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Chemistry News Archive March 2011

Chemistry News March 2011

News of the year 2011 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 here!




An Atomistic Model of a gold cluster

Electronic and Vibrational Signatures of a Gold Cluster Revealed

Nanometer-scale gold particles are currently intensively investigated for possible applications in catalysis, sensing, photonics, biolabeling, drug carriers and molecular electronics.

Image: This is an atomistic model of the Au102(p-MBA)44 particle. Gold: yellow, sulfur: orange, carbon: green, oxygen:r ed, hydrogen: white [Credit: Academy of Finland].

Chemically Selective Gas Sweetening

New method could improve economics of sweetening natural gas. ASSR could reduce amount of heat needed in purification process.

Green Rust Viewed by Atomic Force Microscopy

Neptunyl Interaction with Green Rust

Green sludge can protect groundwater from radioactive contamination.

Image: University of Copenhagen chemists have shown that green rust is capable of capturing and containing almost any kind of pollution in soil due to its extreme chemical reactivity [Credit: Bo C. Christiansen/University of Copenhagen].

The tale of Molecule VI

Crystal-Structure-Prediction of Sulfonimides

Tough crystal nut cracked: Correct prediction of all three known crystal structures of a sulfonimide.

Image: Past failures to predict the polymorphs of a sulfonimide using molecular mechanics have led to speculation that crystal-structure prediction may be of limited use owing to the kinetic nature of crystallization. An approach based on quantum mechanics now successfully predicts the three known polymorphs of this compound [Credit: Angewandte Chemie International Edition].

Stereocomplex of Poly(propylene carbonate)

Poly(propylene carbonate) Stereogradient

Sorted building blocks: synthesis of stereogradient poly(propylene carbonate)

[Image credit: Angewandte Chemie]

Up to 98% Z-isomers

Catalytic Z-Selective Olefin Cross-Metathesis

New method for preparation of high-energy carbon-carbon double bonds. BC and MIT researchers reveal power of new catalyst class and olefin metathesis process.

The described catalyst controlled Z-selective cross-metathesis (CM) yields up to 98% Z-isomers [Credit: Nature].




Fluorescent signals

Chemically Improved Resolution for Optical Nanoscopy

Novel high-resolution methods in fluorescence microscopy. Heidelberg scientists employ chemical reaction for light-independent switching of fluorescent probes.

Image: The fluorescent signals from two nearby objects are superimposed by diffraction and imaged as a single feature. The ability to image individual probes separately means that their positions can be determined much more accurately to reconstruct the whole structure [Credit: University of Heidelberg].

Radon-220 Measurement

Accurate measurement of radioactive thoron possible at last.

3D chemical patterns

Three-dimensional Chemical Patterns

Glowing spirals: chemical scaffolds guide living cells into precisely defined three-dimensional patterns.

Image: Falling into line - A method for the precise generation of durable 3D chemical patterns within stationary media was used to direct the chemotactic self-organization of living cells [Credit: Angewandte Chemie].

IRENI-generated images

Synchrotron-based Chemical Imaging

New imaging technique provides rapid, high-definition chemistry. Chemical images now much more detailed.

Image: IRENI-generated images (right) are 100 times less pixelated than in those from conventional infrared imaging (left). Using multiple beams from a synchrotron provided made the difference, providing enough light to obtain a detailed image of the sample [Credit: Carol Hirshmugl/Michael Naase].





Heterotaxin - A Novel TGF-beta Signaling Inhibitor

Compound useful for studying birth defects may also have anti-tumor properties.

Image: Structure of Heterotaxin, a novel pyridine analoga that inhibits TGF-ß-dependent left-right asymmetric gene expression.

Arrestin-Rhodopsin Binding Stoichiometry

Researchers develop curious snapshot of powerful retinal pigment and its partners. Three's not a crowd when it comes to triggering the senses and other physiological functions.

Enzyme tuning

Chemically Tuning of Enzymes

Extra guest molecule in an enzyme’s binding pocket enables methane oxidation.

