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24 Posts authored by: Christine Suh

Looking to nature for materials to use in everyday products has its appeal and has spurred earnest research efforts toward this end. The approach seems more healthful than turning to synthetic materials — but nature is not always benign. Luckily, there are scientists acting as watchdogs over this enterprise to make sure at least some of what’s natural in our products is actually a good thing. GreenLabelSmall.jpg


In a new study, one team led by Anna Shvedova, Ph.D., has looked at materials called cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs), which are the most abundant natural biopolymers on the planet. Her team’s report from the journal ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering states that CNCs have a lot of traits that are useful.

CNCs can lend desirable strength, and electrical and magnetic properties to products. They’re also biodegradable and come from renewable sources such as wood, bacteria and algae. Because of their all-around appeal, CNCs have made it into an impressive array of products.


“The novel generations of cellulose products are already manufactured and used for a number of applications in spray paints, cosmetics, packaging, construction and building insulation,” says Shvedova, who’s with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and West Virginia University.


What could be safer or more sustainable?


As it turns out, perhaps a lot of things. Shvedova tested these CNCs for health effects in mice. Her team found that these otherwise promising materials caused pulmonary inflammation and lung damage that is more severe than that caused by crocidolite asbestos, one of six kinds of the mineral. This could pose a serious health risk to manufacturing employees who work with CNCs and might inhale them.


“The major point to emphasize is that this nanomaterial should be handled carefully,” Shvedova says.


There is a bit of good news in all this. Shvedova also found that the way the CNCs were produced made a big difference in how they affected the animals’ health.


“Taken together, our data suggests that particle morphology and nanosize dimensions of CNCs, regardless of the source and chemical composition, may be critical factors affecting the type of innate immune inflammatory response,” she says. “As the need for manufacturing novel frontier nanocellulose materials for various applications including consumer products rises over the years, a detailed assessment of specific health outcomes with respect to their physical, structural and chemical properties is highly warranted.”


Shvedova’s work raises the persistent, modern question: How do we balance consumption with safeguarding our health and environment?


Click here for the abstract.

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While climate change discussions focus largely on carbon dioxide, emissions of the third-most important greenhouse gas is rising dramatically in China. And not only does this gas, nitrous oxide (N2O), contribute to the greenhouse effect, but it also threatens to eat away at the ozone layer, which protects us by absorbing some of the ultraviolet light from the sun. Concerned about the double threat of N2O, researchers from Peking University took a closer look at its historical and future emissions. Here are the highlights of a Q&A with Jianhua Xu on what his team found and what it means for the planet.



Q.     What’s the most important finding from your study?


A.     China has become the world’s largest industrial N2O emitter. From 1990 to 2010, industrial N2O emissions in China grew 34-fold to 160 Gg (176,000 tons), while global industrial N2O emissions decreased by 41 percent to 379 Gg (418,000 tons) and the total industrial N2O emissions from Annex I countries (a group of industrialized and developing nations that are party to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) decreased by 71 percent to 171 Gg (188,000 tons). By 2009, the emissions from China surpassed those from the European Union and United States for the first time.



Q.     The Montreal Protocol phased out chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and led to the still-ongoing but largely successful recovery of the ozone layer. If N2O emissions continue to rise, how will it affect this recovery?


A.     N2O possesses a small ozone-depleting potential (ODP) of only 0.017, which is around one-sixtieth of CFC-11, a typical CFC regulated under the Montreal Protocol. However, its mild ODP could be quite insidious because the current anthropogenic N2O emissions are much larger than the past and future CFC emissions worldwide. This makes anthropogenic N2O emissions the single most important of the anthropogenic ozone-depleting emissions today and throughout the 21st century. If the atmospheric N2O level were to remain flat, a complete recovery of the ozone layer is projected to occur by around 2025-20281. But the increase in the atmospheric N2O level at the current pace could delay the complete recovery by a decade, although drawing down CFCs under the Montreal Protocol has provided all possible relief1.



Q.     There is a lot of focus on CO2 emissions’ effects on climate change. What would happen to our climate if we dramatically reduced CO2 emissions but allowed N2O to rise unchecked?


