News From The American Chemical Society, May 13, 200919 May 2009
Advance in detecting melamine-adulterated food
Researchers in Indiana are reporting an advance toward faster, more sensitive tests for detecting melamine, the substance that killed at least 6 children and sickened 300,000 children in China who drank milk and infant formula adulterated with the substance. The improved tests may ease global concerns about food safety, the researchers say. Their report is scheduled for the May 27 issue of ACS' Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a bi-weekly publication.
In the new study, Lisa Mauer and colleagues note that tests already exist for melamine, which is widely used in plastics. Certain food manufacturers, however, have added melamine to food products marketed for humans and domestic pets to boost apparent protein content. Conventional tests, however, tend to be too slow, insensitive, and too complex for large-scale food screening applications. Researchers say that better detection tests are needed, particularly in the wake of new U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines limiting melamine in dairy products to 1 part per million (ppm) or less.
The scientists describe a trio of promising detection methods based on near- and mid-infrared spectroscopy, analytical techniques that identify a substance based on its chemical fingerprint when exposed to specific kinds of light. In laboratory studies, the scientists used these tests to screen infant formula spiked with different concentrations of melamine. They found that these methods accurately detected the substance at levels as low as 1 ppm, meeting the new FDA detection guidelines. The techniques take as little as 5 minutes to detect melamine and are relatively simple to use, requiring little or no sample preparation.
ARTICLE: "Melamine Detection in Infant Formula Powder Using Near- and Mid-Infrared Spectroscopy"
Lisa J. Mauer, Ph.D.
Department of Food Science
West Lafayette, Ind. 47907
Cloud computing brings cost of protein research down-to-earth
The amazingly powerful computers at Amazon.com - where online customers order books, CDs, and other products - are giving scientists an inexpensive tool to crunch massive amounts of data being generated by efforts to understand proteins. Termed proteomics, the large-scale study of all the proteins in an organism, promises new ways of diagnosing and treating hundreds of diseases. In a report scheduled for the June 5 issue of ACS' monthly Journal of Proteome Research, scientists describe the development of free tools using Amazon's "cloud computing" service that can help shoulder scientists' data crunching needs with its brawny network of computers.
In the report, Brian D. Halligan and colleagues note that a major challenge in proteomics research involves obtaining and maintaining the costly computational infrastructure required for analysis of data. "Cloud computing," using a large network of computers to tackle one complex task, may make this mountain of data easier to manage.
The researchers describe development of a new approach to proteomics data analysis called ViPDAC (virtual proteomics data analysis cluster) that uses Amazon Web Service's inexpensive "cloud computing" service. It allows people to rent processing time on Amazon's powerful servers. The study describes one data analysis that took less than 6 days with ViPDAC, but would have required 140 days on a desktop computer. "For researchers currently without access to large computer resources, this greatly increases the options to analyze their data. They can now undertake more complex analyses or try different approaches that were simply not feasible for them before," the report states.
ARTICLE: "Low Cost, Scalable Proteomics Data Analysis Using Amazon's Cloud Computing Services and Open Source Search Algorithms"
Brian D. Halligan, Ph.D
Medical College of Wisconsin
Milwaukee, Wisc. 53226
Solving the mystery of how plants survive near Chernobyl
Twenty-two years after the Chernobyl nuclear power station accident in the Ukraine - the worst in history - scientists are reporting insights into the mystery of how plants have managed to adapt and survive in the radioactive soil near Chernobyl. Their research is the first to probe how production of key proteins in plants changes in response to the radioactive environment, according to the report. It is scheduled for the June 5 issue of ACS' Journal of Proteome Research, a monthly publication.
Martin Hajduch and colleagues note in the new study that plants growing in the Chernobyl area following the April 26, 1986 disaster somehow adapted to the radioactive environment and thrived. But until now, nobody knew what biochemical changes in the plants accounted for this miracle and enabled plants to adapt.
The researchers found that soybean plant seeds exposed to radiation produced different amounts and types of protein than seeds from unexposed plants. The proteins protected the seeds from radio-contaminated environment. Interestingly, plants from contaminated fields produced one-third more of a protective protein called betaine aldehyde dehydrogenase - the same protein known to protect human blood from radiation damage.
ARTICLE: "Proteomic Analysis of Mature Soybean Seeds from the Chernobyl Area Suggest Plant Adaptation to the Contaminated Environment"
Martin Hajduch, Ph.D.
Department of Reproduction and Developmental Biology
Institute of Plant Genetics and Biotechnology
Slovak Academy of Sciences
New insights into the mystery of "high risk platelets" from diabetic donors
Amid emerging concerns that blood platelets donated for transfusion by individuals with Type 2 diabetes may be unsafe, scientists are reporting the first detailed identification and analysis of a group of abnormal proteins in platelets from diabetic donors. The study could lead to screening tests to detect and monitor these so-called "high risk platelets," the researchers say. Their study is scheduled for the June 5 issue of ACS' Journal of Proteome Research, a monthly publication. About 18 million people in the United States have Type 2 diabetes, and the disease is spreading with the epidemic of obesity.
David Springer and colleagues point out in the new study that thousands of patients receive potentially lifesaving transfusions of platelets each year to treat bleeding from trauma and for a wide range of medical conditions. Scientists have known that abnormal platelets in the blood of diabetics may predispose these individuals to heart disease. It led to concern that platelets from these individuals stored for transfusion may be less effective and even unsafe. However, scientists know little about how diabetic platelets differ from those of healthy people.
The new study identified 122 proteins that differed in the platelets of individuals with diabetes compared to the platelets of non-diabetics. They also found that freshly collected platelets from diabetics show almost as many abnormal changes (more than 100) in protein content as healthy donor platelets stored for up to 5 days. These findings could lead to new tests for detecting and monitoring abnormal platelets to improve the outcome of blood transfusions from both diabetic and healthy individuals, the researchers say.
ARTICLE: "Platelet Proteome Changes Associated with Diabetes and during Platelet Storage for Transfusion"
David Springer, Ph.D.
Biological Sciences Division
Pacific Northwest national Laboratory
Richland, Wash. 99352
Revealing a surprising link between diabetes and Alzheimer's disease
Blindness, heart disease, nerve damage, and kidney failure are not the only complications facing the nation's estimated 24 million people with diabetes. Although not widely known, those with the disease face up to double the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease (AD) than non-diabetics, according to an article scheduled for the May 18 issue of Chemical & Engineering News, ACS' weekly newsmagazine.
C&EN senior editor Sophie Rovner explains in the article that people with diabetes tend to have a higher risk of getting AD, and possibly get it at an earlier age, than the general population. Five million people in the United States have Alzheimer's, a brain disorder that causes severe memory loss. Diabetes results from the body's inability to produce or use insulin. Newer research now suggests that insulin is critical for healthy nerve cells in the brain. As the hormone declines in the brains of people with Alzheimer's, so does their memory.
Some research even suggests that diabetes and Alzheimer's are part of the same disease process that affects different parts of the body and that Alzheimer's may be considered "Type 3" diabetes. If so, then doctors might treat Alzheimer's in the same way as diabetes, which includes giving patients insulin or other medications - including so-called "insulin sensitizing" drugs - the article states.
ARTICLE: "Alzheimer's Scary Link To Diabetes"
American Chemical Society
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