Image: A new spin - The addition of chemically inert perfluoro carboxylic acids (green; see picture) to P450 enzymes results in dramatic activation of their catalytic activity as a result of the conversion of the Fe/heme from a low-spin to a high-spin state, and the reduction of the binding-pocket size. Together these effects allow otherwise inert substrates such as propane and even methane to be oxidized [Credit: Angewandte Chemie International Edition].


Fluorescent Chimeric Biomolecules

Synthetic biology: TUM researchers develop novel kind of fluorescent protein.

Image: JACS - Biosynthesis of a fluorescent protein with extreme pseudo-Stokes shift by introducing a genetically encoded non-natural amino acid outside the fluorophore. A novel kind of fluorescent protein relying on the intramolecular interplay between two different fluorophores, one of chemical origin and one of biological origin, was developed [Credit: A. Skerra / TUM].

Production of Mustard Oils

On the Origin of An Enzyme

Production of mustard oils: During the evolution of plants of the mustard family a leucine producing enzyme mutated into an enzyme that protects plants against herbivores.

Image: Plants of the mustard family, such as cabbage, produce glucosinolates that help to fend off herbivorous insects by reacting as part of “mustard oil bombs” [Credit: MPI for Chemical Ecology/A. Schneider].

Primordial soup sample

Primordial Soup Gets Spicier

'Lost' samples from famous origin of life researcher could send the search for Earth's first life in a new direction.

Image: Preserved samples from a 1958 experiment done by "primordial soup" pioneer Stanley Miller contain amino acids created by the experiment [Credit: Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego].


Epigenetic Reprogramming

Saarbrücker researchers show how parental genomes are reprogrammed at the start of life in mammals.

Image: Female and male-derived chromosomes of a fertilized egg of a mouse [Credit: Saarland University, Prof. Walter].


Chemistry and Medicine:

Medicinal Chemistry

Chemical Characterization of the Human Serum Metabolome

Researcher lists more than 4,000 components of blood chemistry.

Photothermal therapy with theranostic agents

Theranostic Agents

Double strike to fight cancer - combined diagnosis and treatment of tumors: photothermically activated ultrasound contrast agent.

Image: The combination of electrostatic deposition of gold nanoparticles onto microcapsules and a surface seeding method results in the formation of gold nanoshells (see picture). This nano/micro composite is able to operate as a theranostic agent for both contrast-enhanced ultrasonic imaging (diagnostic) and photohyperthermia (therapeutic), and thus holds a great potential for photothermal therapy in cancer treatment [Credit: Angewandte Chemie International Edition].


Chemistry and Nanotechnology:


Nanoscale Chemical Map

Hyperspectral Nanoscale Imaging

Next-generation chemical mapping on the nanoscale ...

[Image Credit: Nano Letters]

New Particles Can Change Colors And Tag Molecules

Alternating-Color Quantum Dots

Twinkle, twinkle, quantum dot - new particles can change colors and tag molecules.

Image: Researchers have invented fluorescent nano-particles that change color to tag molecules under the microscope [Credit: Gang Ruan, courtesy of Ohio State University].


Chemistry and Materials:

Materials Chemistry

Nanocomposite for H Storage

Nanocomposite for H Storage

Berkeley Lab scientists achieve breakthrough in nanocomposite for high-capacity hydrogen storage.

Image: This schematic shows high-capacity magnesium nanocrystals encapsulated in a gas-barrier polymer matrix to create a new and revolutionary hydrogen storage composite material [Credit: Jeff Urban].

About a New Vanadium Redox Flow Battery

Upgrading the vanadium redox battery: New electrolyte mix increases energy storage by 70 percent.

Image: This artist's rendering of an upgraded vanadium redox battery shows how using both hydrochloric and sulfuric acids in the electrolyte significantly improves the battery's performance and could also improve the electric grid’s reliability and help connect more wind turbines and solar panels to the grid [Credit: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory].


