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10 Tips for Ethical Authorship

Navigating the seas of scientific publication isn’t always easy. Publishing your research in a peer-reviewed journal is a challenge in and of itself, but it is also vital that researchers publish their science in an ethical manner. Observance of high ethical standards is vital to the scientific community at large and can help maximize benefits to society and your fellow researchers. To help authors ensure their research is published responsibly, we have compiled a list of tips to provide guidance in this area. Some of this may seem like common sense to most researchers, but it’s important that these standards are made clear to all.

  1. Be Accurate and Truthful: An author’s central objective is to avoid deception and present an accurate and complete account of the research performed. Make sure your research report and collected data are as detailed as possible to aid in reproducibility.
  2. Share Your Data with Other Authors: Make any reasonable effort to provide data, methods, and samples of unusual materials unavailable to other authors. Submit your data to a public database, such as the PubChem Project or CAS databases, whenever possible. If you’re submitting to an ACS Journal, any supporting information supplied with the manuscript will automatically be deposited to FigShare and assigned a DOI—no extra work required.
  3. Cite All Sources: Give credit when credit’s due; be sure to cite everything that is not common knowledge. Citations are important to disclose publications that have been influential to the reported science and help readers find previous work that is essential for understanding the present work. Only cite sources that are directly referenced in the research you are conducting, and be sure to cite non-authors for critical contributions to your work.
  4. Report All Safety Concerns: Identify any unusual hazards inherent in the chemicals, equipment, or procedures used in an investigation. It is vital that potential risks to public health and safety, crops and other plants, animals, the environment, or material are reported when publishing research.
  5. Avoid Fragmentation: Keep it simple. Provide a well-rounded account of your study in one paper—not several. If you have done extensive work on a particular subject or several related subjects, make sure each report you submit for publication gives a comprehensive account of a particular aspect of your research. This saves journal space and helps others find your publications more readily.
  6. Don’t Double-Dip Submissions: Don’t submit manuscripts describing the same research study to more than one journal at a time. However, it is permissible for you to submit a manuscript for a full paper that expands on a previously published “letter” or other brief accounts. Just make sure you communicate this to journal editors when submitting!
  7. Constructive Criticism Only: An experimental or theoretical study may sometimes justify criticism, but keep it professional and don’t let it get personal.
  8. Disclose Authorship and Potential Conflicts: It is the responsibility of the submitting author to report authorship and contributions fairly. Co-authors should be all those who have made significant contributions to the reported work and share accountability for the results. Other contributors to the work should be indicated in an “Acknowledgements” section. It is also vital that the corresponding author discloses any potential conflicts, financial or otherwise, to the editor and also with the readers.
  9. Do NOT Plagiarize: This is not acceptable, not ever, self-plagiarism included. ACS journals adhere to the National Science Foundation’s definition of plagiarism as “the appropriation of another person’s ideas, processes, results, or words without giving appropriate credit.” So just don’t do it! Check out this guide to citing references here.
  10. Provide Accurate Visuals: Images should be free from misleading manipulation. Check out this handy guide for TOC/abstract graphics here.

Learn more about ACS Publications’ Ethical Guidelines and download our infographic to hang in your lab.

Discussing the Future of Drinking Water with Dr. David Sedlak

Next month, Dr. David Sedlak will try to enter the record books by making an official attempt at the GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS™ title for the Largest chemistry lesson during the 254th ACS National Meeting & Exposition. The Editor-in-Chief of Environmental Science & Technology and Environmental Science & Technology Letters will deliver his record-breaking lecture, “Healthy, Tasty, or Toxic: A Chemist’s View of Drinking Water” at 10 a.m. on August 21 in Ballroom A/B of the Washington Convention Center. Register your interest in the meeting now and learn about the unique t-shirt you’ll get for attending.

Find out about Dr. Sedlak’s research and his lecture:

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What can attendees expect to learn during your special lecture at the ACS National Meeting?

