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Chemistry News Archive January 2008

Chemistry News January 2008

News of the year 2008 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!

Week 05: 28-Jan-2008 to 31-Jan-2008


Berkeley Scientists Bring MRI/NMR to Microreactors
NMR Imaging of Catalytic Hydrogenation in Microreactors with the Use of para-Hydrogen.


Lithium and Beryllium No Longer "Lack Chemistry"
Scientists predict antisocial metals will bond under high-pressure conditions.


Genetic Material under a Magnifying Glass
Direct sequencing of single RNA strands with tip-enhanced Raman spectroscopy.


Read article ...

Electrohydrodynamic Printing
Fine print: New technique allows fast printing of microscopic electronics.


Read article ...

Breakthrough research turns the tide on water-borne pathogen
Brandeis and University of Georgia discover promising approach to treating cryptosporidiosis.

ACS News:


Genetic �telepathy�? A bizarre new property of DNA

Scientists are reporting evidence that intact, double-stranded DNA has the �amazing� ability to recognize similarities in other DNA strands from a distance. And then like friends with similar interests, the bits of genetic material hangout or congregate together. The recognition - of similar sequences in DNA�s chemical subunits - occurs in a way once regarded as impossible, the researchers suggest in a study scheduled for the Jan. 31 issue of ACS� Journal of Physical Chemistry B.

Geoff S. Baldwin, Sergey Leikin, John M. Seddon, and Alexei A. Kornyshev and colleagues say the homology recognition between sequences of several hundred nucleotides occurs without physical contact or presence of proteins, factors once regarded as essential for the phenomenon. This recognition may help increase the accuracy and efficiency of the homologous recombination of genes - a process responsible for DNA repair, evolution, and genetic diversity. The new findings thus may shed light on ways to avoid recombination errors, which underpin cancer, aging, and other health problems.

In the study, scientists observed the behavior of fluorescently tagged DNA strands placed in water that contained no proteins or other material that could interfere with the experiment. Strands with identical nucleotide sequences were about twice as likely to gather together as DNA strands with different sequences. �Amazingly, the forces responsible for the sequence recognition can reach across more than one nanometer of water separating the surfaces of the nearest neighbor DNA,� said the authors. - AD

Journal of Physical Chemistry B: �DNA Double Helices Recognize Mutual Sequence Homology in a Protein Free Environment


Secret of the carnivorous pitcher plant's slurp - solved at last

Carnivorous pitcher plant

Scientists have deciphered the complex cocktail of digestive and antibacterial enzymes of the carnivorous pitcher plant.

Image: Courtesy of Tatsuro Hamada, Ishikawa Prefectural University, Japan

Splash! Ooch! Yum! And so another unsuspecting insect victim of Nepenthes alata (N. alata), commonly known as the carnivorous pitcher plant, falls victim to the digestive fluids at the bottom of the plant's famous cup-shaped leaf. For almost a century, scientists have sought the full chemical recipe for the pitcher plant's fluid. Japanese scientists now report completely deciphering this complex cocktail of digestive and antibacterial enzymes. Their study is scheduled for the February issue of ACS� Journal of Proteome Research, a monthly publication.

Unlike other plants that absorb nutrients from the soil, carnivorous plants growing in nutrient-poor soils have special organs to capture insects, digest them and absorb the nitrogen and phosphorous their environment sorely lacks. The identity of all the myriad proteins involved in this evolutionary marvel - some of which could have beneficial applications in medicine and agriculture - has been a mystery until now.

