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Highlights of American Chemical Society meeting in Atlanta, March 26-30

American Chemical Society


ATLANTA -- An extract from grape seeds that appears to lower blood pressure, insights into the discovery of new elements, research on prostate cancer, and an appetite suppressant developed from pine nuts are among the topics covered at the 231st national meeting of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society, in Atlanta, March 26-30. The meeting features more than 8,000 research papers and posters, including presentations on the chemistry of comets, new methods to improve food safety and new approaches to fight bioterrorism.

A special Presidential Symposium, hosted by ACS President E. Ann Nalley, Ph.D., will address how to improve America's scientific competitiveness. There also will be a symposium on Women Leaders in Chemistry, which coincides with the annual March observance of National Women's History Month.

Meeting highlights include:

Sunday, March 26

Grape seed extract can help lower blood pressure -- A group of scientists at the University of California-Davis has found evidence in human studies that grape seed extract, a popular dietary supplement, may help significantly lower blood pressure. The study was undertaken among 24 men and women with metabolic syndrome, a condition characterized by obesity, abnormal glucose and serum lipid levels, and high blood pressure, which can predispose people to diabetes and heart disease. The patients, who were divided into three groups of eight, received either grape seed extract or placebo daily for one month. Those receiving the extract showed an average drop in systolic pressure of 12 mm and a drop in diastolic pressure of 8 mm, while no change in blood pressure occurred among the placebo group, they say. (AGFD 4, 10:15 a.m., Sunday, March 26, Georgia World Congress Center, Room C107, during the symposium "Healthy Products from Agricultural By-products")

ACS Presidential Symposium addresses scientific competitiveness, innovation -- Concerned about the ability of the United States to maintain a competitive edge in the future in light of growing threats to the nation's economic and technological competitiveness, ACS President E. Ann Nalley, Ph.D., is hosting a special Presidential Symposium, "Ensuring the Future: Sustaining & Strengthening Basic and Applied Research." In a letter to President Bush earlier this year and in other messages to Capitol Hill, Nalley has strongly urged that more federal dollars be spent on math and science research and education. She will make introductory remarks at the symposium, which will feature discussions on how to improve America's economic competitiveness, innovation and science education. (PRES, 1:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m., Sunday, March 27, Georgia World Congress Center, Room B308, during the Presidential Event, "Ensuring the Future: Sustaining & Strengthening Basic and Applied Research")

High indoor levels of common toxin may contribute to asthma -- Chemists at the University of California-Davis have developed a faster and more sensitive method of measuring acrolein, a common air pollutant related to formaldehyde that has been shown to aggravate asthma. In a controlled study of three different sites in California, the researchers measured indoor and outdoor concentrations in 10 homes and two businesses and found unusually high indoor concentrations of acrolein -- as much as 10 times higher than outdoor levels. The scientists also found that indoor acrolein concentrations were greatly increased during cooking activities, most likely due to the generation of acrolein from heated cooking oil, they say. Although further studies are needed, the findings suggest that those with asthma might want to avoid prolonged exposure to kitchens, whether in homes or fast-food restaurants, where cooking oils are used on a regular basis, they say. (ENVR 19, 2:20 p.m., Sunday, March 26, Georgia World Congress Center, Room B217, during the symposium "Environmental Occurrence, Fate and Transport of Chemicals and Nanomaterials")

Monday, March 27

Study could lead to improved drugs for black men with prostate cancer -- A preliminary study involving cell lines from black and white men with prostate cancer has produced divergent responses to a potential prostate cancer drug, according to scientists from Spelman College in Atlanta. The researchers used an experimental anticancer agent called dibenzoylmethane (DBM), a natural compound derived from licorice root that has shown promise in early cell studies for slowing the growth of prostate cancer cells. In tests with DBM, the compound inhibited growth of the Caucasian cell line, but had the opposite effect in the African-American cancer cells, causing the cells to grow faster, the researchers say. They caution the study is very preliminary and that the exact mechanisms behind the differing cell responses are unknown at present. (CHED 744, Monday, March 27, 2:00 - 4:00 p.m., Georgia World Congress Center, Ex. Hall B4, during the "Undergraduate Research Poster Session: Biochemistry")

Chives may help fight food poisoning -- Chives can do more than just spice up baked potatoes and other foods, they might also fight food poisoning. In laboratory tests, extracts of fresh chives had strong antibiotic activity against 38 strains of Salmonella, one of the leading causes of foodborne illness, according to researchers at North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro. In the future, chive extracts might provide a natural alternative to irradiation and artificial preservatives to guard against food poisoning, they say. (AGFD 105, 2:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m., Monday, March 27, Georgia World Congress Center, Ex. Hall B4, during the "General Posters Symposium")

Tuesday, March 28

Contributions of African-American women chemists highlighted -- As part of the symposium "Women Leaders in Chemistry: Stories of Challenges Met," a special presentation will reveal the inspiring biographies of several notable African-American women chemists. Biographies will be presented about Marie Daly, the first African-American woman to receive a Ph.D. in chemistry; Retha Clark King, Ph.D., an analytical chemist, administrator and former President of the General Mills Foundation; and Gloria Long Anderson., Ph.D., a noted organic chemist and educator at Morris Brown College in Atlanta. (WCC 13, 8:05 a.m., Tuesday, March 28, OMNI at CNN Center, Chestnut room, during the symposium "Women Leaders in Chemistry: Stories of Challenges Met")