A.     Although CO2 is and will always be the largest contributor to global radiative forcing in climate change, global warming will not be alleviated if CO2 is reduced but N2O continues to rise. Currently, N2O is the third most important greenhouse gas, and its total anthropogenic emissions are projected to ascend by 58 percent and the global average N2O abundance by 13 percent by 20502.


     Over 60 percent of global anthropogenic N2O emissions reside in agricultural activities. Improving fertilizer-use efficiency, applying nitrification inhibitors and controlled-released fertilizers are regarded as the most cost-effective control options3, but these practices are not widespread in most agriculture-dominant developing countries. If it remains unchecked, the increased radiative forcing — a change in the Earth’s energy balance between incoming radiation from the sun and what gets bounced back into space — could make up the net climate benefit from CO2 abatement.



Q.     Are there technological solutions N2O-producing industries can implement now to reduce their emissions? How costly are they?


A.     Yes, there are a few feasible technologies to abate industrial N2O emissions. But in China, the lowest cost for one such project was $10 million, and the net present value was minus $30 million (meaning the project was not profitable) for the entire 21-year operation. In my understanding, the availability of abatement technology is not an issue in the current situation, but the design and implementation of effective policies and regulatory programs are.


To read the full Q&A, click here.


Click here for the abstract.


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  1. Chipperfield, M., Atmospheric science: nitrous oxide delays ozone recovery. Nature Geoscience 2009, 2, (11), 742-743.
  2. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Contribution of working group I: the physical science basis. In Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Thomas, S.; Qin, D.; Gian-Kasper, P., Eds. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, USA, 2013.
  3. Kanter, D.; Mauzerall, D. L.; Ravishankara, A.; Daniel, J. S.; Portmann, R. W.; Grabiel, P. M.; Moomaw, W. R.; Galloway, J. N., A post-Kyoto partner: Considering the stratospheric ozone regime as a tool to manage nitrous oxide. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 2013, 110, (12), 4451-4457.

Going under the knife for surgery is a scary enough prospect by itself. But throw in the risk of contracting a bacterial infection, and even a routine procedure can become a nightmare.


Now, keep in mind that surgical infections only affect fewer than 3 percent of surgery patients nationwide every year and can often be treated effectively. But when infections grow severe, some patients are left fighting for their lives over something that should not have happened in the first place.


To spur a faster recovery for patients in such cases and those with other severe bacterial infections, scientists are figuring out for the first time how to create a picture of where the harmful bugs are in the body.


Doctors can take pictures of broken bones, some tumors, even brain activity. But when it comes to an invasion of bacteria, Anton Bunschoten, Ph.D., says currently approved imaging options are limited to looking for inflammation. Though a body’s local flare-ups can be a result of a bacterial infection, it’s not the sole possible cause — and discerning the source quickly can save lives.


If a patient has a hip replacement, for example, and feels pain and other symptoms after surgery, a minor inflammatory response would require a small intervention, says Bunschoten who’s with the radiology department at Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands.


“On the other side, when it’s a bacterial infection, the whole prosthetic has to be removed and a serious antibiotic treatment has to follow,” he explains. “So it’s really important to know if the prosthetic is inflamed due to a bacterial infection or another kind of inflammatory response.”


To take stock of where bacterial imaging research is, Bunschoten’s team looked at the various parallel studies going on and assessed how far along each has come. He reported his findings in the ACS journal Bioconjugate Chemistry.


In his review paper, Bunschoten describes several agents researchers are pursuing for imaging infections: antibiotics, carbohydrates, viruses, enzyme-activated tracers and proteins. He says one set stands out above the rest: antimicrobial peptides, or AMPs. These amino acid chains form a part of the native immune system in all kinds of organisms. They work by sticking to bacteria and busting open their outer walls.


Some researchers are taking advantage of this bacteria-seeking behavior and attaching radioactive and fluorescent labels to AMPs to see if the peptides can be used for imaging. They’ve already had some success with one particular kind, called UBI for short. Researchers have even tested UBIs in patients in bone, soft tissue and for prosthetic and diabetic foot infections and in cases of fever of unknown origin.