Tatsuro Hamada and Naoya Hatano used cutting-edge proteomic analysis to identify all of the components. They isolated and sequenced the proteins, then compared each with existing proteins to find structural matches. Hamada and Hatano detected seven proteins that exist mainly in the pitcher fluid of N. alata - three of which can only be found in this species - including useful enzymes that may inhibit bacterial growth and rotting as the plant slowly digests its prey. - AD

Journal of Proteome Research: �Proteome Analysis of Pitcher Fluid of the Carnivorous Plant Nepenthes alata


Toward a cleaner, more effective method for destroying hormone-like pollutants in wastewater

Researchers report effectiveness of a powerful, environmentally-friendly catalyst in destruction of various estrogens that currently escape complete removal in our wastewater treatment plants. Their study is scheduled for the Feb. 15 issue of ACS� Environmental Science & Technology, a semi-monthly journal.

In the new study, Nancy Shappell and colleagues explain that endocrine disruptors, both natural hormones and hormone-like compounds, have been detected in the surface waters. Many of these endocrine disruptors have estrogenic activity. Ethinylestradiol, for instance, is an active ingredient in both the birth control pill and the newly-introduced �no period pill.� It is a major source of environmental estrogenic activity.

To address this problem, the researchers tested a new catalyst called Fe-TAML or Fe-B*. In the presence of hydrogen peroxide, the catalyst quickly and effectively destroyed various forms of estrogens typically found in post-treatment wastewater, removing 95 percent of the chemicals - including Ethinylestradiol - in 15 minutes. Estrogenic activity was also diminished to a similar extent. Further research will evaluate Fe-B*�s efficacy on actual wastewater, in addition to more extensive evaluation of byproduct toxicities. Usefulness in wastewater treatment could be doubly beneficial, as Fe-B* has been reported to destroy harmful bacterial spores. - MTS

Environmental Science & Technology: �Destruction of estrogens using Fe-TAML/peroxide catalysis


Wiping out the coffee-ring effect advances inkjet printing of electronic circuits

Printed line behaviors from inkjet printers

Examples of printed line behaviors from inkjet printers: (a) individual drops, (b) scalloped, (c) uniform, (d) bulging, and (e) stacked coins.

Image: Courtesy of the American Chemical Society

Researchers in California report a key advance in efforts to use inkjet printing technology in the manufacture of a new generation of low cost, high-performance electronic circuits for flexible video displays and other products. Their study, which describes development of a new method for producing straighter, uniform circuits using inkjet-printing, is scheduled for the March 4 issue of ACS� Langmuir, a bi-weekly publication.

In the report, Dan Soltman and Vivek Subramanian note that inkjet-printed circuits must be extremely smooth and straight. That difficult feat has been elusive because the drop-by-drop nature of inkjet-printing often leaves uneven printed features on surfaces, especially a circular pattern known as the �coffee ring� effect, they note.

The scientists describe a new way to optimize printing conditions to eliminate the coffee-ring effect and produce smooth, narrow lines with an even edge. The development demonstrates the feasibility of tuning and optimizing inkjet technology for microelectronic applications, they say. - MTS

Langmuir: �Inkjet-Printed Line Morphologies and Temperature Control of the Coffee Ring Effect�.


Converting sewage into drinking water: Wave of the future?

Amid growing water shortages in parts of the United States, more communities are considering tapping their sewage treatment plants as a new source of drinking water. The conversion of wastewater into tap water could help meet increased demand for one of life�s most essential resources, according to an article scheduled for the Jan. 28 issue of Chemical & Engineering News, ACS�s weekly newsmagazine.

C&EN Associate Editor Jyllian Kemsley notes in the article that some communities have used recycled wastewater for decades to replenish their drinking water supplies and wastewater often finds agricultural use for irrigation. Droughts, environmental concerns, and population growth now are forcing water utilities to consider adapting or expanding the practice, Kemsley explains.

Earlier in January, for instance, California approved operation of the Advanced Water Purification Facility (AWPF), the largest water reclamation plant in the nation. It will yield 70 million gallons per day of drinkable water from sewage. That�s about 10 percent of the district�s daily water demand for its 2.3 million residents. Although AWPF�s purification process is complex, it produces clean, pure water that meets or exceeds all drinking water standards, the article notes.

Chemical & Engineering News: �Treating Sewage For Drinking Water�.

