1 Estrogen analog may provide safer therapy A synthetic estrogen has been shown to reverse bone loss in both female and male mice without having adverse effects on their reproductive systems as current hormone replacement therapies sometimes do suggesting that a potentially safer osteoporosis drug for women and men may be in the offing. Endocrinologists at the University of Arkansas discovered last year that 4-estren-3a17b-diol (estren) is bound by receptor proteins in the pathway that helps control bone density but not by receptors in the pathway that helps regulate the size and function of the uterus and prostate gland. Estradiol and testosterone are active in both pathways. The researchers show that estren provides greater overall bone density and strength than estradiol treatment in female mice and is equally effective as testosterone at preserving bone density in male mice. However estren does not cause abnormal growth of cells in the reproductive tracts of mice as do estradiol and testosterone. 2 Sulfanyl alcohols are culprits in smelly armpits The typical smell associated with the human armpit is caused by a witches brew of molecules including steroids fatty acids and sulfur-containing compounds. The sulfur compounds are the most malodorous but little has been known about them until now. Research groups at two Swiss fragrance and flavor companies have identified the compounds as sulfanyl alcohols. A team at Firmenich found eight sulfanyl alcohols in sweat from exercising volunteers including the major component (S)-3-methyl-3-sulfanylhexan-1 -ol which has an onion-like smell that is likely the most important contributor to the typical and repulsive sweat malodor. A second team at Givaudan Schweiz also identified this compound as well as three additional sulfanyl alcohols with equally pungent odors. Both teams identified Corynebacterium Staphylococcus and other bacteria that dwell in the armpits and produce enzymes that convert precursor compounds in the initially odorless sweat to the stinky compounds. 3 Butter flavoring harms popcorn producers Vapors from artificial butter flavoring appear to be the cause of the high incidence of lung disease among employees at a microwave popcorn plant according NIOSH. Researchers have evaluated the vapors impact on rats and find that the vapors kill portions of the lining epithelium of the nose and large airways. The vapors include diacetyl (23-butanedione) acetoin (3-hydroxy-2-butanone) and acetic acid among other compounds. Preliminary data indicate that diacetyl by itself can cause the damage. Diacetyl is classified as generally recognized as safe but that applies to consumption of trace amounts rather than inhalation of vapors. There is no indication of risk from home popping because consumers are exposed to vapor concentrations that are many times lower than those found in the production plant. 4 Antibiotic secretions from deers feet win U.S. patent Black-tailed deer have glands on their feet that secrete compounds with antibiotic properties according to William Wood of Humboldt State University Arcata CA. Wood has patented synthetic versions of the compounds. The main compound secreted by the black-tailed deers feet is 3-tridecen-2-one. It inhibits the growth of a narrow range of organismsincluding bacteria and fungithat live on the skin. It might be useful Wood believes for treating acne dandruff athletes foot and other conditions of human skin. It doesnt kill beneficial skin bacteria Wood says and it doesnt dissolve in water so it will sit on the skin for a long time. The black-tailed deer antibiotics have not yet been tried in animal tests. 5 Insects Venom Eyed For Cancer Defense Camouflage is not the only trick Madagascar walkingsticks use to thwart their enemies. These insects also spray a defensive fluid and Arthur S. Edison of the University of Florida and coworkers hope the fluids key component parectadial (shown) will ward off a human enemy cancer. The researchers detail the discovery and characterization of parectadial along with their development of a synthetic route to the monoterpene. Parectadial is structurally similar to perillyl alcohol a plant-derived compound that has been investigated for anticancer activity. That structural similarity prompted Edison and coworkers to test parectadials effect on tumor cells. Preliminary unpublished results indicate that the compound also has anticancer activity leading the researchers to file a patent on parectadial. 6 A Schiff base (or azomethine) named after Hugo Schiff is a functional group that contains a carbon-nitrogen double bond with the nitrogen atom connected to an aryl or alkyl groupbut not hydrogen. Schiff bases are of the general formula R1R2CN-R3 where R3 is an aryl or alkyl group that makes the Schiff base a stable imine. Hugo (Ugo) Schiff (1834 1915) was a German Chemist. Born in Frankfurt am Main Schiff was a student of Friedrich Wöhler in Göttingen. In 1879 he founded the Chemical Institute of the University of Florence. He discovered Schiff bases and other imines and was responsible for research into aldehydes and had the Schiff test named after him. He also worked in the field of amino acids and the Biuret reagent. Schiff died in Florence. 