More News (open access):

Greener process for key ingredient for everything from paint to diapers

Scientists are reporting discovery of an environmentally friendly way to make a key industrial material - used in products ranging from paints to diapers - from a renewable raw material without touching the traditional pricey and increasingly scarce petroleum-based starting material. Their report on a new catalyst for making acrylic acid appears in ACS Catalysis, the newest in the American Chemical Society’s suite of 39 peer-reviewed scientific journals.

Weijie Ji, Chak-Tong Au, and colleagues note that acrylic acid is essential for making paints, adhesives, textiles, leather treatments, and hundreds of other products. Global demand for the colorless liquid totals about 4 million tons annually. Acrylic acid is typically made from propylene obtained from petroleum. With prices rising, manufacturers have been seeking alternative ways of making acrylic acid without buying propylene. One possibility involves making it from lactic acid. But current processes for using lactic acid are inefficient, less selective, and require higher temperatures and the accompanying high inputs of energy.

The scientists’ potential solution is a new catalyst that can convert lactic acid into acrylic acid more efficiently. Lactic acid is a classic renewable starting material, produced by bacteria growing in vats of biomass such as glucose and starch from plants. In laboratory studies, the scientists showed that the new catalyst can convert lactic acid to acrylic acid more selectively at lower temperatures. This could mean better use of lactic acid, lower fuel consumption, and less impact on the environment, the scientists suggest.

ACS Catalysis: "Efficient Acrylic Acid Production through Bio Lactic Acid Dehydration over NaY Zeolite Modified by Alkali Phosphates" [ACS Catal., 2011, 1 (1), pp 32–41; DOI: 10.1021/cs100047p].

Does selenium prevent cancer? It may depend on which form people take

Scientists are reporting that the controversy surrounding whether selenium can fight cancer in humans might come down to which form of the essential micronutrient people take. It turns out that not all "seleniums" are the same - the researchers found that one type of selenium supplement may produce a possible cancer-preventing substance more efficiently than another form of selenium in human cancer cells. Their study appears in the ACS' journal Biochemistry.

Hugh Harris and colleagues note that although the Nutritional Prevention of Cancer clinical trial showed that selenium reduced the risk of cancer, a later study called the Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial did not show a benefit. A major difference between the trials was the form of selenium that was used. To find out whether different types of selenium have different chemopreventive properties, the researchers studied how two forms - SeMet and MeSeCys - are processed in human lung cancer cells.

The researchers found that MeSeCys killed more lung cancer cells than SeMet did. Also, lung cancer cells treated with MeSeCys processed the selenium differently than than cells treated with SeMet. They say that these findings could explain why studies on the health benefits of selenium sometimes have conflicting results.

The authors acknowledge funding from the Australian Research Council.

ACS Biochemistry: "Uptake, Distribution, and Speciation of Selenoamino Acids by Human Cancer Cells: X-ray Absorption and Fluorescence Methods" [January 2011, 50 (10), pp 1641–1650].

New 'dissolvable tobacco' products may increase risk of mouth disease

The first study to analyze the complex ingredients in the new genre of dissolvable tobacco products has concluded that these pop-into-the-mouth replacements for cigarettes in places where smoking is banned have the potential to cause mouth diseases and other problems. The report appears in ACS's Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

John V. Goodpaster and colleagues point out that the first dissolvable tobacco products went on sale in 2009 in test markets in Indianapolis, Ind., Columbus, Ohio, and Portland, Ore. The products contain finely-ground tobacco and other ingredients processed into pellet, stick, and strip forms that are advertised as smoke and spit-free. Health officials are concerned about whether the products, which dissolve inside the mouth near the lips and gums, are in fact a safer alternative to cigarette smoking. Goodpaster and colleagues note the possibility that children may be accidentally poisoned by the nicotine in these products. "The packaging and design of the dissolvables may also appeal to children, and some dissolvables, such as Orbs, may be mistaken for candy," the report states.

The researchers' analysis found that the products contain mainly nicotine and a variety of flavoring ingredients, sweeteners, and binders. They note abundant scientific evidence about the potential adverse health effects of nicotine, including those involving the teeth and gums. Other ingredients in dissolvables have the potential to increase the risk of tooth decay and one, coumarin, has been banned as a flavoring agent in food because of its link to a risk of liver damage.