Dr. David Sedlak: Drinking water is so familiar that we take it for granted. Given the many threats to the systems that provide us with inexpensive, safe and palatable drinking water it is important for scientists and citizens to understand the chemistry of drinking water. In this lecture, I will provide an overview of some of the key issues that society will face in the coming decades as we seek to assure that our drinking water will remain healthy, tasty and free of toxic contaminants.

What do you wish more people understood about the chemistry of drinking water?

Dr. David Sedlak: Any source of water on earth can be made safe to drink. It’s just a matter of applying simple chemical principles and a little ingenuity to remove the impurities that the water contains.

How did you become interested in drinking water as an area of study?

Dr. David Sedlak: As a teenager, I became concerned about the way that the careless use of chemicals was affecting people and wildlife. This influenced my decision to study science in college. As an undergraduate, I studied many subjects but chemistry seemed like the discipline that was most relevant to solving these problems. As a result, I chose to study water chemistry in graduate school. As a graduate student and postdoc, I had many interests related to environmental chemistry, but it wasn’t until I moved to Berkeley that I became interested in drinking water. Living in a state where water has always been a limited resource I became intrigued by the myriad of ways that we can acquire and treat drinking water.

What can chemists do to increase awareness and improve the level of discourse around important topics like drinking water safety? 

Dr. David Sedlak: Chemists have an important role to play in drinking water. In addition to training the next generation of drinking water chemists and supporting the engineers who will invent new water treatment technologies, chemists play an important role in preventing pollutants from reaching our water supplies. We need to redouble our efforts to use chemicals responsibly and to develop chemicals that are less toxic or that will degrade before they reach our water supplies.

What public speaking advice would you give to younger scientists addressing a crowd for the first time? What makes a scientific talk great?

Dr. David Sedlak: It doesn’t matter how many talks you give, we all get butterflies in our stomachs during the first few minutes of a talk. Just remember that the audience didn’t come to see you fail.  They want to hear what you have to say and they want to enjoy your talk. Help them out by channeling your passion about the research into the talk. After your passion takes over the butterflies in your stomach will fly away and you’ll be ready to succeed.

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Register your interest in helping to break the GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS title for the Largest chemistry lesson event now! Space is limited!

Nano Letters’ A. Paul Alivisatos Named Provost of UC Berkeley

Nano Letters‘ Founding Editor-in-Chief A. Paul Alivisatos can now add a new line to his CV: executive vice chancellor and provost of UC Berkeley. His new role is the university’s second highest position, combining day-to-day operational responsibilities with the duty of representing the school’s faculty and developing its academic programs.

Prior to accepting this new postion, Alivisatos served as the university’s vice chancellor for research. Before that, he led the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory for seven years. He is currently the Samsung Distinguished Professor of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology in the departments of chemistry and materials science, as well as the founding director of the Kavli Energy Nanoscience Institute, and a senior faculty scientist at Berkeley Lab. Alivisatos received his Ph.D. from the univesity in 1986 and has been a professor of chemistry there since 1988.

“I have been at Berkeley for about 30 years now, and I feel gratitude to Berkeley for everything it has given to me. I am excited about the opportunity to work closely with Carol as the new chancellor as she is defining a vision for the campus,” Alivisatos said in a release from the university. “For me, it is really about coming into a role where I can help guide the campus into an exciting period where the future of public higher education and research and discovery are promoted and enhanced. I am thrilled.”

Alivisatos has led Nano Letters since the journal’s launch in 2001. His research focuses on structural and chemical transformations of nanocrystals. Some of his major awards include the Dan David Prize, the Linus Pauling Medal, and the National Medal of Science. Outside of academia, he is a co-founder of the nanocrystal submicroscopic tracer company Quantum Dot Corp., which is now part of Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society.

Training of Bomb-Sniffing Dogs Could Improve with New Mass Spectrometry Tool

Law enforcement has long relied on canines to sniff out dangerous explosives, but large discrepancies exist between individual dogs’ performances that are at least partially attributable to training differences. Now, analytical chemistry may help give the dogs’ powerful sense of smell a keener edge. Researchers have developed a device that could improve dogs’ training by analyzing odors from explosives in real time.