7 Bill-collecting compound In London the British company Bodywise revealed that it is offering a product called Aeolus 7 to collection agencies for 6000 per g. The active ingredient is a pheromone androstenone from sweat secreted by men from their armpits and groins. It appears to act like magic on people who owe money. Bodywise tried Aeolus 7 in Australia on bills sent out by a mail-order cosmetics firm. Of 1000 bills half were treated with Aeolus 7 and half were not. The treated bills elicited 17 more payments than the untreated bills. 8 Bill-collecting compound misspelled or spurious R.E. Juday of Missoula MT pointed out that adrostenone does not appear in the Merck Index. Juday suggested also that the pheromone in question very likely was 5a-androst-16-en-3a-ol. A major constituent of boar sweat that also has been detected in human male axillary sweat. Inquiries into the original news item have proved fruitless and Juday presumably is correct. Joe Arrigo of Palatine Ill. meanwhile recalled that when the boar steroid was first found in human male axillary sweat in 1980 it was touted as a human sex pheromone and used in a cologne billed as the first pheromone-based fragrance. No frenzies resulted Arrigo notes and no magic human sex pheromone had yet been found. It wouldnt work anyway he goes on. Not since our ancestors dwelled in caves have humans depended on a keen sense of smell for their survival. 9 Pheromones from men affect women Exposure to male armpit secretions reduces tension and enhances relaxation in women as well as altering hormone pulses that may affect the length and timing of the menstrual cycle a recent study shows. Researchers at the Monell Chemical Senses Center have found that male armpit secretions contain two types of pheromones a modulator which modifies mood and a primer which alters endocrine responses. The change in womens mood was gleaned from responses to a mood-rating scale. The endocrine effect was measured through pulsing of luteinizing hormone (LH). Bursts of LH secretion precede ovulation and increase in frequency as ovulation nears. On average exposure to male armpit extracts reduced the time to the next burst by 20. Whether the emotional and endocrine effects are due to the same or different compounds is unknown. Chemical characterization of the active components in the extracts is under way. 10 Bombardier beetle fires defensive spray in pulses Thomas Eisner of Cornell University and his colleagues report that a species of bombardier beetle fires its defensive spray in high-speed pulses rather than continuously as had been believed. The spray is generated by an explosive chemical process. The groups experimental subject was Stenaptinus insignis a relatively long bombardier beetle from Kenya. Its body length is about 2 cm. The beetle when disturbed emits a jet-like spray from an abdominal tip. The tip serves as a revolvable turret that permits the beetle to aim the spray in any direction. The emissions appear as a mist and are accompanied by audible pops. The spray whose active ingredients are p-benzoquinones fends off vertebrate and invertebrate predators. 11 S. insignis generates its spray in two large glands that open at the abdominal tip. Each gland has an inner chamber or reservoir containing hydroquinones and hydrogen peroxide and an outer or reaction chamber containing the oxidative enzymes catalase and peroxidases. The reactants normally are kept apart by a valve between the chambers. Sufficient aggravation causes the beetle to compress the reservoir using muscles provided for the purpose thus forcing fluid through the valve and into the reaction chamber. The resulting reaction produces the p-benzoquinones explosively at the moment of ejection. The spray is ejected at 100 C. hydroquinone benzoquinone 12 Definitive evidence for pulsed delivery was obtained by high-speed cinematography say Eisner and his colleagues. They filmed 14 discharges from seven beetles at 2670 and 4000 frames per second. The films clearly resolved the burstlike emissions that characterize the pulsations. The pulse repetition rate averaged about 531 per second. Spray emergence velocity was 1163 330 cm per second. The beetle can spray about 30 times before it runs out of reactants it can replenish its supply within a day. 13 Insight into activity of St. Johns wort Hyperforin the putative antidepressant in St. Johns wort owes its activity to the enolized b-diketone moiety. Luisella Verotta and coworkers at the University of Milan Italy reached this conclusion through structure-activity studies of the compound. Hyperforin inhibits serotonin uptake while non-enolizable analogs do not. A. Douglas Kinghorn a professor of pharmacognosy at the University of Illinois notes that the work comes