ACS News Service Weekly PressPac -- September 27, 2006

Here is the latest American Chemical Society (ACS) News Service Weekly press package (PressPac) with reports selected from 34 major peer-reviewed journals and Chemical & Engineering News.

In This Edition:

  • Simple, sensitive new way to detect activity of destructive enzymes
  • Alternative energy: A new way to take a bite of sunlight
  • An ancient hair dye based on modern nanotechnology
  • Biofuel production is economical even when importing the raw materials
  • New "Dead Zone" study may have far-ranging effects on Midwest agriculture
  • Resources for Journalists: Press Conference Audio/Weblog

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To download manuscripts and images, please click on the links provided with each item. Please cite the individual journal, or the American Chemical Society, as the source of this information.

Simple, sensitive new way to detect activity of destructive enzymes Journal of the American Chemical Society

Scientists in the United States are reporting discovery of a much-needed new method to identify the activity of destructive enzymes that have been linked to a range of diseases. The enzymes are termed matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), because they break down protein and have a metal such as zinc or calcium in their structure.

"MMPs have been implicated in a variety of disease states, including arthritis, periodontal disease, and tumor cell invasion and metastasis," Yuehe Lin and colleagues note in a report published in the current (Sept. 27) issue of the weekly Journal of the American Chemical Society. With MMPs offering an opportunity for diagnosis and monitoring the effectiveness of treatment, several tests for the enzymes have been developed. Those tests, however, have drawbacks, including inability to identify specific MMPs that are active in specific diseases or require complicated detection schemes.

In the report, researchers describe the new test as simple and sensitive. It involves use of an electrochemical "beacon" that signals "on" or "off" when MMPs are active in a sample of tissue or body fluid. The beacons can be configured to signal when specific MMPs are active, including enzymes associated with certain infectious diseases.

"Electrochemical Proteolytic Beacon for Detection of Matrix Metalloproteinase Activities"



Yuehe Lin, Ph.D.
Chief Scientist
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Richland, Washington
Phone: 509-376-0529
Email: [email protected]

Alternative energy: A new way to take a bite of sunlight Energy & Fuels

Flash those pearly whites in a dazzling smile and you showcase a natural light collector mechanism hidden inside the internal structure of dentin - the hard, bone-like material that forms the main part of teeth. Scientists in Germany are reporting that the photonic crystal structure of dentin was their inspiration to propose a new method for harvesting sunlight to produce electricity.

Andrei P. Sommer and Michael Gente say tooth structure bears similarities to photonic crystals, which allow certain wavelengths to enter their internal structure, but block others. Applications of the effect include harvesting sunlight for photovoltaic cells.

"The light-collector mechanism in dentin could serve as a model for the design of solar concentrator arrays," the researchers write in their paper, published in the current (September/October) edition of the bimonthly ACS journal Energy & Fuels. "Arrays of tooth-like structures mounted on silicon permit collection of sunlight virtually independent of the angle of incidence of the sun, which could be vital, for instance, in Antarctica."

"Biomimetics: From Teeth to Photonic Crystal Solar Light Collectors"



Andrei P. Sommer, Ph.D.
University of Ulm
Ulm, Germany
Phone: 49-731-502-5491
Fax: 49-731-502-5488
Email: [email protected]

An ancient hair dye based on modern nanotechnology Nano Letters

A hair dye developed 2,000 years ago relied on nanotechnology to change the graying hair of people in ancient Greece and Rome into a youthful black color, scientists in France report.

Philippe Walter and colleagues studied a hair-dyeing recipe first described in Greco-Roman times, which is the basis of modern hair dyes that gradually darken gray or white hair. Their research, published in the current (September) issue of the monthly ACS journal Nano Letters, found that the dye works by causing formation of nanocrystals of lead sulfide. That chemical compound forms inside hair shafts and colors hair black without damaging the hair.

The lead sulfide crystals look much like the lead sulfide quantum dots synthesized recently using techniques from materials science, they state. "In contrast to modern nanotechnology, the dyeing process is characterized by basic chemistry methods and has been developed more than 2,000 years ago with low-cost natural products," the scientists report.