Handlers typically present bomb-sniffing dogs with training materials containing 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene (TNT), triacetone triperoxide (TATP), and other explosives to teach them to recognize the vapor plumes the materials emit. The handlers then hide the materials and evaluate the dogs’ ability to find them. Problem is, handlers often use multiple training materials during a session, which can lead to cross-contamination of one material with another. Without a way to measure the molecular composition of the vapors coming off the materials, such contamination can go undetected, muddling the results of dogs’ performance evaluations.

To improve the validity of training materials and handlers’ accuracy in assessing canine performance, researchers led by Ta-Hsuan Ong of MIT Lincoln Laboratory developed a real-time mass spectrometer that measures nine compounds found in explosives at parts-per-quadrillion levels, comparable to or better than the detection limits of dogs. But “canines still have a lot of things they’re good at,” Ong says. For instance, they’re more mobile, able to search large or densely crowded areas.

Ong’s team used the device to test a set of training materials for cross-contamination. Four bomb-sniffing dogs completed a training exercise to find various hidden explosives. The researchers then analyzed training samples that the dogs had identified correctly—confirming the presence of explosives in those samples—and incorrectly. Some dogs had alerted their handler to explosives in so-called blanks, training materials that supposedly didn’t contain explosives. But analysis with the device revealed that six of the 68 blanks were contaminated with explosives. The findings suggest that handlers could use the device to determine whether an apparent canine error may have in fact resulted from contamination or other problems.

The device also gives information about how vapors come off of explosive materials, which affects how the dogs smell plumes in the air. To investigate this, the researchers placed a vial of TATP 30 cm away from the device and measured TATP levels over time. The sample produced a signal that spiked every few seconds, indicating filaments of the explosive wafting into the air and passing over the device. If dogs perceive short, periodic bursts of strong scent—rather than a constant, faint one, as some believe—that could mean that a dog struggling to detect an explosive might be having trouble because it may not have encountered a vapor filament yet. Handlers could consider this finding in evaluating a dog’s performance, Ong says.

David Atkinson, chief scientist for explosives detection research at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, notes that the researchers tested the device on only a few canines and on a narrow range of compounds. Also, the device can’t mimic head-tilting or other behaviors dogs engage in to help them detect odors. Still, it has a comparable level of sensitivity. “It’s a very good start,” Atkinson says. “We could put a number on a dog’s performance and make the training of these dogs a lot easier.” Ong says similar technology could also help better train dogs in narcotics detection or breath analysis for diagnosing disease.

This article is reproduced with permission from C&EN (© American Chemical Society). The article was first published on July 20, 2017.

Plants Inspire Exceptionally Strong and Elastic Graphene Aerogels

Ultralight and exceptionally strong, graphene aerogels are attractive materials for use as catalysts, electrodes, and flexible electronics. But so far it has been hard to make them both strong and elastic. Researchers have now overcome that hurdle by making a squishable graphene aerogel that mimics an aquatic plant’s highly ordered porous structure.

The new, conductive aerogel springs back to its original shape after being squeezed to half its size with more than 6,000 times its weight. The aerogel retains 85% of its original strength even after being squeezed more than 1,000 times. In comparison, aerogels with random pore structures that the researchers made and tested lost more than half of their strength after just 10 compression cycles. The combination of low density, strength, super elasticity, and conductivity are critical for applications in which the material undergoes large volume changes, such as an absorbent that soaks up chemicals or an electrode that takes up and releases ions.

Series of photographs of graphene aerogel, graphene aerogel under compression by 6,000 times its weight, and graphene aerogel after compression with no weight.
The graphene aerogel bounces back after being squished by more than 6,000 times its weight.
Credit: ACS Nano

Scientists have typically made graphene aerogels by chemically reducing graphene oxide flakes suspended in water and freeze-drying them. More recently, scientists used 3-D printing with graphene inks to make porous, compressible graphene aerogels.