Because some of the labels for imaging are radioactive, the risks of exposing patients have to be weighed against benefits. So this type of technique would not be used to confirm a run-of-the-mill ear infection, for example. But for serious infections that occur post-surgery or cause life-threatening diseases like tuberculosis, this kind of imaging could help transform global healthcare.


UBIs are not quite ready for prime time, but because they’ve already been tested in patients, they could be on track for practical use within five years, Bunschoten estimates.


He acknowledges funding from The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research.


“Development and Prospects of Dedicated Tracers for the Molecular Imaging of Bacterial Infections”


Click here for the abstract.


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By any account, the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010 was a disastrous event. Cleaning up required an infusion of cash to the tune of billions of dollars within a few months.


Now consider the “dead zone” phenomenon in the same body of water. It’s a disaster in its own right, but a far more subtle one that doesn’t involve fire, smoke, oil slicked water – nor unfortunately, billions of dollars for remediation.


And that’s a problem that weaves together clashing interests across multiple states and the fisheries down south.


During fall and spring, farmers apply nitrogen-based fertilizers to their crops. The excess nitrates pour invisibly into the Mississippi River and spill into the gulf. It’s a feast for algae, which thrive on the nitrogen compounds. But the decomposition of the massive algal bloom depletes oxygen in the water.


Animals that can’t escape the area die. Fish swim away, hurting the seafood industry. The annual event generates a few media stories and then fades away until the next year.


This is not a new phenomenon. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has been mapping the zone since 1985. State and federal agencies have implemented programs over the years to stem the flow of nutrients.


What is surprising is that years of such efforts have not paid off. In 2013, the dead zone was the size of Connecticut, which was smaller than experts had predicted but three times larger than the goal set by an Environmental Protection Agency task force in 2001.


Mark David, who has been studying agriculture and water quality in Illinois for two decades, wanted to know why.


After evaluating the situation, he found that while small programs have some effect, larger forces overwhelm local benefits. His report appears in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.


“In the big scale of things, we’ve done very little,” says David. “In some ways, we’re going in the opposite direction with more corn and more drainage.”


When farmers first settled in the Midwest, David explains, though the land was extremely fertile, it was also extremely wet. Plows would get stuck in soggy ground. To make the land more crop friendly, they buried one-foot long clay pipes, or tiles, to redirect the excess water from the fields. The effect was dramatic. The land yielded bountiful harvests on some of the best agricultural soil in the world.


But along with the excess water, the tile system flushes out nitrates from fertilizer. And the drain is the mighty Mississippi.


With demand high for biofuel, corn pays very well these days, David says. Now, tens of millions of acres from southern Minnesota to Ohio are on tile drainage, contributing a constant flow of nitrates each spring into the river, he adds.


“We want clean water, but we’re doing everything possible to maximize corn and soybean production,” David says. “And corn and soybean production on tile-drained land is about as leaky a system as you can have.”


To compound the problem, David says, farmers have few incentives to mitigate run-off. Planting specific winter crops, called cover crops, that improve soil quality and retain nitrogen would cost farmers an additional $30 to $40 per acre. Woodchip bioreactors — enclosed beds of woodchips — placed at the end of field drainage pipes remove nitrates but cost around $8,000 each.


“I think we know how to reduce nitrates,” David says. “It involves working more closely with farmers. But many practices that reduce nutrients don’t increase profitability. Somewhere we need to figure out how we’re going to pay for the practices that improve water quality but don’t boost yields.”


Is it time to boost the level of federal involvement? If so, what role could government play? What non-government actions could be taken?

“Biophysical and Social Barriers Restrict Water Quality Improvements in the Mississippi River Basin”

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New evidence shores up findings that whey protein, which is found in milk and cheese, could have health benefits for people who are obese and do not yet have diabetes. The study, which appears in ACS’ Journal of Proteome Research, examined how different protein sources affect metabolism.