"Early Use of PbS Nanotechnology for an Ancient Hair Dyeing Formula"



Philippe Walter, Ph.D.
Restoration Research Center of the Museums in France (C2RMF-CNRS)
Paris, France
Phone: 33-1-40-20-59-89
Fax: 33-1-47-03-32-46
Email: [email protected]

Biofuel production is economical even when importing the raw materials Energy & Fuels

Liquid fuels can be produced economically from biomass right now even if all the raw materials - such as grasses and wood - must be imported from other countries. Robin Zwart and colleagues in The Netherlands reach that conclusion in a study in the current (September/October) issue of the bimonthly ACS journal Energy & Fuels.

In their study, the researchers focus on the so-called biomass-to-liquids (BtL) route, one of the most promising biomass fuels options. BtL involves first converting biomass into a gas and then using a commercially available chemical process to convert the gas into liquid fuels that could power motor vehicles. The study assumes that the final liquid fuel production facility is in the European Union, where biomass raw materials would have to be imported after pretreatment at the place of origin.

It concludes that high-quality liquid fuels could be produced from imported biomass for about $2.60 per gallon. The process would be economically feasible and capable of competing with conventional fuels, with crude oil prices of about $60 per barrel, the researchers state.

"The Impact of Biomass Pretreatment on the Feasibility of Overseas Biomass Conversion to Fischer-Tropsch Products"



Robin Zwart
Energy Research Center of The Netherlands
Petten, The Netherlands
Phone: 31-224-564574
Fax: 31-224-568487
Email: [email protected]

ARTICLE #5 EMBARGOED FOR RELEASE - 9:30 a.m., Eastern Time, Oct. 2
New "Dead Zone" study may have far-ranging effects on Midwest agriculture Chemical & Engineering News

A new scientific review of the Gulf of Mexico's "Dead Zone" could have far-ranging implications for farming over millions of acres of the Midwest and for fertilizer sales, according to an article scheduled for the Oct. 2 issue of Chemical & Engineering News, the ACS' weekly newsmagazine.

The Dead Zone is a vast expanse of water off the Gulf's northern shore that becomes depleted in oxygen from spring to early autumn each year. C&EN senior editor Cheryl Hogue explains that oxygen depletion creates a biological dead zone, where fish and other marine creatures cannot survive. The Dead Zone has been growing in size since the 1980s. In recent years it has involved an area larger than the state of Connecticut.

Excessive amounts of plant nutrients - primarily nitrate fertilizer that runs off agricultural land into the Mississippi River - causes the zone by fostering blooms of phytoplankton that die and decay in a process that removes dissolved oxygen from the Gulf waters.

The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency's Science Advisory Board (SAB) just began the review, which will focus on the causes and other technical issues. SAB's findings may figure heavily in the recommendations of a combined federal and state task force that is revising a 2001 action plan to reduce and control oxygen depletion in the Gulf, Hogue reports.

ARTICLE #5 EMBARGOED FOR RELEASE - 9:30 a.m., Eastern Time, Oct. 2

"Dead Zone: Federal-state task force on Gulf hypoxia seeks scientific advice for revising policies"

For full text contact:
Michael Bernstein
ACS News Service
Phone: 202-872-6042
Fax: 202-872-4370
Email: [email protected]

Resources for Journalists: Audio of ACS Press Conferences

These audio files are recordings of press conferences from the ACS National Meeting (Sept. 10-14) in San Francisco. They are a valuable source for quotations and background.

Progress on fighting bacterial infections; biohazards
Conference Date: 9/11 at 10:00 a.m., Pacific Time

Nanotubes show help with range of illnesses
Conference Date: 9/11 at noon, Pacific Time

Low cost, super-efficient solar cells developed
Conference Date: 9/12 at noon, Pacific Time

Promising therapies with adult stem cells
Conference Date: 9/13 at 10:00 a.m., Pacific Time

ACS News Service Weblog
Science, September & San Francisco
Visit the ACS News Service's newest Weblog ( for reports from scientific sessions and other events at the ACS National Meeting in San Francisco.



PressPac Archive:

The American Chemical Society (ACS) News Service PressPac is your access point for discoveries in fields ranging from astronomy to zoology, which are reported in the 34 peer-reviewed journals of the American Chemical Society. With more than 158,000 members, ACS is the world's largest scientific society. Chemistry is the science that transforms lives, and these news alerts are from the leading edge of that science at ACS headquarters.

The American Chemical Society -- the world's largest scientific society -- is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

Last updated: 30 Apr 2016
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Apr 2016
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