"The results presented here are the first to reveal the complexity of dissolvable tobacco products and may be used to assess potential health effects," said Goodpaster, noting that it is "therefore important to understand some of the potential toxicological effects of some of the ingredients of these products." Nicotine in particular, he noted, is a toxic substance linked to the development of oral cancers and gum disease.

Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry: "Chemical Characterization of Dissolvable Tobacco Products Promoted To Reduce Harm" [J. Agric. Food Chem., 2011, 59 (6), pp 2745–2751].

Laser beam makes cells 'breathe in' water and potentially anti-cancer drugs

Shining a laser light on cells and then clicking off the light makes the cells "breathe in" surrounding water, providing a potentially powerful delivery system for chemotherapy drugs, as well as a non-invasive way to target anti-Alzheimer's medicines to the brain. That's the conclusion of a report in ACS's The Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters.

Andrei Sommer's group, with Emad Aziz and colleagues note using this technique before to force cancer cells to sip up anti-cancer drugs and fluorescent dyes. Pulses of laser light can also change the volume of water inside cells in a way that plumps up wrinkles and makes skin look younger, the researchers found in an earlier study. "The potential applications of the technique range from anticancer strategies to the design principles of nano-steam engines," the report states. Using the so-called Liquidrom ambient approach, developed by Aziz's group, the researchers combined for the first time laser irradiation with soft X-rays obtained from a cyclotron radiation source to explore the molecular structure of interfacial water layers under ambient conditions.

The researchers now showed that laser light aimed at a cell causes the water inside the cell to expand. When the light goes off, the volume of water collapses again, creating a strong pull that also sucks in the water surrounding the cell. This "breathing in and out" of the water molecules can pull chemotherapy drugs into a cell faster than they would normally penetrate, the researchers found. "In other words, we discovered a powerful method to kill cancer cells by pumping anti-cancer drugs into them via laser light," said Sommer.

The study was partly supported by the Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft.

The Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters: "Breathing Volume into Interfacial Water with Laser Light" [J. Phys. Chem. Lett., 2011, 2 (6), pp 562–565].

Discovery of a biochemical basis for broccoli's cancer-fighting ability

They found for the first time that certain substances in the vegetables appear to target and block a defective gene associated with cancer. Their report, which could lead to new strategies for preventing and treating cancer, appears in ACS' Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.

Fung-Lung Chung and colleagues showed in previous experiments that substances called isothiocyanates (or ITCs) — found in broccoli, cauliflower, watercress, and other cruciferous vegetables — appear to stop the growth of cancer. But nobody knew exactly how these substances work, a key to developing improved strategies for fighting cancer in humans. The tumor suppressor gene p53 appears to play a key role in keeping cells healthy and preventing them from starting the abnormal growth that is a hallmark of cancer. When mutated, p53 does not offer that protection, and those mutations occur in half of all human cancers. ITCs might work by targeting this gene, the report suggests.

The scientists studied the effects of certain naturally-occurring ITCs on a variety of cancer cells, including lung, breast and colon cancer, with and without the defective tumor suppressor gene. They found that ITCs are capable of removing the defective p53 protein but apparently leave the normal one alone. Drugs based on natural or custom-engineered ITCs could improve the effectiveness of current cancer treatments or lead to new strategies for treating and preventing cancer.

The authors acknowledged funding from the Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award and a grant from the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health.

Journal of Medicinal Chemistry: "Selective Depletion of Mutant p53 by Cancer Chemoprevention Isothiocyanates and Their Structure-Activity Relationships" [J. Med. Chem., 2011, 54 (3), pp 809–816; DOI: 10.1021/jm101199t].

Banana peels get a second life as water purifier

To the surprisingly inventive uses for banana peels — which include polishing silverware, leather shoes, and the leaves of house plants — scientists have added purification of drinking water contaminated with potentially toxic metals. Their report, which concludes that minced banana peel performs better than an array of other purification materials, appears in ACS's journal Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research.