But these methods typically result in aerogels with random pore structures, compromising their properties, says chemical engineer Hao Bai of Zhejiang University. They can be strong but not elastic, for example, or have good electrical conductivity at the expense of mechanical properties. To combine strength, elasticity, and conductivity requires carefully designed, ordered structures.

Bai and his colleagues took inspiration from Thalia dealbata, an aquatic plant with porous, slender stems that are strong and flexible, allowing the plant to withstand wild winds. The stems are built out of layers of 100- to 200-µm-diameter structural tubes, connected to each other by thinner 1-mm-long bridges that act like springs. The team thought the plant’s properties could be replicated in an aerogel with a similar structure.

The researchers made a cube of graphene aerogel, 10 mm on a side, using a specialized freezing technique for creating structured porous materials that Bai helped develop in 2015 while at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The method uses ice as a template to freeze a suspension of graphene oxide in a controlled way that results in parallel graphene oxide sheets in two directions—forming plates connected by bridges as in T. dealbata. Freeze-drying and warming the sample transformed the material into graphene, producing the aerogel.

To assess the material’s potential for use in sensors and electronics, the team tested its conductivity and how it varies with compression. When they connected the aerogel to a light-emitting diode in a circuit, they found that squeezing the aerogel increased conductivity as they expected, demonstrated by the LED glowing brighter. “The conductivity of the aerogel is high considering its low density,” Bai says. “With higher density, the aerogel should be more conductive.”

This is a clever, low-cost, and scalable freezing process to generate a new aerogel microstructure, says Peter Pauzauskie of the University of Washington. “This kind of detailed graphene microstructure would be very expensive and difficult to achieve” using other methods, including 3-D printing, he says.

Bai and his colleagues plan to try making aerogels out of other materials like cellulose and polymer-silica composites using their technique. With well-designed biomimetic structures, those materials could find many uses, such as in filtration, sensing, and liquid adsorption, Bai says.

CORRECTION: This story was updated on July 19, 2017, to correct the scale bar on the photographs of aerogel cubes being compressed by a weight.

This article is reproduced with permission from C&EN (© American Chemical Society). The article was first published on July 07, 2017.

What Chemists Do: Haynes & Boone LLP’s Paul Dietze

Paul Dietze is an intellectual property attorney at Haynes & Boone LLP. As an attorney, Paul uses his chemistry background and legal knowledge to help inventors with their patent-related questions and needs. Learn how a chemist can apply their scientific knowledge in a law firm environment from Paul’s interview.

Learn more about Paul Dietze’s work at Haynes & Boone LLP in this video:

The What Chemists Do video series highlights just how many different careers are possible with a background in chemistry. Watch more videos.

Welcome the Newest Associate Editors of ACS Publications Journals: Q2 2017

New associate editors bring more than just changes to a publication’s masthead. They bring new experiences, new perspectives and new ideas to their publications. Get to know some of ACS’ latest editors and learn what unique gifts they’ll be bringing to their respective journals.

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Yaakov ‘Kobi’ Benenson, ACS Synthetic Biology

What do you hope to bring to your journal?

I hope to maintain the reputation of ACS Synthetic Biology as the premier publication venue in this exciting field. On the personal level, I hope to bring my expertise in mammalian synthetic biology, biological computing, and molecular programming. I would love to see more translational synthetic biology research in the journal.

Describe your current research.

Our focus is in mammalian synthetic biology, ranging from proof-of-concept construction of information-processing circuits in mammalian cells to applying these tools for novel therapeutics and their evaluation in animal models.

What are the major challenges facing your field today?