Week 04: 21-Jan-2008 to 27-Jan-2008



Read article ...

Synthesis of Molecule Could Lead to Better Anti-Cancer Drugs

In early 2007, chemist Karl Scheidt�s interest was piqued when marine chemist Amy Wright reported about a new natural compound derived from an uncommon deep-sea sponge was extremely effective at inhibiting cancer cell growth. As a synthetic chemist fascinated by natural products and their potential in medicine, Scheidt knew what he had to do: Make that molecule. Macrolide Neopeltolide.


Rhodium catalyst

New Method Enables Design, Production of Extremely Novel Drugs

A new chemical synthesis method based on a catalyst worth many times the price of gold and providing a far more efficient and economical method than traditional ones for designing and manufacturing extremely novel pharmaceutical compounds is described by its University at Buffalo developers in a review article in the current issue of Nature.


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JILA solves problem of quantum dot 'blinking'
Semiconductor nanocrystals have a secret problem: a kind of nervous tic. They mysteriously tend to �blink� on and off like Christmas tree lights, which can reduce their usefulness.


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Debut of TEAM 0.5 - the World's Best Microscope
TEAM 0.5 is the world's most powerful transmission electron microscope and is capable of producing images with half-angstrom resolution, less than the diameter of a single hydrogen atom.


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Researchers develop low-cost, 'green' way to make antimicrobial paints
Researchers at The City College of New York and Rice University have developed a low-cost, environmentally friendly technique for embedding antimicrobial silver nanoparticles into vegetable oil-based paints.


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Nanotubes Go With the Flow
Nanochannels impose order by capillary action.


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Researchers develop darkest manmade material
Carbon nanotube array absorbs light, could boost solar energy conversion.


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Scientists use nanomaterials to localize and control drug delivery
System is invisible to the immune system, preventing response.


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DNA sensors found to be an effective artificial nose
Solid-State, Dye-Labeled DNA Detects Volatile Compounds in the Vapor Phase.


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Cells Get Sprayed
Water droplets produced by electrospray render cells permeable to external DNA.


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Weird water: Discovery challenges long-held beliefs about water's special properties
Finding shows water-like behavior by spherical particles.


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Materials' crystal properties illuminated by mathematical 'lighthouse'
A deeper fundamental understanding of complex materials may now be possible, thanks to a pair of Princeton scientists who have uncovered a new insight into how crystals form.


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Scientists discover new method of observing interactions in nanoscale systems
Scientists have used new optical technologies to observe interactions in nanoscale systems that Heisenberg�s uncertainty principle usually would prohibit.


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Alzheimer's molecule is a smart speed bump on the nerve-cell transport highway
Implications for study of diseases of dementia.


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Researchers reveal HIV peptide's possible pathway into the cell
Discovery furthers push to develop healing uses for a deadly virus.

ACS News:


New methane storage technology exceeds DOE goals

Nano-sized crystalline cage

This colorful image represents a nano-sized crystalline cage that shows promise as a superior storage material for methane.

Image by Shengqian Ma, Miami University

In a major advance in alternative fuel technology, researchers report development of a sponge-like material with the highest methane storage capacity ever measured. It can hold almost one-third more methane than the U.S. Department of Energy�s (DOE) target level for methane-powered cars, they report in a new study. It is scheduled for the Jan. 23 issue of ACS� Journal of the American Chemical Society, a weekly publication.

Hong-Cai Zhou and colleagues note that lack of an effective, economical and safe on-board storage system for methane gas has been one of the major hurdles preventing methane-driven automobiles from competing with traditional ones. Recently, highly-porous, crystalline materials called metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) have emerged as promising storage materials due to their high surface areas. However, none of the MOF compounds have reached DOE target levels considered practical for fuel storage applications, the scientists say.