Lars O. Dragsted, Kjeld Hermansen and colleagues point out that obesity continues to be a major public health problem worldwide. In the U.S. alone, about 35 percent of adults and about 17 percent of children are obese, a condition that can lead to a number of health issues, including cardiovascular disease and type-2 diabetes. One risk factor for cardiovascular disease in people who are obese is high levels of fat in their blood after meals. But recent research has found that these levels partly depend on the kind of protein included in the meal. Studies have suggested that whey protein can lower the amount of fat and increase insulin, which clears glucose in the blood, keeping sugar levels where they’re supposed to be. But the details on whey’s effects were still vague, so the team took a closer look.

They gave volunteers who were obese and non-diabetic the same meal of soup and bread plus one kind of protein, either from whey, gluten, casein (another milk protein) or cod. The scientists found that the meal supplemented with whey caused the subjects’ stomachs to empty slower than the others’. These subjects also had lower levels of fatty acids in their blood after meals but higher amounts of the specific types of amino acids that boost insulin levels.

The authors acknowledge project funding from the Nordic Centre of Excellence to SYSDIET and the Danish Council for Strategic Research to DanORC.

"Whey Protein Delays Gastric Emptying and Suppresses Plasma Fatty Acids and Their Metabolites Compared to Casein, Gluten, and Fish Protein”

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The shale gas boom has transformed the energy landscape in the U.S., but in some drier locations, it could cause conflict among the energy industry, residents and agricultural interests over already-scarce water resources, say researchers. They add that degraded water quality is a potential risk unless there are adequate safeguards. The feature article appears in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.


Meagan S. Mauter and colleagues point out that a major criticism of extracting shale gas through hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” is that it requires tremendous amounts of water — 2.5 to 5 million gallons — to develop a single well. Water, along with chemicals and sand, is injected under high pressure into wells to create cracks, or fractures, in shale and release stored gas. In some water-rich places, such as Pennsylvania, this is not a significant problem. But in other locations, including some rural counties in arid south Texas, this level of water use competes with residential and agricultural needs and depletes groundwater resources. These and other types of region-specific scenarios are similar to what other states and countries could encounter when or if they also develop shale gas reserves. Mauter’s team looked at what practices could help maintain a balance between fracking and environmental and residential needs.


The researchers say that there are ways to minimize the industry’s water footprint. One method is to use brackish water that is not fit for drinking or agricultural use but can be suitable for fracking. The other method is to recycle the waste water. “Leadership from both industry and the U.S. government may be needed to assure that economic benefits of shale gas development are realized without significant regional impairment of water resource quantity and quality,” the authors conclude.

“Regional Variation in Water-Related Impacts of Shale Gas Development and Implications for Emerging International Plays”

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When someone suffers from a stroke, a silent countdown begins. A fast diagnosis and treatment can mean the difference between life and death. So scientists are working on a new blood test that one day could rapidly confirm whether someone is having a stroke and what kind. Their report appears in the ACS journal Analytical Chemistry.


Steven A. Soper and colleagues note that strokes, which are the third leading cause of death and disability in the United States, have two possible causes. In ischemic strokes, a clot stops blood flow in a part of the brain. In hemorrhagic stroke, a blood vessel in the brain ruptures. Both can lead to similar symptoms, such as numbness on one side of the body, sudden weakness and headache. Current diagnostic tests can’t tell between these two types. But treatment, ideally within three hours of onset, depends on the kind of stroke a person is having. Soper’s collaborator, Alison Baird, who is at SUNY Downstate Stroke Center, found clues — or biomarkers — in the blood that can suggest the stroke type and assist in determining the course of proper treatment. Soper’s team sought a way to detect those clues quickly.


They built a device that can process whole blood and isolate genetic material for two potential stroke biomarkers within minutes. Keeping in mind that identifying more biomarkers could aid in diagnosis, they designed their device so it can analyze a total of four biomarkers at the same time.


The authors acknowledge funding from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering.