at a time of heightened awareness of the adverse interactions of St. Johns wort with various drugs. The analogs prepared for this study will have great value for additional biological tests he says. 14 Strawberry flavonoid enhances memory Neurotrophic factors are polypeptides that promote the well-being of nerve cells but their clinical use for say sustaining memory is limited because the compounds have trouble getting past the blood-brain barrier. Pamela Maher of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and colleagues have now identified the flavonoid fisetin (shown) as a small molecule that has several properties of a neurotrophic factor and can be taken orally. The researchers report that fisetin which is found in strawberries and other foods enhances memory in mice by increasing activation of the transcription factor CREB (cAMP response element-binding protein) which is involved in the physical changes in the brain underlying the development of long-term memory. Chowing down on strawberries isnt a feasible memory-enhancing regimen Maher warns since a person would have to eat 10 lb of the fruit per day to obtain a beneficial effect. 15 Plant Pathogen Guides Cancer Research The bacterium Pseudomonas syringae is infamous for the brown rot spots it leaves on apples pears and many other crops. Now a team of U.S. and European researchers report the mechanism behind this plant pathogens virulence and propose that this mechanism could inform cancer drug development. The bacterium produces a peptide virulence factor called syringolin A (shown) that facilitates infection by inhibiting the plant cells proteasome. The proteasome is essential for regulating many cellular functions in both plant and human cells. A hydroxyl group on one of the proteasomes threonine residues does a Michael-type 14-addition to syringolin As aß-unsaturated carbonyl (shown in red) forming a covalent bond. Because the proteasome is a promising anticancer target and syringolin A has been shown to thwart ovarian andneuroblastoma cancer cellsthe authors note that this novelmechanism could guide thedesign of new proteasomeinhibitors. 16 Ad draws fire Roy W. King of Gainesville FL who confesses to a low tolerance for bafflegab and quackery sent in an ad for an all-natural product that significantly clears discoloration of toenails and fingernails caused by fungal infection. The product is said to eliminate keratin debris under the nails and lower the nails pH. The key ingredient is ethanoic acid. The cost is 29.99 per bottle one 4-oz bottle the ad says lasts three to four months. Maybe it takes a chemist King fumes to realize that ethanoic acid also comes in a bottle of all-natural vinegar. 17 Vinegaroon The whipscorpion or vinegaroon has survived for 300 million years by defending itself with a discharge that is 84 percent acetic acid. Its spray also includes caprylic acid (octanoic acid) a foul-smelling spreading agent that promotes penetration. The creature has excellent aim and can fire many times in succession. 18 acetabulum definition n. pl. acetabula (-l ) 1. Anatomy The cup-shaped cavity at the base of the hipbone into which the ball-shaped head of the femur fits. 2. Zoology The cavity in the body of an insect into which the leg fits. 3. Zoology A cup-shaped structure such as the sucker of a tapeworm or leech. acetabulum etymology Latin acetabulum vinegar cup from acetum vinegar see acetum. 19 Peruvian wound treatment explained Trials with mice confirm that a traditional Peruvian medicine can help heal wounds report researchers based in Kentucky and Peru (J. Nat. Prod.). Peruvians use an infusion of a plant called Anredera diffusa to wash wounds. They also use the wet leaves of the plant which is commonly known as lloto as a wound dressing. Gerald B. Hammond of the University of Louisville Abraham J. Vaisberg of Cayetano Heredia University in Lima and their colleagues found that an ethanolic extract ofthe plants leaves and stems showed wound-healing activity inmice and was nontoxic. After hydrolyzing and fractionatingthe extract the team determined that the wound-healingfraction contained oleanolic acid (shown). Theresearchers found that wounds treated withthe compound heal significantly fasterthan untreated wounds. Oleanolicacid is an inexpensive commerciallyavailable product that is currentlyused in skin care products. 20 Wild ox bugs mosquitoes The gaur a wild ox native to Southeast Asian regions plagued by mosquitoes and other biting flies has a short velvety coat that glistens with an oily secretioon according to Chris Wemmer director of the Smithsonian National Zoos Conservation Research Center. When he learned that his colleague vertebrate biologist Paul J. Weldon was investigating the insect repellant qualities of vertebrate skin secretions he suggest that Weldon include gaur gunk in his studies. They obtained sample of the greasy gaur hair and separated the waxy material from the hair and fractionated it. Tests with a mosquito colony established that a novel 18-carbon acid isolated from the mixture acts as a landing and feeding deterrent for the yellow fever mosquito. The compound was identified using NMR and mass spectrometry and enantioselective synthesis is being carried out to determine the compounds absolute configuration which was tentatively assigned by analogy to the configuration a related compound. 