The report describes development of a new type of MOF, called PCN-14, that has a high surface area of over 2000 m2/g. Laboratory studies show that the compound, composed of clusters of nano-sized cages, has a methane storage capacity 28 percent higher than the DOE target, a record high for methane-storage materials, the researchers say. - MTS

Journal of the American Chemical Society: �Metal-Organic Framework from an Anthracene Derivative Containing Nanoscopic Cages Exhibiting High Methane Uptake� [PDF]


Growing consumer demand for �greener� cleaning products sparks industry changes

Amid growing consumer demand for more environmentally-friendly cleaning products, chemical suppliers are stepping-up their efforts to provide greener ingredients with the same effectiveness of conventional ones, according to an article scheduled for the Jan. 21 issue of Chemical & Engineering News, ACS� weekly newsmagazine.

In the magazine�s cover story, C&EN Assistant Managing Editor Michael McCoy notes that �green� cleaning supplies were once the province of fringe industries but are now attracting the attention of big corporations in the United States and beyond. Increasingly, suppliers are generating consumer cleaning products that contain natural or naturally-derived ingredients, avoid the use of environmentally-harmful chemicals, and generate less carbon dioxide during manufacturing and use, McCoy states. Consumer products giant Clorox will join the bandwagon this month by rolling out a new line of green cleaning products with the earth-friendly name Green Works, he notes.

Under pressure from groups including consumers, the government and the news media, chemical suppliers are feverishly working to come up with new ingredients that are both environmentally-friendly and perform as well as conventional cleaning products, the writer notes. But the road to green is not necessarily a smooth one. For one thing, there is no consensus on what is considered natural. Moreover, environmental standards can vary from region to region, the article points out. Still, there are clear signs that greener cleaning supplies will become more commonplace and more competitive with conventional ones, a trend that could make for a cleaner, greener future, the article suggests.

Chemical & Engineering News: �Greener Cleaners


New microchip for PCR testing at crime scenes, doctors� offices

tiny microchip

This tiny microchip (center, attached to pipette tips) could give researchers the ability to analyze DNA at crime scenes, doctor's offices and other out-of-lab locations.

Image by I-Ming Hsing, the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

Researchers in Hong Kong have miniaturized technology needed to perform the versatile polymerase chain reaction (PCR) - widely used in criminal investigations, disease diagnosis, and a range of other key applications. In a study scheduled for the Jan. 15 issue of ACS� Analytical Chemistry, a semi-monthly journal, they report development of a long-sought PCR microchip that could permit use of PCR at crime scenes, in doctors� offices, and other out-of-lab locations.

I-Ming Hsing and colleagues note that PCR works like a biological copy machine, transforming a few wisps of DNA into billions of copies. However, existing PCR machines are so big and complex that they can be used only in laboratories. Scientists have searched for years for a portable, PCR technique that can be used outside the lab.

The study describes a new PCR technique that uses electrochemical DNA sensors to provide simultaneous DNA amplification and detection on a silicon-glass microchip. Their performance tests show that the new technique, called electrochemical real-time PCR (ERT-PCR), is about as fast and sensitive as conventional PCR. The new technique shows �tremendous� promise as a portable system for moving DNA analysis out of the lab and into remote locations, the researchers say. - MTS

Analytical Chemistry: �Electrochemistry-Based Real-Time PCR on a Microchip� [PDF]

Week 03: 14-Jan-2008 to 20-Jan-2008


Read article ...

Celecoxib can adversely affect heart rhythm
COX-2 inhibitors like Celecoxib have come under scrutiny lately due to adverse cardiovascular side-effects stemming from COX-2 reduction. In both fruit fly and rat models, researchers reveal another adverse effect of Celecoxib; this drug can induce arrhythmia. More interestingly, this effect is independent of the COX-2 enzyme.


New buffer resists pH change, even as temperature drops
Researchers have found a simple solution to a problem that has plagued scientists for decades: the tendency of chemical buffers used to maintain the pH of laboratory samples to lose their efficacy as the samples are cooled.