“Parallel Affinity-Based Isolation of Leukocyte Subsets Using Microfluidics: Application for Stroke Diagnosis”

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Improved thinking. Decreased appetite. Lowered blood pressure. The potential health benefits of dark chocolate keep piling up, and scientists are now homing in on what ingredients in chocolate might help prevent obesity, as well as type-2 diabetes. They found that one particular type of antioxidant in cocoa prevented laboratory mice from gaining excess weight and lowered their blood sugar levels. The report appears in ACS’ Journal of Agricultural & Food Chemistry.


Andrew P. Neilson and colleagues explain that cocoa, the basic ingredient of chocolate, is one of the most flavanol-rich foods around. That’s good for chocolate lovers because previous research has shown that flavanols in other foods such as grapes and tea can help fight weight gain and type-2 diabetes. But not all flavanols, which are a type of antioxidant, are created equal. Cocoa has several different kinds of these compounds, so Neilson’s team decided to tease them apart and test each individually for health benefits.


The scientists fed groups of mice different diets, including high-fat and low-fat diets, and high-fat diets supplemented with different kinds of flavanols. They found that adding one particular set of these compounds, known as oligomeric procyanidins (PCs), to the food made the biggest difference in keeping the mice’s weight down if they were on high-fat diets. They also improved glucose tolerance, which could potentially help prevent type-2 diabetes. “Oligomeric PCs appear to possess the greatest antiobesity and antidiabetic bioactivities of the flavanols in cocoa, particularly at the low doses employed for the present study,” the researchers state.

“Oligomeric Cocoa Procyanidins Possess Enhanced Bioactivity Compared to Monomeric and Polymeric Cocoa Procyanidins for Preventing the Development of Obesity, Insulin Resistance, and Impaired Glucose Tolerance during High-Fat Feeding”

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The smells of summer — the sweet fragrance of newly opened flowers, the scent of freshly cut grass and the aroma of meats cooking on the backyard grill — will soon be upon us. Now, researchers are reporting that the very same beer that many people enjoy at backyard barbeques could, when used as a marinade, help reduce the formation of potentially harmful substances in grilled meats. The study appears in ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

I.M.P.L.V.O. Ferreira and colleagues explain that past studies have shown an association between consumption of grilled meats and a high incidence of colorectal cancer. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are substances that can form when meats are cooked at very high temperatures, like on a backyard grill. And high levels of PAHs, which are also in cigarette smoke and car exhaust, are associated with cancers in laboratory animals, although it’s uncertain if that’s true for people. Nevertheless, the European Union Commission Regulation has established the most suitable indicators for the occurrence and carcinogenic potency of PAHs in food and attributed maximum levels for these compounds in foods. Beer, wine or tea marinades can reduce the levels of some potential carcinogens in cooked meat, but little was known about how different beer marinades affect PAH levels, until now.

The researchers grilled samples of pork marinated for four hours in Pilsner beer, non-alcoholic Pilsner beer or a black beer ale, to well-done on a charcoal grill. Black beer had the strongest effect, reducing the levels of eight major PAHs by more than half compared with unmarinated pork. “Thus, the intake of beer marinated meat can be a suitable mitigation strategy,” say the researchers.

The authors acknowledge funding from Universidade do Porto.

"Effect of Beer Marinades on Formation of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons in Charcoal-Grilled Pork"

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Beer drinkers know that hops are what gives the drink its bitterness and aroma. Recently, scientists reported that the part of hops that isn’t used for making beer contains healthful antioxidants and could be used to battle cavities and gum disease. In a new study in ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, they say that they’ve identified some of the substances that could be responsible for these healthful effects.


Yoshihisa Tanaka and colleagues note that their earlier research found that antioxidant polyphenols, contained in the hop leaves (called bracts) could help fight cavities and gum disease. Extracts from bracts stopped the bacteria responsible for these dental conditions from being able to stick to surfaces and prevented the release of some bacterial toxins. Every year, farmers harvest about 2,300 tons of hops in the United States, but the bracts are not used for making beer and are discarded. Thus, there is potentially a large amount of bracts that could be repurposed for dental applications. But very few of the potentially hundreds of compounds in the bracts have been reported. Tanaka’s group decided to investigate what substances in these leaves might cause those healthful effects.