Gustavo Castro and colleagues note that mining processes, runoff from farms, and industrial wastes can all put heavy metals, such as lead and copper, into waterways. Heavy metals can have adverse health and environmental effects. Current methods of removing heavy metals from water are expensive, and some substances used in the process are toxic themselves. Previous work has shown that some plant wastes, such as coconut fibers and peanut shells, can remove these potential toxins from water. In this report, the researchers wanted to find out whether minced banana peels could also act as water purifiers.

The researchers found that minced banana peel could quickly remove lead and copper from river water as well as, or better than, many other materials. A purification apparatus made of banana peels can be used up to 11 times without losing its metal-binding properties, they note. The team adds that banana peels are very attractive as water purifiers because of their low cost and because they don't have to be chemically modified in order to work.

The authors acknowledge funding from the São Paulo Research Foundation.

Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research: "Banana Peel Applied to the Solid Phase Extraction of Copper and Lead from River Water: Preconcentration of Metal Ions with a Fruit Waste" [Ind. Eng. Chem. Res., 2011, 50 (6), pp 3446–3451].

An advance toward blood transfusions that require no typing

Scientists are reporting an "important step" toward development of a universal blood product that would eliminate the need to "type" blood to match donor and recipient before transfusions. A report on the "immunocamouflage" technique, which hides blood cells from antibodies that could trigger a potentially fatal immune reaction that occurs when blood types do not match, appears in the ACS journal, Biomacromolecules.

Maryam Tabrizian and colleagues note that blood transfusions require a correct match between a donor and the recipient's blood. This can be a tricky proposition given that there are 29 different red blood cells types, including the familiar ABO and Rh types. The wrong blood type can provoke serious immune reactions that result in organ failure or death, so scientists have long sought a way to create an all-purpose red blood cell for transfusions that doesn't rely on costly blood typing or donations of a specific blood type.

To develop this "universal" red blood cell, the scientists discovered a way to encase living, individual red blood cells within a multilayered polymer shell. The shell serves as a cloaking device, they found, making the cell invisible to a person's immune system and able to evade detection and rejection. Oxygen can still penetrate the polymer shell, however, so the red blood cells can carry on their main business of supplying oxygen to the body. "The results of this study mark an important step toward the production of universal RBCs," the study states.

The authors acknowledge funding from the Fonds de la Recherche en Santé du Québec, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Council of Canada, the Canadian Institutes for Health Research and FQRNT-Centre for Biorecognition and Biosensors.

Biomacromolecules: "Investigation of Layer-by-Layer Assembly of Polyelectrolytes on Fully Functional Human Red Blood Cells in Suspension for Attenuated Immune Response" [Article ASAP; DOI: 10.1021/bm101200c].

New molecular robot can be programmed to follow instructions

Scientists have developed a programmable "molecular robot" - a sub-microscopic molecular machine made of synthetic DNA that moves between track locations separated by 6nm. The robot, a short strand of DNA, follows instructions programmed into a set of fuel molecules determining its destination, for example, to turn left or right at a junction in the track. The report, which represents a step toward futuristic nanomachines and nanofactories, appears in ACS's Nano Letters.

Andrew Turberfield and colleagues point out that other scientists have developed similar DNA-based robots, which move autonomously. Some of these use a biped design and move by alternately attaching and detaching themselves from anchor points along the DNA track, foot over foot, when fuel is added. Scientists would like to program DNA robots to autonomously walk in different directions to move in a programmable pattern, a key to harnessing their potential as cargo-carrying molecular machines.

The scientists describe an advance toward this goal — a robot that can be programmed to choose among different branches of a molecular track, rather than just move in a straight line. The key to this specialized movement is a so-called "fuel hairpin," a molecule that serves as both a chemical energy source for propelling the robot along the track and as a routing instruction. The instructions tell the robot which point is should move to next, allowing the selection between the left or right branches of a junction in the track, precisely controlling the route of the robot — which could potentially allow the transport of pharmaceuticals or other materials.