MIT gas sensor is tiny, quick
Energy-efficient device could quickly detect hazardous chemicals.


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New understanding for superconductivity at high temperatures
University of Montreal physicist and international team share findings in Science.

ACS News:


 Seagull blood shows promise for monitoring pollutants from oil spills


Seagull blood shows promise for monitoring pollutants from oil spills in marine environments.

Image by Alberto Velando, Universidade de Vigo, Spain

Like the proverbial coal miners� canary-in-the-cage, seagulls may become living sentinels to monitor oil pollution levels in marine environments, report scientists in Spain. Their study is scheduled for the Feb. 1 issue of ACS� Environmental Science & Technology, a semi-monthly journal.

In the study, Alberto Velando and colleagues note that researchers have known for years that large oil spills can increase levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in marine environments. Studies have linked these compounds to cancer in humans. While oil spills quickly kill large numbers of seabirds and other animals, scientists do not fully understand the non-lethal biological effects of these spills, the Spanish researchers say.

The researchers measured PAH levels in the blood of Yellow-legged gulls living in the vicinity of the oil spill caused by the 2002 shipwreck of the Prestige, one of Europe�s largest oil spills. Gulls exposed to the oil showed twice the levels of PAHs in their blood than unexposed birds, even though these levels were measured 17 months after the initial spill, the researchers say. The findings �give support to the nondestructive use of seabirds as biomonitors of oil pollution in marine environments,� the article states. - MTS

Environmental Science & Technology: �Monitoring Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon Pollution in Marine Environment after the Prestige Oil Spill by Means of Seabird Blood Analysis� [PDF]


Rice that �Snaps, Crackles and Pops� with Protein

Scientists in the United States and India are reporting development of a high-protein variety of rice, dietary staple for half the world�s population. The study is scheduled for the Jan. 23 issue of ACS� Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a biweekly publication.

Researchers have been trying to bolster the protein in rice for five decades. Rice already is a main source of calories as well as protein intake for billions of people, and its enrichment of protein would have a positive impact on millions of poor and malnourished people in developing countries, the report says.

In the study, Hari B. Krishnan and colleagues created a hybrid by crossing a commonly cultivated rice species called Oryza sativa with a wild species, Oryza nivara. The product showed a protein content of 12.4 percent, which is 18 percent and 28 percent higher than those of the parents. The results demonstrate the potential for wild rice�s relatives for boosting the protein content in rice. The researchers conclude that the hybrid could serve as initial breeding material for new rice genotypes that could combine types with superior cooking quality with those of high protein content. - JS

Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry: �Interspecific Rice Hybrid of Oryza sativa � Oryza nivara Reveals a Significant Increase in Seed Protein Content� [PDF]


Edible �antifreeze� prevents unwanted ice crystals in ice cream and frozen foods

 Ice cream

Researchers have developed an edible "antifreeze" that shows promise for preventing the formation of ice crystals in ice cream.
Foto by USDA-ARS, Keith Weller

A scientist in Wisconsin reports development of an edible and tasteless �antifreeze� that prevents the formation of ice crystals that can spoil the smooth, silky texture of ice cream and interfere with the palatability of other frozen foods. The study is scheduled for the Jan. 9 issue of ACS� Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a bi-weekly publication.

In the new report, Srinivasan Damodaran explains that preventing the formation of large ice crystals is a major challenge for frozen food manufacturers and consumers who store packages in home freezers. Although several different substances have been added to frozen foods to prevent ice crystal growth, none is really effective, the researcher says.