Using a laboratory technique called chromatography, they found three new compounds, one already-known compound that was identified for the first time in plants and 20 already-known compounds that were found for the first time in hops. The bracts also contained substantial amounts of proanthocyanidins, which are healthful antioxidants.

“Comprehensive Separation and Structural Analyses of Polyphenols and Related Compounds from Bracts of Hops (Humulus lupulus L.)”

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“Sprouted” garlic — old garlic bulbs with bright green shoots emerging from the cloves — is considered to be past its prime and usually ends up in the garbage can. But scientists are reporting in ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry that this type of garlic has even more heart-healthy antioxidant activity than its fresher counterparts.

Jong-Sang Kim and colleagues note that people have used garlic for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. Today, people still celebrate its healthful benefits. Eating garlic or taking garlic supplements is touted as a natural way to reduce cholesterol levels, blood pressure and heart disease risk. It even may boost the immune system and help fight cancer. But those benefits are for fresh, raw garlic. Sprouted garlic has received much less attention. When seedlings grow into green plants, they make many new compounds, including those that protect the young plant against pathogens. Kim’s group reasoned that the same thing might be happening when green shoots grow from old heads of garlic. Other studies have shown that sprouted beans and grains have increased antioxidant activity, so the team set out to see if the same is true for garlic.

They found that garlic sprouted for five days had higher antioxidant activity than fresher, younger bulbs, and it had different metabolites, suggesting that it also makes different substances. Extracts from this garlic even protected cells in a laboratory dish from certain types of damage. “Therefore, sprouting may be a useful way to improve the antioxidant potential of garlic,” they conclude.

The authors acknowledge funding from the IPET High Value-Added Food Technology Development Program.

“Garlic Sprouting Is Associated with Increased Antioxidant Activity and Concomitant Changes in the Metabolite Profile”

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While taking in the scenery during long road trips, passengers also may be taking in potentially harmful ultrafine particles (UFPs) that come into the car through outdoor air vents. Closing the vents reduces UFPs, but causes exhaled carbon dioxide to build up. Now, scientists report in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology that installing a newly developed high-efficiency cabin air filter (HECA) could reduce UFP exposure by 93 percent and keep carbon dioxide levels low.


Yifang Zhu and Eon Lee explain that most modern cars come with cabin air filters, but they only block 40-60 percent of the UFPs when in “outdoor air mode.” These particles are 100 nanometers or less in diameter; about a thousand of them could fit across the width of a human hair. Studies suggest that UFPs, which are found in automotive exhaust, may be linked with health problems. Switching the venting system into “recirculation mode” reduces UFPs by 90 percent, but because the interior is closed off from the outside, exhaled carbon dioxide can potentially build up to levels that could impair decision-making. To address this challenge, Zhu and Lee decided to develop a method that would simultaneously reduce UFPs inside cars, while also allowing carbon dioxide to escape.


They developed HECA filters that could reduce UFP levels by an average of 93 percent in 12 commercially available vehicles while driving in outdoor air mode. Compared with the original manufacturer-installed filters, the new one is made of synthetic fibers of much smaller diameters. Carbon dioxide remained at a “reasonable” level, they say.


The authors acknowledge funding from the California Air Resources Board and the National Science Foundation.

“Application of a High Efficiency Cabin Air Filter for Simultaneous Mitigation of Ultrafine Particle and Carbon Dioxide Exposures inside Passenger Vehicles”

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Whether lifting weights in a gym or just walking around the block, exercise has many benefits, such as helping people lose weight and build stronger muscles. Some studies suggest that it may reduce the risk of developing cancer and other diseases. Researchers now report in ACS’ Journal of Proteome Research that moderate, long-term physical activity appears to improve cardiovascular health in mice by targeting the heart cells’ powerhouses — the mitochondria.

Eduard Sabidó, Francisco Amado and colleagues explain that despite the well-documented benefits of exercise, the exact way that it helps the heart is not well understood. Sure, it helps strengthen the heart muscle so it can pump more blood throughout the body more efficiently. And people who get off the couch and exercise regularly have a reduced risk of developing heart problems and cardiovascular disease. One estimate even claims that 250,000 deaths every year in the U.S. are at least partially due to a lack of exercise. But how this all happens in the body at the molecular level has perplexed researchers — until now.