21 Healthy oils turn toxic in fryer When it comes to deep frying highly unsaturated vegetable oils such as soybean sunflower and corn oils may soon lose their reputation as healthy alternatives to saturated animal fats and partially hydrogenated oils. Unlike their saturated counterparts these vegetable oils dont increase levels of bad cholesterol and theyve been considered heart-healthy because they contain high levels of linoleic acid. However food chemists A. Saari Csallany and Christine Seppanen report that when these oils are heated at frying temperatures (365F) for 30 minutes or longer the healthy linoleic acid oxidizes to the highly toxic compound (E)-4-hydroxy-2-nonenal (HNE). This toxic aldehyde has been linked to a number of diseases including Parkinsons and Alzheimers. The University of Minnesota researchers also found that the concentration of HNE in fried foods is directly proportional to its concentration in the cooking oil. The toxin accumulates with each heating cycle underscoring the importance of not reusing these oils for frying. 22 Queen mandibular pheromone Last summer scientists at Simon Fraser University Burnaby British Columbia reported their work on the queen bees pheromonal control of her troops. Mark Winston and Keith Slessor have figured out the composition of the secretion involved and have explored possible commercial applications. Bee scientists have recognized for more than 30 years that the queens pheromones mediate worker and colony reproduction and influence broad aspects of foraging and other activities. Scientists have also identified certain active elements of the pheromones but realized that they did not have the full picture. Analyses of crushed bee heads produced laundry lists of chemical but none proved active. In 1985 the Canadian investigators quite by accident put a glass lure coated with queen mandibular extract on a lab bench next to some stray worker bees. The worker bees immediately formed a retinue around the lure indicating that it was coated with the real McCoy or something close to it. Winston Slessor and their colleagues eventually found that queen mandibular pheromone as it is called is a mixture of five molecules (E)-9-keto-2-decenoic acid both enantiomers of (E)-9-hydroxy-2-decenoic acid methyl p-hydroxy-benzoate and 4-hydroxy-3-methoxy-phenyl ethanol. 23 Several uses of queen mandibular pheromone are near commercialization say Winston and Slessor. One use permits packages of worker bees to be shipped without queens for example and may also be useful as an attractant for swarms. The most valuable use however may be in promoting pollination. Trees and berries experimentally sprayed with queen mandibular pheromone nearly always attract up to twice the normal number of worker bees. Increases in yield and quality are more variable but very promising. . . 24 Bee Brainwashing Using chemicals to prevent someone from forging bad memories smacks of brainwashing but this is precisely what a queen bee does to the young worker bees that tend to her. Queen bees keep their young servants happy by means of homovanillyl alcohol (HVA). It is one of several pheromones a queen uses to maintain control of her hive. Its been known for a while that the queens pheromones block ovary development in worker bees and inspire the worker bees to clean and feed her but the big discovery is that HVA is directly influencing brain chemistry. Researchers found that when young bees were exposed to HVA they were incapable of learning to associate a nasty experience with a smell a process that neurobiologists call aversive learning. HVA did not prevent the association of a good experience with a smell so-called appetitive learning. The social perk achieved by preventing these young nursebees from developing aversive memories againstodors in the hiveincluding the queens own odoris colony security. Thwarting bad memories reducesaggressive behavior among the masses deep within a hive. HVA 25 Female elephants moths signal mates with same compound As different as elephants are from moths they share a mating ritual the females release the volatile ester (Z)-7-dodecen-1-yl acetate to signal their readiness to mate. Many insects especially moths excrete this ester in their pheromone mixtures. In work that may find use in the breeding of elephants in captivity L. E. L. (Bets) Rasmussen associate professor of chemistry at Oregon Graduate Institute of Science Technology and colleagues at three other institutions recently identified the compound in the urine of preovulatory elephants. Very few vertebrate pheromones have previously been identified. The feat comes 14 years after Rasmussen and other coworkers observed that something in the urine of a cow elephants elicits a specific behavior in malesthe Flehmen response. A bull elephant detects the ester by touching the urine or urogenital orifice of a female. If the compound is present the bull then inserts the tip of its trunk into ductal orifices leading to a chemoreceptive organ found on the roof of its mouth. Bulls display this behavior frequently when the female is in heat and the response correlates with penile erections. 