Damodaran�s solution is gelatin hydrolysate, a protein known to act as a natural antifreeze. In a controlled study using batches of ice cream prepared with and without the non-toxic compound, ice cream containing the antifreeze developed significantly smaller and fewer ice crystals than batches prepared without the compound, the researcher says. - MTS

Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry: �Inhibition of Ice Crystal Growth in Ice Cream Mix by Gelatin Hydrolysate� [PDF]


Once-irrelevant compound may have medical role in preventing diabetes complications

A compound formed during insulin production and once dismissed as irrelevant in diabetes may be a key to preventing the complications that make Type 1 diabetes such a serious disease, according to an article [http://pubs.acs.org/cen/science/86/8602sci1.html] scheduled for the Jan. 14 issue of Chemical & Engineering News, ACS� weekly newsmagazine. Type 1 diabetes, also known as insulin-dependent diabetes, afflicts about 800,000 people in the U.S. alone, sharply increasing their risk of heart attacks, vision loss, kidney failure, and other complications.

In the article, C&EN Senior Editor Celia Henry Arnaud notes that scientists previously believed that the compound, called C-peptide, had little biological activity and was a useless byproduct of insulin production. In recent years, however, researchers have seen beneficial effects of C-peptide in patients with type 1 diabetes, including improved kidney function, nerve function, and blood flow. New laboratory research now bolsters that view, suggesting that the compound may work by enhancing the ability of red blood cells to utilize glucose similar to the role that insulin plays for other cell types but only when it binds a metal ion, the article notes.

Clinical studies on the compound, so far inconclusive, may determine if C-peptide can help prevent or delay complications of type 1 diabetes, Arnaud points out. The new research is �a significant contribution to our understanding of C-peptide biology,� according to the article.

Chemical & Engineering News: �A role for C-peptide�.


Solving the mystery of the metallic sheen of fish

 Metallic sheen of fish skin

 The bright, metallic sheen of fish skin is due to a sophisticated system of crystals, Israeli scientists report.

Courtesy of Florida Keys NMS; Photo by Bob Care

The bright, metallic sheen of fish skin - source of endless fascination for fishermen and aquarium owners - is due to a sophisticated system of crystals that enhance light reflection and may help fish hide from predators in the wild, scientists in Israel are reporting. Their study is scheduled for the current issue of ACS� Crystal Growth & Design, a bi-monthly journal.

In the new study, Lia Addadi and colleagues note that researchers have known for years that guanine crystals in the skin underneath the scales of fish reflect light to produce a mirror-like sheen. This silvery reflectance acts as a form of camouflage that helps protect fish from predators as fish swim near the water�s surface. However, the exact shape of these guanine crystals and how they work remained a mystery.

The researchers extracted guanine crystals from the skin of the Japanese Koi fish and analyzed the crystals using X-ray diffraction and an electron microscope. They compared the results to guanine crystals made in the laboratory. The researchers found that the biogenic crystals develop in an unexpected direction that differs from the lab-made crystals and that their unique shape improves light reflectivity. The arrangement represents a �strategy evolved by fish to produce more efficient photonic crystals,� the article states. - MTS

Crystal Growth & Design: �Biogenic Guanine Crystals from the Skin of Fish May Be Designed to Enhance Light Reflectance� [PDF]

Week 02: 07-Jan-2008 to 13-Jan-2008


DNA Origami RNA Detection Technology

Read article ...

Nanotechnology innovation may revolutionize gene detection in a single cell

Scientists at Arizona State University�s Biodesign Institute have developed the world�s first gene detection platform made up entirely from self-assembled DNA nanostructures. The results, appearing in the January 11 issue of the journal Science, could have broad implications for gene chip technology and may also revolutionize the way in which gene expression is analyzed in a single cell.


Silver-rich Lumps
Large cluster complexes with almost 500 silver atoms.


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Proton-powered pooping
Discovery: Subatomic protons act like nerve-signal transmitters.


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Gold Nanoparticles
NIST reference materials are 'gold standard' for bio-nanotech research.


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New nanostructured thin film shows promise for efficient solar energy conversion
Combining two nanotech methods for engineering solar cell materials appears to yield better results than either one alone does, according to UC-Santa Cruz chemist Jin Zhang.