The team found that laboratory mice (stand-ins for humans) that exercised for 54 weeks on a treadmill-running regimen had higher levels of certain proteins in the mitochondria of their heart cells than mice that did not exercise. Mitochondria produce energy for the body’s cells. In particular, they identified two proteins, kinases called RAF and p38, that “seem to trigger the beneficial cardiovascular effects of lifelong exercise training,” they say.

The authors acknowledge funding from the 7th Framework Programme of the European Union, Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia, QREN, FEDER and COMPETE.

"Lifelong Exercise Training Modulates Cardiac Mitochondrial Phosphoproteome in Rats"

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Potential side effects of many of today’s therapeutic drugs can be downright frightening — just listen carefully to a drug commercial on TV. These effects often occur when a drug is active throughout the body, not just where and when it is needed. But scientists are reporting progress on a new tailored approach to deliver medicine in a much more targeted way. The study on these new electronically controlled drugs appears in the journal ACS Nano.


Xinyan Tracy Cui and colleagues note that in the lab, “smart” medical implants can now release drugs on demand when exposed to various cues, including ultraviolet light and electrical current. These advances are largely thanks to developments in nanomaterials that can be designed to carry drugs and then release them at specific times and dosages. Researchers have also experimented with loading anti-cancer drugs on thin, tiny sheets of graphene oxide (GO), which have a lot of traits that are useful in drug delivery. But current techniques still require tweaking before they’ll be ready for prime time. Cui’s team wanted to work out some of the final kinks.


They incorporated GO nanosheets into a polymer thin film that can conduct electricity, loaded it with an anti-inflammatory drug and coated an electrode with it. When they zapped the material with an electric current, they showed that it released the drug consistently in response. They could do this several hundred times. Also, by experimenting with the sizes and thicknesses of the GO sheets, the scientists could change how much drug the nanosheets could carry. Cui said this approach could be useful in treating epilepsy, for example. In that case, medication already lying in wait inside the body could be released at the onset of a seizure.


The authors acknowledge funding from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

“Electrically Controlled Drug Delivery from Graphene Oxide Nanocomposite Films”

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Here’s an item from this week’s PressPac that we thought you’d enjoy. The PressPac features summaries of articles appearing in our peer-reviewed journals and Chemical & Engineering News. To get the entire PressPac in your inbox, email us at

Long stigmatized because of its “high”-inducing cousins, hemp — derived from low-hallucinogenic varieties of cannabis — is making a comeback, not just as a source of fiber for textiles, but also as a crop packed with oils that have potential health benefits. A new study, which appears in ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, details just how many healthful compounds hempseed oil contains.

Maria Angeles Fernández-Arche and colleagues note that for millennia, people around the world cultivated cannabis for textiles, medicine and food. Hemp has high levels of vitamins A, C and E and beta carotene, and it is rich in protein, carbohydrates, minerals and fiber. In the early 20th century, many countries banned cannabis because some varieties contain large amounts of the high-inducing compound THC. And although Colorado recently legalized recreational marijuana use — and some states have passed medical marijuana laws — the drug remains illegal according to U.S. federal law. But the European Union has legalized growing low-THC versions of hemp, and it’s making its way back into fabrics and paper. With increasing interest in plant oils as a source of healthful compounds, Fernández-Arche’s team wanted to investigate hempseed oil’s potential.

They did a detailed analysis of a portion of hempseed oil. They found it has a variety of interesting substances, such as sterols, aliphatic alcohols and linolenic acids, that research suggests promote good health. For example, it contains α-linolenic acid, which is an omega-3 fatty acid that some studies suggest helps prevent coronary heart disease. The findings could have implications in the pharmaceutical, cosmetic, food and non-food industries, they state.

"Hemp (Cannabis sativa L.) Seed Oil: Analytical and Phytochemical Characterization of the Unsaponifiable Fraction"

Click here for the abstract.

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Credit: American Chemical Society


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