Automated circuit design tools have been envisioned as a key enabling technology that would transform the field of synthetic biology into a bona fide engineering discipline. Despite tremendous progress in recent years, we are still far from addressing many conceivable circuits. In part, the lack of quantitative understanding of many basic biological processes is to blame. The field needs more quantitative experimental characterization and quantitative modeling and simulation tools that can lead to actionable predictions and used by non-experts on a daily basis. Going forward toward industrial and biomedical translation, the models would need to take into account not only a synthetic system itself but also a highly complex environment in which the system operates.
Photo Credit: ETH Zürich

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What do you hope to bring to your journal?

I want to bring my expertise in environmental redox chemistry and semiconductor photochemistry to meet the increasing needs for eco-friendly technologies for cleaner water and air.

Describe your current research.

My research interests are mainly focused on photochemistry for solar energy conversion and environmental applications (in particular, semiconductor photocatalysis) and advanced oxidation processes, which are intensively investigated for various environmental remediation purposes. The needs for controlling recalcitrant and emerging pollutants at much lower concentration level beyond what traditional remediation technologies can handle justify the development of more advanced remediation technologies. Another research interest is to study the environmental chemical reactions occurring in frozen solutions. I want to understand how the chemical reactions in frozen media (e.g., ice, snow, frozen soils) are different from aquatic chemical reactions.

What are the major challenges facing your field today?

Traditional remediation technologies are focused on the efficient removal of pollutants in environmental media. Now people are asking more. Wastes and wastewaters are being recognized as new resources. The recovery of valuable elements, substances, and energy from wastes and wastewaters and the remediation and treatment processes that do not depend on the massive consumption of fossil fuel energy are urgently needed for sustainable development.

Do you have a recent paper in an ACS journal that you’d like to highlight?

Production of Molecular Iodine and Tri-iodide in the Frozen Solution of Iodide: Implication for Polar Atmosphere
Environ. Sci. Technol., 2016, 50 (3), pp 1280–1287
DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.5b05148

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What do you hope to bring to your journal?

One of the key tasks for physical chemistry is to establish fundamental theories for understanding chemistry in general. As a theoretician focusing on complex chemical reactions, in particular those occurring in solid and on solid surfaces, I wish to promote research on improving the predictive power of modern computational methods for chemical reactions, and enhancing the collaboration between theory and experiment in the area of physical chemistry.

Describe your current research.

My research focuses on the reactivity prediction of chemical systems for energy storage and conversion. Novel theoretical methods, such as the stochastic surface walking global optimization method, are developing in the group to search for novel structures of material and to identify low energy pathways. Our aim is to resolve the mechanism and kinetics of reactions via massively parallel computation in an automated way.

What are the major challenges facing your field today?

Novel materials and new chemical reactions emerge everyday, but few of them are really predicted from theory. The speed and accuracy of computation are the major bottleneck for solving complex problems in chemistry. It is a major challenge to develop new theoretical methods to speed up the calculations of hundreds of atoms at a high level of accuracy for material and reaction prediction.

Do you have a recent paper in an ACS journal that you’d like to highlight?

Graphite to Diamond: Origin for Kinetics Selectivity
J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2017, 139 (7), pp 2545–2548
DOI: 10.1021/jacs.6b11193

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Kavirayani Prasad, Organic Letters

What do you hope to bring to your journal?

Organic Letters is the premium journal in organic chemistry. I strive to maintain the reputation and standard of the journal and wish to add to my expertise in total synthesis of natural products and developing synthetic methods

Describe your current research.

Our work is mainly focused on total synthesis of natural products of therapeutic significance and development of new synthetic strategies.

What are the major challenges facing your field today?

Inspite of an array of advances in various metal and non-metal mediated organic transformations, total synthesis of natural products and analogues of medicinal importance has remained a task far from perfection. Nature continues to challenge synthetic organic chemists with structural complexity and the proven importance of these compounds in drug discovery offers enormous avenues. I strongly believe that one of the major challenges is the necessity for a re-oriented approach towards the efficient synthesis of complex organic molecules. With the lessons learned from understanding the nature’s way of synthesis it is appropriate to reform the synthesis which will advance the drug discovery progression to a higher pedestal.