26 Antifrog pesticide Harry Ako and his colleagues at the University of Hawaii are battling the coquí a tiny tree frog imported inadvertently from Puerto Rico. The dinky frog Ako writes has a pleasant chirp in the laboratory and in Puerto Rico. In Hawaii however the frog has no natural enemies. Population densities have been estimated at 8000 frogs per acre and the racket the frogs produce has been measured at 90 to 100 decibels. Aki and his coworkers hope to reduce the coquí frogs population densities to reasonable levels. They plan to use caffeine and pyrethrum a pesticide derived from chrysanthemums or perhaps another pesticide. They also hope to do enough physiological and biochemical work to earn somebody a masters degree. 27 Herbal remedy relieves hay fever An herbal extract has been shown in a clinical study to be as effective at treating hay fever as the antihistamine fexofenadine (Allegra or Telfast). The finding could boost the fledgling phytopharmaceutical industry which scrutinizes natural remedies for efficacy and safety and hopes to develop them at lower cost than traditional pharmaceuticals. In the study led by Andreas Schapowal at the Allergy Clinic in Landquart Switzerland patients took a placebo Telfast or Tesalin a prescription drug prepared from an extract of the butterbur plant. Butterbur roots have been used in herbal remedies for centuries. The most prevalent compound petasine and its isomers are thought to inhibit synthesis of leukotrienes which along with histamine and other compounds are synthesized as part of the immune response to an allergen. petasine 28 Sunless tanning with forskolin Using a mouse model of redheads David E. Fisher of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute Boston and his coworkers have shown that the natural skin-tanning pathway can be jump-started by topical application of the plant-derived natural product forskolin shown. Tanning is a protective response of the skin to ultraviolet radiation and the pigment pathway resulting in a tan is often defective in people with fair hair and skin such as redheads. The researchers found that mice genetically engineered to lack the melanocortin 1 receptor which is normally located on the surface of pigment cells produced no pigment in response to UV light. But the mice progressively became so dark in response to forskolin that they looked like naturally dark mice. The pigment produced in this manner acts just like naturally produced pigment collecting in umbrella-like arcs over the nuclei of skin cells known askeratinocytes. The forskolin-treated mice werethus protected against potential skin damage orcancer that can be caused by UV exposure.Studies are currently under way to identifydrugs that may have similar activity inhuman skin Fisher says. 29 A test for red pepper People eat red pepper exclusively for the sensory pain it arouses according to Marianne Gillette and Silvia King. The two are sensory specialists at McCormick Co. the big spice company in Baltimore MD. Naturally the authors say people have differing appetites for painsome like it hot so to speak others not so much. But whatever the desired level of heat they note it must be measured and controlled in order to deliver the appropriate sensory dose. To do so spice people now can rely on ASTM E 1083 Test Method of Materials and Products. Both Gillette and King are members of the committee. The new method say the McCormick duo correlates very well with instrumental analyses of the level of capsaicinoids the hot chemicals in red pepper a fruit of the genus Capsicum. The instrumental method using high-pressure liquid chromatography is Method 21.1 of the American Spice Trade Association.
capsaicin 30 Molecule selectively kills cancer cells Apoptosis or programmed cell death is an attractive target for cancer therapeutics. However most apoptosis-inducing small molecules dont distinguish between cancerous and normal cells. Paul J. Hergenrother an assistant professor at the University of Illinois has identified an amide that selectively induces apoptosis in cancer cells. Compounds in a library based on a natural product from a kind of mint plant were screened for their ability to cause death in two different cancer cell lines. Molecules that showed cytotoxicity were evaluated to determine if the cells died via apoptosis which can be determined by measuring the activity of caspase-3 a protease known to be involved in apoptosis. The selectivity of molecules for cancerous cells was determined by comparing apoptosis in lymphoma cells versus noncancerous splenocytes. Hergenrothers team is working to determine the biological pathway responsible for the selectivity. 