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.
MU researchers go nano, natural and green
Using only soybeans and water, scientists discover a clean
process for making nanoparticles.
Going Live With Click Chemistry:
Berkeley Researchers Create a Copper-free Version of the
Drug commonly used to treat bipolar
disorder dramatically increases lifespan in worms
Buck Institute study involves lithium.
University of Georgia team suggests new answer: The mechanism of
the formation of adenine under prebiotic conditions.
Evolution in the Nanoworld
Scientists published images resolving molecules which have
organized themselves into patterns according to size.
Natural gas nanotech
Could nanotechnology revolutionize natural gas industry?
Fuel cells gearing up to power auto
UH Teamďż˝s Breakthrough in Fuel Cell Research May Ease Reliance
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
Toward a comprehensive test for dissolved
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
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.
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.
Video shows buckyballs form by 'shrink wrapping'
Experiments, simulations reveal birth secret of tiny carbon
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
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.
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
Earth's interior as interplay between temperature, pressure and
A study by Nicholas Schmerr helps assess the role chemistry
plays in the structure of Earthďż˝s mantle.
atomic nuclei created at NSCL
New super-heavy aluminum isotopes may exist.
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.
Yerba Mate Tea
More on mate tea: lower cholesterol and an international
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
New class of catalyst for fuel cells beats pure platinum by a
Nanowire makes own
Microscopic wire has photovoltaic properties.
The sensitive side
of carbon nanotubes: Creating powerful pressure sensors
Blocks of carbon nanotubes can be used to create effective and
powerful pressure sensors.
ratios are not invariant, researchers show
For years, the ratio of uraniumďż˝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.
MIT gel changes
color on demand
Material could lead to fast, inexpensive sensors.
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 teamďż˝s findings may lead to the development of more-powerful
computer memories and lasers ...
Glue inside the cell: Ubiquitin builds up an immune response
New inhibitor has
potential as cancer drug
Laboratory experiments have previously shown that cancer cells
overproduce an enzyme, heparanase, which splits the bodyďż˝s own
polysaccharide heparan sulfate into shorter fragments.
Tiny capers, shown in different sizes, are rich in
Photo: Courtesy of Victoria Packing Corp.
Tiny capers pack big
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
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.
Chemistry of San Andreas Fault may offer clues to
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
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.
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.
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
unlock hydrogenďż˝s secrets to spot polymorphism in
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
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
Toxic releases down
from North American industry leaders, increasing from other
New Mexican data support first trinational analysis of pollutant
release and transfers. [read
dielectric materials: perfection is not enough
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
Bouncing Bucky Balls
Bucky balls have the moves ... [read
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
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
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
provide new information about mass spectrometry
Report from Attygalle and colleagues in Center for Mass
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
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
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
This instrument provides a faster,
more efficient method for detecting illegal steroids in urine.
Photo: Courtesy of Zheng Ouyang,
Faster, more efficient
method for detecting illegal steroids in urine
Amid growing concerns about sports ďż˝doping,ďż˝
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 ACSďż˝ Analytical Chemistry, a semi-monthly
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.
Multiple fluorescent dyes reveal
sites of new bone formation caused by a promising nonsteroidal
compound that stimulates bone formation and increases bone density
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
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
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
ďż˝amplify,ďż˝ 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
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. ďż˝It can become a good clinical
screening or quantification method for viral DNA in cells,ďż˝ opening
the door to improved screening tests for hepatitis B, herpes and other
Plastics recycling industry
ďż˝starving for materialsďż˝
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. Thatďż˝s the conclusion of the cover story scheduled for
the Oct. 15 issue of Chemical & Engineering News, ACSďż˝ weekly
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. Tulloďż˝s
bottom line is a quote from one recycling expert: ďż˝There is not enough
scrap material being collected.ďż˝
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Simplest circadian clocks operate via orderly phosphate transfers
3 proteins in a test tube, fueled by ATP, maintain accurate circadian
rhythm for weeks. [read
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
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
Human 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
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.
[Photo: Courtesy of Helvi Heinonen-Tanski, University
of Kuopio, Finland.]
Cutting carbon: New tech traps, stores airborne
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.
Photo: Courtesy of Frank Zeman, Columbia University.
Norway: A 'liquid goldmine' in the quest for new
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
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.
Targeting sugars may revolutionize treatment of
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
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
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
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.
ďż˝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,ďż˝ the report
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
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
ďż˝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,ďż˝ 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.
Lubrication oil pollutes, even in
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
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.
ďż˝This studyďż˝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,ďż˝ the researchers state.
New tactics for trouncing those terrible
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
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,