New appetite suppressant comes from pine nuts -- Researchers have found that a compound obtained from pine nuts, a key ingredient of pesto, may help people lose weight by suppressing their appetite. The compound, pinolenic acid, is an oil found in unusually high levels in the Korean pine nut, which appears in laboratory studies to stimulate the release of two appetite-suppressing peptide hormones, CCK (cholecystokinin) and GLP1 (glucagon-like peptide 1). In a small clinical study involving 18 overweight women, a commercial gel capsule version of the oil (called PinnoThin™) reduced food cravings and boosted levels of the appetite suppressant hormones soon after consumption, according to researchers at Lipid Nutrition, a Netherlands-based company which manufactures the compound. (AGFD 117, Tuesday, March 28, 11:25 a.m., Georgia World Congress Center, Room C106, during the symposium "Health Benefits of Lipids")

Nuclear alchemy: Synthesizing new elements -- Chemists have long predicted the existence of an "Island of Stability" at the outer bounds of the periodic table, where super-heavy elements live for milliseconds, minutes or perhaps even years. In the past decade, a group of scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and their Russian collaborators have helped provide a glimpse of this oasis. This presentation highlights the researchers' success in synthesizing elements 113 and 115, while also presenting further evidence to bolster claims that the "Island of Stability" does in fact exist. The findings have important implications for just how many elements it might be possible to make, and also for understanding the unusual properties these super-heavy elements could exhibit, the researchers say. (NUCL 65, Tuesday, March 28, 11:50 a.m., Georgia World Congress Center, Room C108, during the symposium, "21st Century Radiochemistry Opportunities: A Symposium Highlighting Nuclear Science Workforce Needs")

Wednesday, March 29

Researchers discover unexpected source of natural perchlorate -- Perchlorate is a compound used in rocket fuel, munitions and fireworks that has been increasingly found in cow's milk, lettuce, drinking water and even human breast milk. At high doses, perchlorate can disrupt functions of the thyroid gland in humans. Although perchlorate is linked to the manufacture of rocket fuel, it can occur naturally, such as in nitrate fertilizer deposits in Chile. Now, scientists at the University of Nevada have found a new and unexpected source of the compound while studying its presence in desert soils in the southwestern United States. They found that perchlorate can form when certain soils containing chloride salts are exposed to sunlight. The researchers also showed that the compounds can be formed in the laboratory when ultraviolet light reacts with desert soils or titanium dioxide (a common ingredient in sand). The finding may account for a portion of the natural perchlorate occurring throughout the desert southwest, the scientists say. (AGRO 78, Wednesday, March 29, 1:30 p.m., Georgia World Congress Center, Room C103, during the symposium "Advances in Pesticide Environmental Fate and Exposure Assessments")

Deep Impact: Space probe yields data on chemistry of comets -- The Deep Impact spacecraft that dramatically launched a space probe into a comet (called Tempel 1) last year continues to yield big findings regarding space chemistry and the origins of the solar system. Just last month, researchers for the historic project announced that they had found water ice on the surface of a comet for the first time. Michael A'Hearn, Ph.D., an astronomer at the University of Maryland and principal investigator for the project, will discuss the chemistry associated with the comet and its implications. (PHYS 223, Wednesday, March 29, 2:00 p.m., Georgia World Congress Center, Room A402, during the symposium "Molecules in Space")

Coming soon: Chemistry, the video game -- Video games are one of America's favorite forms of recreation but also have been parlayed into useful learning tools. Now, researchers at Purdue University in Lafayette, Ind., are developing a new video game that they hope will reduce the anxiety that sometimes is associated with learning chemistry. In addition to the typical video-game scenario of fighting bad guys and robots, players are challenged, for example, to assemble compounds that dissolve limestone barriers from a collapsed cave wall or develop fertilizers to grow plants that supply oxygen to an underground laboratory. The researchers hope to finish developing the game next year and win some new chemistry fans in the process. (CHED 1332, Wednesday, March 29, 3:00 p.m., OMNI at CNN Center, Hickory room, during the symposium "Beyond the Textbook: Alternative Sources for Learning Chemistry")

Thursday, March 30

Researchers develop new approach to fight plague -- Some experts believe that terrorists may one day attempt to re-engineer the bacterium that caused the infamous plague, or Black Death, that devastated Europe during the Middle Ages, into a potent bioterror weapon that is resistant to modern antibiotics and capable of killing large numbers of people. Now, researchers at the Burnham Institute for Medical Research in La Jolla, Calif., have developed a new approach to combat the bacterium that could save lives among those infected by multi-drug resistant or aerosolized strains. The scientists identified a series of compounds that can inhibit YopH, a key protein that the bacterium needs to remain virulent. (MEDI 402, Thursday, March 30, 10:00 a.m., Georgia World Congress Center, Georgia Ballroom 1, during the "General Oral Session")


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.

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