31 Beetle-eating frogs may pose dietary hazard Biologist Thomas Eisner of Cornell University and a group of scientists from Cornell the University of Michigan and the University of Missouri warn us of a hazard of eating frog legs. The hazard is not genericthe frogs have to have been eating meloid beetles not long before their legs are served. Eisner and his colleagues were drawn to the topic by reports in the medical literature of 1861 and 1893. The first was by a French physician M. Vezien who observed French Legionnaires in a North African field hospital suffering from priapism. On being questioned the soldiers admitted having eaten the legs of nonregulation frogs captured locally. Vezien found a site nearby that was stiff with frogs that proved when dissected to be full of meloid beetles. He connected the priapism with the beetles and rushed into print. A second military doctor in North Africa J. Meynier reported a similar case 32 years later. The Eisner group followed up these findings. They knew that meloid beetles are the source of Spanish fly whose active ingredient is cantharidin. The compound is a cellular poison Eisner says taken internally it can have drastic irreversible effects on the urogenital system. The lethal dose to humans is somewhere between 10 and 100 mg and one meloid beetle can contain several milligrams.
32 The beetles are found in this country and many other parts of the world. The cantharidin they produce evidently protects them and their eggs against predators like ants and carabid beetles but not against frogs. The authors fed leopard frogs meloid beetles collected from tomato plants. Frogs that ate 13 to 95 beetles over spans of three to 12 days showed cantharidin levels of 0.03 to 0.05 mg per g of thigh muscle. A half pound to a pound of frog legs at that loading could be fatal and sublethal amounts can do serious damage. The group doesnt generalize on the hazard having no notion of how many meloid beetles are eaten and where by frogs eaten by humans worldwide. But it seems clear they say that field-collected frogs from regions teeming with beetles are best not wolfed soon after capture. 33 A turn of the century remedy for hiccoughs A cure for hiccoughs reported here prompted Helen Stanbro to send in a copy of a page from a book that my grandmother used to raise her family at the beginning of the century The Household Physician (Woodruff Publishing Co. Boston 1905). Stanbro who hails from Los Alamos NM says It amazes me that anyone survived. The page in question gives the authors cure for hiccoughs described as a sudden jerking spasm of the midriff occurring every few moments in bad cases causing the air to be driven out of the lungs with such suddenness as to produce a noise like the involuntary yelp of a puppy. The authors recommend several cures but the one that caught Stanbros attention was cocaine one-eighth grain every fifteen minutes is a very simple remedy. (A grain for those not in touch is .002285 oz or 0.0648 gram.) When the hiccoughs were severe Stanbro notesfor example in the last stages of yellow feverthe authors recommended adding brandy and strychnine to the cocaine. The patient she says in so many words probably didnt care whether the cure worked. 34 Cocaine free base oily liquid insoluble in H2O 35 Caution urged with urine tests as screen for drugs James Abelson of the University of Michigan has written a cautionary letter on screening people for drugs by urine analysis. He reports the case of a 26-year-old woman who responded to an advertisement for normal subjects for a research project to be conducted by him and his colleagues. The woman went through the physical examination with flying colors until a urine test for illicit drugs came out positive for opiates. Gas chromatography-mass spectroscopy showed morphine and codeine. The woman convincingly denied any known use of opiates so they reviewed her recent oral intake. The problem it developed was a lemon poppy seed muffin the woman had eaten five hours before the urine test. A test run six days after she ate the muffin was negative for opiates. She then ate a second muffin and five hours later her urine again tested positive for opiates. With this she was cleared of hanky-panky and accepted the research project. The Michigan scientists learned from a literature search that the ability of poppy seeds to produce positive urine tests for morphine and codeine is will established. A survey of colleagues in the departments of psychiatry and internal medicine showed that only a few knew of the poppy seed problem. The director of the drug analysis lab was aware of it but doubted that one muffin could do the job. 36 Chocolate cures cough A new study brings more good news for chocolate fans. Theobromine cocoa-derived compound shows