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Oncolytics Biotech, Inc. announces publication of research
Paper examines the combination of reovirus and cyclophosphamide treatment.


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Electrospray droplet research yields surprising, practical results
Chemical engineers are the first to mathematically describe precisely how droplets form when liquids are exposed to electric fields, an advance that could have applications in areas ranging from manufacturing to medical diagnostics.


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Animated movie of ice
Melting ice crystals in a computer animation.


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Researchers bend light through waveguides in colloidal crystals
Researchers at the University of Illinois are the first to achieve optical waveguiding of near-infrared light through features embedded in self-assembled, three-dimensional photonic crystals.


A �fingerprint� for fruit juices
Adulterations or other possible food frauds are a financial problem that affects many foodstuffs. This is why achieving the authentification of food products is of great importance. In the case of fruit juices the most common type of adulteration is mixing the original juice with juices from other, cheaper fruits (mainly grapefruit, grape or pear); in other words falsifying the juice...

ACS News:


Amber fossils reveal ancient France was a jungle

Amber fossils

Amber fossils collected in France suggest that the country was once a jungle.

Courtesy of Andr� Nel, Mus�um National d�Histoire Naturelle, Paris

Research on a treasure trove of amber has yielded evidence that France once was covered by a dense tropical rainforest with trees similar to those found in the modern-day Amazon. The report on 55-million-year-old pieces of amber from the Oise River area in northern France is scheduled for the Jan. 4 issue of ACS� Journal of Organic Chemistry, a biweekly publication.

In the new study, Akino Jossang and colleagues used laboratory instruments to analyze the fossilized tree sap in an effort to link specific samples of amber to specific kinds of trees. The amber remained intact over the ages, while the trees from which it oozed disappeared. Efforts to make such connections have been difficult because amber from different sites tended to have very similar chemical compositions. The report describes discovery of a new organic compound in amber called �quesnoin,� whose precursor exists only in sap produced by a tree currently growing only in Brazil�s Amazon rainforest.

Researchers say that amber probably seeped out of a similar tree growing in a tropical forest that covered France millions of years ago before Earth�s continents drifted into their current positions. �The region corresponding to modern France could have been found in a geographically critical marshy zone belonging to Africa and a tropical zone 55 million years ago extending through North Africa to the Amazon,� the report states. - AD

The Journal of Organic Chemistry: �Quesnoin, a Novel Pentacyclic ent-Diterpene from 55 Million Year Old Oise Amber� [PDF]


Toward solving the mystery of idiosyncratic drug reactions

A mysterious and unpredictable group of side effects from modern medications called idiosyncratic drug reactions (IDRs) likely will persist as a major health care problem unless there is a dramatic increase in research funding, according to a 20-year review of research in the field scheduled for the January issue of ACS� Chemical Research in Toxicology, a monthly journal.

The review, by Jack Uetrecht, defines IDRs as reactions that happen unexpectedly and with no obvious connection to the known effects of a medication�s ingredients or dosage. Although relatively rare, IDRs make an important contribution to the annual burden of death, illness, and increased health care costs from serious adverse drug reactions. In addition, serious IDRs that appear after a new drug has gone into wide use can force drug companies to withdraw products after R&D investments totaling hundreds of millions of dollars.

Two decades of research have produced significant progress, the report acknowledges. However, medical science still has only a �superficial� understanding of how and why IDRs occur and a growing recognition that the mechanisms behind IDRs may be as complicated as those involved in cancer or diabetes. The review describes a need for increased research funding, with more scientists focusing on IDRs, in order to achieve faster progress. - JS

Chemical Research in Toxicology: �Idiosyncratic Drug Reactions: Past, Present, and Future� [PDF]


Toward preventing the warping and splitting of wood

Scientists in France and Japan report an advance toward unlocking the secrets of �tension wood (TW),� a step that could have practical applications in preventing costly warping and splitting of wood used in construction projects. The report is scheduled for the Jan. 14 issue of ACS� Biomacromolecules, a bi-monthly journal.