The authors acknowledged funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

Nano Letters: "A Programmable Molecular Robot" [Nano Lett., 2011, 11 (3), pp 982–987].

Hair dyeing poised for first major transformation in 150 years

Technological progress may be fast-paced in many fields, but one mundane area has been almost left in the doldrums for the last 150 years: The basic technology for permanently coloring hair. That's the conclusion of an analysis of almost 500 articles and patents on the chemistry of permanent hair dyeing, which foresees much more innovation in the years ahead, including longer lasting, more-natural-looking dyes and gene therapy to reverse the gray. The article appears in ACS's journal Chemical Reviews.

Robert Christie and Olivier Morel note that hair dye already is a multibillion dollar international industry, poised for even greater expansion in the future due to the graying of a global population yearning to cling to appearances of youth. Most permanent hair coloring technology, however, is based on a 150-year-old approach that uses p-phenylenediamine (PPD), a chemical that produces darker, browner shades when exposed to air. Concern over the safety of PPD and other hair dye ingredients, and demand for more convenient hair dyeing methods, has fostered an upswing in research on new dyes and alternative hair coloring technologies.

The scientists describe progress toward those goals. Future hair coloring techniques include nano-sized colorants, for instance. Composed of pigments 1/5,000th the width of a human hair, they will penetrate the hair and remain trapped inside for longer-lasting hair coloration. Scientists also are developing substances that stimulate the genes to produce the melanin pigment that colors hair. These substances promise to produce a wider range of more natural-looking colors, from blond to dark brown and black, with less likelihood of raising concerns about toxicity and better prospects for more natural results. Other new technologies may stop graying of the hair or prevent its formation altogether, the scientists say.

Chemical Reviews: "Current Trends in the Chemistry of Permanent Hair Dyeing" [Chem. Rev., Article ASAP 2011; DOI: 10.1021/cr1000145].

Does fluoride really fight cavities by 'the skin of the teeth'?

In a study that the authors describe as lending credence to the idiom, "by the skin of your teeth," scientists are reporting that the protective shield fluoride forms on teeth is up to 100 times thinner than previously believed. It raises questions about how this renowned cavity-fighter really works and could lead to better ways of protecting teeth from decay, the scientists suggest. Their study appears in ACS's journal Langmuir.

Frank Müller and colleagues point out that tooth decay is a major public health problem worldwide. In the United States alone, consumers spend more than $50 billion each year on the treatment of cavities. The fluoride in some toothpaste, mouthwash and municipal drinking water is one of the most effective ways to prevent decay. Scientists long have known that fluoride makes enamel — the hard white substance covering the surface of teeth — more resistant to decay. Some thought that fluoride simply changed the main mineral in enamel, hydroxyapatite, into a more-decay resistant material called fluorapatite.

The new research found that the fluorapatite layer formed in this way is only 6 nanometers thick. It would take almost 10,000 such layers to span the width of a human hair. That's at least 10 times thinner than previous studies indicated. The scientists question whether a layer so thin, which is quickly worn away by ordinary chewing, really can shield teeth from decay, or whether fluoride has some other unrecognized effect on tooth enamel. They are launching a new study in search of an answer.

The authors acknowledge support from Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft and Saarland Ministry of Finances.

Langmuir: "Elemental Depth Profiling of Fluoridated Hydroxyapatite: Saving Your Dentition by the Skin of Your Teeth?" [2010, 26 (24), pp 18750–18759; DOI: 10.1021/la102325e].

Polishing the apple's popular image as a healthy food

Scientists are reporting the first evidence that consumption of a healthful antioxidant substance in apples extends the average lifespan of test animals, and does so by 10 percent. The new results, obtained with fruit flies — stand-ins for humans in hundreds of research projects each year — bolster similar findings on apple antioxidants in other animal tests. The study appears in ACS's Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Zhen-Yu Chen and colleagues note that damaging substances generated in the body, termed free radicals, cause undesirable changes believed to be involved in the aging process and some diseases. Substances known as antioxidants can combat this damage. Fruits and vegetables in the diet, especially brightly colored foods like tomatoes, broccoli, blueberries, and apples are excellent sources of antioxidants. A previous study with other test animals hinted that an apple antioxidant could extend average lifespan. In the current report, the researchers studied whether different apple antioxidants, known as polyphenols, could do the same thing in fruit flies.