promise as a suppressant for persistent coughs. Volunteers participating in a study at Imperial College London were given tablets containing theobromine codeine or a placebo. They were then asked to inhale a gas containing capsaicin in order to induce coughing. Those who were given enough theobromine to equal two cups of cocoa needed about a third more capsaicin to induce coughing that those given codeine. Theobromine unlike codeine which can cause drowsiness and constipation seems to be free of side effects. Theobromine (from theobroma cacao) 37 Swine-farm odor under attack Simon Davies an agricultural engineer at Michigan State University is systematically identifying each odorous compound in swine manure. The work is one step in an attack on swine-farm odor which is caused by a mixture of perhaps 10 to 20 fragrant compounds Major groups of odorous compounds Davies says include sulfur compounds phenols indoles alcohols and fatty acids. Some are formed inside the hog and excreted in the manure others are formed by microbes as they decompose manure. Some odorous compounds such as skatole and indole are attacked by oxidizing agents such as ozone others including fatty acids are not. Davies and his colleagues plan to associate specific odors with specific compounds. They will use gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) and GC/olfactometry. Gases from the GC column will be collected and sniffed if they have a perceptible odor the guilty compounds will be identified by MS. The results will comprise the groundwork needed to find ways to destroy swine-farm odors. 38 Better chemistry for the armpits The active ingredients in most antiperspirants today are aluminum salts that act by forming a plug that blocks the flow of sweat from the sweat duct to the skin. Quaternary ammonium anticholinergics on the other hand block the activation of sweat glands by binding to receptors that trigger sweat formation. These compounds were introduced in the 1960s as drugs to treat peptic ulcers. The compounds use in treating hyperhidrosisexcessive sweatinghas been well known but their safe application to ordinary sweating and higher efficacy compared to aluminum salts has just recently been shown in a clinical trial with glycopyrrolate (below). The compounds do not leave residues on the skin or clothing. The current market for antiperspirants worldwide is about 4 billion. 39 Berberine cuts cholesterol Berberine is a plant alkaloid with manifold biological effects. Now it has been shown to be a cholesterol-lowering agent in humans that acts via a mechanism different from that of statins. According to Jian-Dong Jiang of the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences berberine increases the activity of extracellular-regulated protein kinase (ERK) with the end result that more receptors of low-density lipoproteins (LDLs) are formed on the surface of liver cells. With more receptors removal of LDLs and the cholesterol the containthe bad cholesterolis enhanced. Statins also increase the number of LDL receptors but they do so through their effect on sterol regulatory element-binding proteins. Noting that ERK could be a new target for lowering cholesterol Jiang has applied for patent protection of this discovery. 40 Joe Betz of Wheaton MD saw in a local business newspaper a story about a new biotechnology product a right-handed sugar that is metabolized by humans to produce energy not fat. The inventing company the story said is still working on a left-handed sugar (so named because it worked on the left side of the brain which did not recognize it as sugar and thus did not metabolize it in the body). 41 Sweetness in fine detail The subunits of the sweet taste receptorT1R2 and T1R3have distinct affinities for different saccharides according to a new study. Although it has been known that the nonsaccharide sweetener aspartame binds only to T1R2 and cyclamate only to T1R3 which subunit interacts with saccharides was not known until now. The study by Graeme Conn University of Manchester and Steven Munger University of Maryland indicates that both T1R2 and T1R3 bind saccharides with different affinities. They show that sucrose and the low-calorie sweetener sucralose interact with both subunits. Furthermore sucralose binds with either subunit with greater affinity than does sucrose. sucrose sucralose 42 Taste receptor responds to only one class of bitter molecules At least 24 human taste receptors are believed to mediate the perception of bitterness. Researchers at the German Institute of Human Nutrition show that one of these receptors known as TAS2R16 recognizes only one class of bitter compounds. When expressed in cell cultures and presented with compounds that are closely related structurally TAS2R16 responds specifically to b-glucopyranosides such as salicin a bitter compound from willow bark that has long been known as an analgesic. A b-glycosidic bond between glucose and a large hydrophobic group such as phenyl benzyl or naphthyl appears to be required for receptor binding. Thus TAS2R16 doesnt respond to phenyl-b-D-galactopyranoside phenyl-a-D-glucopyranoside or methyl-b-D-glucopyr anoside. The finding opens opportunities to modify human perception of bitter tasting compounds. 