In the study, Bruno Clair and colleagues point out that whereas normal wood tends to shrink a small amount when dried, TW undergoes surprisingly high shrinkage. This shrinkage makes it undesirable for use in sun decks and other construction applications. Now, researchers want a valid explanation for this phenomenon.

In the current study, Clair and colleagues collected TW and normal wood samples from a chestnut tree and exposed the samples to different drying conditions. Using nitrogen adsorption, a technique to measure the porosity of materials, they found that the TW was composed of a gel-like layer with a surface area more than 30 times higher than in normal wood. The collapse of this gel during drying likely caused TW�s high shrinkage rate, the scientists say. The finding could lead to ways to reduce this shrinkage in order to make TW more usable for construction applications. - MTS

Biomacromolecules: �Characterization of a Gel in the Cell Wall To Elucidate the Paradoxical Shrinkage of Tension Wood� [PDF]


Discovery of enzyme�s structure may lead to new treatments for celiac disease

Researchers have discovered a new structure for a key enzyme associated with celiac disease, a finding that could lead to the design of new medications for the common digestive disorder, according to an article scheduled for the Jan. 7 issue of Chemical & Engineering News, ACS� weekly newsmagazine.

Celiac disease is a condition in which the stomach cannot properly digest wheat and other gluten-containing foods. The disease afflicts an estimated 2 million people in the United States alone.

In the article, C&EN Deputy Assistant Managing Editor Stu Borman notes that the disease is believed to occur when the protein gluten interacts with an enzyme called transglutaminase 2 (TG2), triggering an autoimmune reaction that damages the small intestine and causes diarrhea, abdominal pain and other symptoms. As a result, people with the disease are urged to follow a strict gluten-free diet.

Although scientists have previously obtained the X-ray crystal structure of human TG2, they have only revealed its �closed� or inactive form, the article points out. Now, Chaitan Khosla and colleagues at Stanford University report the first-ever determination of the �open� structure of the enzyme, in which its active site is accessible to substrates. The finding that could help scientists design inhibitors of the enzyme that could serve as medications for celiac disease and other related conditions, according to the article.

Chemical & Engineering News: �Enzyme opens for business

Week 01: 01-Jan-2008 to 06-Jan-2008


Read article ...

Strange-behaving crystals could have impact on research, technology
Says K-State chemist and co-author of article in Jan. 4 issue of Science.


Mobile Metal Atoms
New class of lithium-rich solids with unusually high lithium mobility.


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Shape-memory polymers designed for biomedical applications
Researchers design shape-memory polymers for biomedical applications.


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Life at the jolt
New insights into fuel cell that uses bacteria to generate electricity.


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Scientists find missing evolutionary link using tiny fungus crystal
The crystal structure of a molecule from a primitive fungus has served as a time machine to show researchers more about the evolution of life from the simple to the complex.


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Cold Spring Harbor Protocols features methods for visualizing protein dynamics
Development of Mammalian Cell Lines with lac Operator-Tagged Chromosomes.


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Research explores role of hydrogen peroxide in cell health
Hydrogen peroxide, the same mild acid that many people use to disinfectant their kitchens or treat cuts and abrasions, is also produced by the body to keep cells healthy ...


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Protein�s New Role Discovered in Autoimmune Disease
Researchers have identified the previously unknown role of a chemical �messenger� leading to autoimmune disorders.


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Scripps Research Scientists Discover Remarkable Editing System For Protein Production
Findings Could Help Identify Causes For Neurological and Other Diseases.


Helium supplies endangered, threatening science and technology
Second fiddle to oil, natural gas production - In America, helium is running out of gas.


Read article ...

Smaller is Stronger - Now Scientists Know Why!
As metal structures get smaller - as their dimensions approach the micrometer scale or less - they get stronger. Now scientists have learned how.

Chemistry news archive 2008 - ordered by month














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