The researchers found that apple polyphenols not only prolonged the average lifespan of fruit flies but helped preserve their ability to walk, climb and move about. In addition, apple polyphenols reversed the levels of various biochemical substances found in older fruit flies and used as markers for age-related deterioration and approaching death. Chen and colleagues note that the results support those from other studies, including one in which women who often ate apples had a 13-22 percent decrease in the risk of heart disease, and polish the apple's popular culture image as a healthy food.

Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry: "Apple Polyphenols Extend the Mean Lifespan of Drosophila melanogaster" [J. Agric. Food Chem., 2011, 59 (5), pp 2097–2106].

New treaty on search for life-saving medicines in remote areas

Real-life scientists, whose work has overtones of Indiana Jones as they search for plants in remote areas of the world that could become the source of life-saving new medicines, are currently trying to figure out how a new international agreement on biodiversity will affect their work. That's the topic of an article in Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), ACS's weekly newsmagazine.

C&EN Associate Editor Carmen Drahl explains that environment ministers from 200 countries hammered out the agreement late last year. Called the Nagoya protocol, it extends a 1993 United Nations treaty declaring that nations have sovereign rights to the biological materials within their territory. Those materials - which include plants, microbes, and other living things - have been a rich source of so-called "natural products." Almost 70 percent of today's medicines are either natural products or are derived from natural products.

The new treaty clarifies what agencies scientists who collect plant and other materials should approach for official clearance. It also requires countries that ratify the agreement to establish a "national focal point," such as a university, government agency, or other contracting institution, for making such decisions. In addition, biodiversity-rich nations would receive compensation for medicines and other items commercialized from natural products discovered in their country. Many natural product hunters are grateful for the clarity the treaty provides. But some worry that it could also trigger new regulations that could delay or stifle their searches.

Chemical and Engineering News: "Navigating Nagoya" [Volume 89, Number 9, DOI 10.1021/CEN022211145306].

Blood protein in lung cancer could improve diagnosis and treatment

Scientists are reporting discovery of a protein in the blood of lung cancer patients that could be used in a test for the disease — difficult to diagnose in its earliest and most treatable stages — and to develop drugs that stop lung cancer from spreading. Their study appears in ACS's Journal of Proteome Research.

In the report, Je-Yoel Cho and colleagues note that lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide. Lung cancer is so deadly because of its tendency to spread — or metastasize — to distant sites in the body, such as the liver or the brain. Early detection could improve survival rates, but it is very difficult to detect lung cancer at early stages with today's technology. To find a better diagnostic tool, the researchers studied the proteins in the blood of lung cancer patients in search of red flags that could signal the disease's presence. They focused on adenocarcinoma, which accounts for 1 in 3 cases and is the most rapidly increasing form of lung cancer in women.

Cho and colleagues found elevated levels of a protein called serum amyloid A (SAA) in the blood and lung tissue of lung adenocarcinoma patients, compared to healthy people. Their work showed that high amounts of SAA were unique to lung cancers (compared with other lung diseases or other cancers) and that the protein was involved in metastasis of cancer cells from the original tumor site. The researchers say that the protein could be used as a diagnostic marker for lung cancer and as a target for developing drugs that stop metastasis.

The authors acknowledge funding from the Korean Ministry of Education, Science and Technology; the Small and Medium Business Administration; and the Ministry of Knowledge Economy.

Journal of Proteome Research: "Identification and Validation of SAA as a Potential Lung Cancer Biomarker and its Involvement in Metastatic Pathogenesis of Lung Cancer" [J. Proteome Res., Article ASAP 2010; DOI: 10.1021/pr101154j].


Kewords: Chemistry, news, reports, March 2011
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