. 3 issue of ACSďż˝ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a bi-weekly publication.

In studies using laboratory mice, Chien-Yun Hsiang and colleagues showed that an extract of ginger blocked the toxin responsible for diarrhea caused by enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (E. coli), which accounts for 210 million cases of diarrhea worldwide and causes 380,000 deaths yearly. They also showed that zingerone, a component of ginger, is the likely compound responsible for this effect.

�In conclusion, our findings provide evidence that ginger and its derivatives may be effective herbal supplements for the clinical treatment of enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli diarrhea,� the researchers state. Additional studies are needed to determine the effective doses of ginger needed and whether it is safe for infants, who may experience unexpected side effects from large doses.

Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry: �Ginger and Its Bioactive Component Inhibit Enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli Heat-Labile Enterotoxin-Induced Diarrhea in Mice� [ PDF ].


Lubrication oil pollutes, even in hydrogen-fueled vehicles

Lubrication oil appears to be an important yet little-recognized source of toxic particle emissions from motor vehicles - even those fueled by clean-burning hydrogen, according to a joint study by government and academic researchers in Washington State and Minnesota. Their study, a step toward more cleaner-burning engines, was published in the Oct. 1 issue of ACSďż˝ Environmental Science & Technology, a semi-monthly journal.

Scientists have long recognized diesel-fueled vehicles as important sources of air pollution that can increase the risk of asthma, bronchitis, and other health problems. Most research, however, has focused on diesel soot, rather than emissions produced by lubrication oil.

In the new study, Arthur L. Miller and colleagues modified a truck diesel engine to run on clean-burning hydrogen instead of diesel fuel, allowing the researchers to focus solely on particle emissions from lubrication oil. They found that the hydrogen-powered engine emitted higher levels of metal-rich particles than the diesel-fueled engine. Lubrication oil was the primary source of these increased emissions. Emission particles identified include calcium, phosphorous, zinc, magnesium, and iron nanoparticles, all of which have the potential to cause lung damage when inhaled over long periods, they say.

�This study�s findings may increase current knowledge about the role of lubrication oil in particle-formation dynamics as engine technology improves and cleaner internal combustion engines are developed,� the researchers state.

Environmental Science & Technology: �Role of Lubrication Oil in Particulate Emissions from a Hydrogen-Powered Internal Combustion Engine� [ PDF ].


New tactics for trouncing those terrible migraine headaches

Relief from the pain, nausea and other awful symptoms of migraine could become just a sniff away, as researchers develop new drugs - including an inhalable medication - for a condition that affects an estimated 30 million people in the United States, according to an article in the Oct. 1, 2007, issue of Chemical & Engineering News, ACSďż˝ weekly newsmagazine.

In the article, C&EN assistant editor Carmen Drahl describes potential new migraine medications that may be safer and more effective than existing drugs. A class of compounds called triptans, which target dilation of brain arteries, now are the mainstays for fighting migraines. Although effective, they tend to work slowly and carry risks for individuals with underlying heart disease.

Several pharmaceutical companies are working on new treatments for migraine that target signaling proteins in the brain, including a receptor for a neuropeptide and a type of ion channel. In laboratory studies, these approaches appear to reduce the risk of side effects, the article notes.

One exciting approach currently in clinical trials involves using a cell-phone sized device that is triggered by the airflow from inhaling. The inhaler delivers a migraine drug in a user-friendly way and is faster-acting than conventional treatments, Drahl writes.

Chemical & Engineering News:  ďż˝New tactics for trouncing migraineďż˝.


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