43 Deodorizing gum A new chewing gum from Japan can freshen your body as it freshens your breath according to a post on www.dailycandy.com. Pop a stick of the gum into your mouth and in about an hour your body should start emitting a fragrant aroma. The scents due to aroma chemicals such as geraniol and linalool are released from the skin after being consumed with the gum. Fuwarinka gum is available through www.compactimpact.com and comes in three flavors fresh citrus fruity rose and rose menthol. 44 Caterpillar makes its own bug repellant Look closely at that caterpillar chomping on your cabbage plants. The drops of oily fluid on the tips of the hairs running down its body contain a family of compounds that repel ants and perhaps other insects as well. That homegrown insect repellant may help explain how the European cabbage butterfly has spread so widely throughout North America Australia and elsewhere. Chemist Jerrold Meinwald and chemical ecologist Thomas Eisner of Cornell University and their coworkers observed ants that contact the caterpillars back away and clean themselves. The researchers found that the fluid consists largely of a series of unsaturated lipids derived from 11-hydroxylinolenic acid which they call mayolenes. The mixture is dominated by compounds containing hexadecanoyl and octadecanoyl groups. 45 Contributed anonymously is the following packing tip from the March American Way American Airlines in-flight magazine Medication glasses contacts I make sure they are packed and one other salt. Remember high school science Salt is a protein and proteins get out proteins. So that coffee blood or ink stain that happened right before a big meeting is easily removed with a touch of water and salt. 46 Cat food chemistry Jan N. Zonjee of Zaandam the Nederlands writes that he was puzzled recently by a mailing-list mention of taurine an amino acid that cats cannot synthesize for themselves. Zonjee sought further data on the Internet. He found a Web page that spoke of buying taurine supplements to be used in preparing cat food at home. It explained in part that most taurine supplements are labeled L-taurine. However there is no difference between taurine and L-taurine. The L of L-taurine stands for levo which means that the groups at the lowest numbered asymmetric carbon atom are placed at the lefta description of the configuration of the molecular structure of taurine. In other words All taurine is L-taurinethe L is simply bonus information. Says Zonjee Bonus information Bogus information surely. Taurine he says is aminoethanesulfonic acid and has no chance of being chiral. 47 Asparagus revelation 200 years ago Asparagus white or green boiled or steamed is a tasty and nutritionally valuable vegetable. It has few calories no fat and is a good source of folic acid a vitamin of the B complex that is needed for nucleic acid synthesis. Lack of the vitamin causes anemia. The vegetable has also proven its value in another way - in the history of science. Two hundred years ago French pharmacists Louis Nicolas Vauquelin (1763-1829) and Pierre-Jean Robiquet (1780-1840) reported the crystallization of the nonessential amino acid asparagine from asparagus juice (Ann. Chim. 1806 57 88). It was the first amino acid to be discovered in plants. 48 FDA approves new sweetener Nutrasweet Co. has received FDA approval for neotame a new nonnutritive sweetener that is structurally similar to the firms Nutrasweet aspartame product. Neotame is about 10000 times sweeter than sugar and approximately 20 to 30 times sweeter than aspartame. Neotame is a white water-soluble crystalline powder that is heat stable and can be used as a table-top sweetener or in cooking. FDA says the product has negligible if any calories. In determining that neotame is safe the agency reviewed more than 100 animal and human studies including some that checked for cancer-causing reproductive and neurological effects. 49 Peptide puts female rats in the mood Researchers first noticed that PT-141 a cyclic heptapeptide that mimics the action of a-melanocyte-stimulating hormone (a-MSH) causes erections in men. But James G. Pfaus of Concordia University wondered whether the neuropeptide also affects females. He and his team observed that female rats on PT-141 initiate sex more by hopping darting and enticing males to chase them. This is the first time that a melanocortin receptor has been linked to sexual desire Pfaus says. Unlike other erectile enhancers such as Viagra which relaxes vascular smooth-muscle cells and increases blood flow to the penis PT-141 targets receptors in the brain. The finding could lead to a new drug for women who currently have no pill for sexual disorders.
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