Do you have a recent paper in an ACS journal that you’d like to highlight?

Total Synthesis of the Bis-silyl Ether of (+)-15-epi-Aetheramide A.
Omkar Revu and Kavirayani R. Prasad*
J. Org. Chem., 2017, 82 (1), pp 438–460
DOI: 10.1021/acs.joc.6b02535

ACS Heads to Brazil for IUPAC 2017

ACS spent a successful week at the IUPAC-2017 conference in São Paulo, Brazil, from July 7-13. As platinum sponsors of the event, ACS Publications, CAS, and ACS Membership shared a large booth in the main exhibition hall. The booth generated a lot of traffic with its giveaways – including a USB key linking to the ACS Publications virtual issue. ACS Publications also hosted three events during the conference.

“The IUPAC conference was a wonderful opportunity to interact with our authors, readers, and reviewers in Brazil,” said Tamara Hanna, Assistant Director with ACS Publications. “It was amazing to experience the enthusiasm for chemistry, which was evident in the questions we received during the ACS on Campus event and during the Open Access panel. I am grateful for the occasion to have met so many members of the Brazilian chapter of the ACS, whose warmth and collegiality are second to none.”

Standing-Room-Only to Learn More About Publishing with ACS

On Monday, July 10, ACS on Campus hosted an outreach panel discussion, featuring 10 tips on how to get published with five ACS Editors. Panelists included:

The student turnout for this event was incredible, and they were all excited about the ACS On Campus notebook and pen set giveaways. They asked the panelists good questions, keeping the conversation engaging.

The event on Tuesday, July 11 featured a panel about publishing open access materials with ACS Publications. Panelists discussed how ACS supports open access, our open access journals, and using ACS AuthorChoice to publish in any ACS journal. Panelists included:

During the discussion, panelists and attendees had great dialogue, and attendees asked compelling questions. They talked about where open access is now and how it will evolve in the future.

Those in attendance were given ACS Publications flip-flops and other fun giveaways. Both events had awesome turnouts, each attracting more than 125 people, making them standing room only.

The last event, held Wednesday, July 12, featured ACS Omega Editor Krishna Ganesh, Associate Editor Dean Tantillo, and Associate Editor Frank Quina. They were stationed at the ACS booth in the exhibition hall for a reception with pastries and coffee where they answered questions about publishing in the journal.

ACS Omega is our newest open access journal, and it offers global researchers the opportunity to publish new multidisciplinary, peer-reviewed research.

Attendees received ACS Omega giveaways to commemorate the event.

Excitement About Connecting with ACS

“ACS was excited to be part of this important chemistry event in Brazil,” said ACS Publications Marketing Manager Brooke Howell. “We are looking forward to expanding our presence in and interacting with the Brazilian community.”

ACS would like to thank the three undergraduate students – Carolina Sotério, Maria Clara de Paula Souza, and João Emanuel Granato – from The University of São Paulo, São Carlos Campus. As the founding members of their university’s ACS student chapter, they were selected to attend and help out at the conference. They served as translators between ACS staff and conference attendees when needed, encouraged students at the conference to join their chapter, and shared their positive experiences working with ACS.

The ACS Brazil International Chapter, together with the ACS Membership Division, held an ACS Members dinner at a local restaurant in Sao Paulo with nearly 60 ACS members in attendance, according to Francisco Gomez, Director of Global Strategy & Marketing Development in the Membership Division. During the dinner, they had a chance to meet and network with each other, and discuss future opportunities to engage with ACS.

More ACS Events Coming Up in Brazil

If you couldn’t make it to this conference, don’t panic! ACS has two more upcoming events in Brazil.

ACS will make an appearance at the 18th International Conference on Biological Inorganic Chemistry, in Florianopólis, Brazil, from July 31-Aug. 4. Inorganic Chemistry will be the conference’s bag sponsor, and Editor-in-Chief William B. Tolman will be in attendance.

ACS will be at Brazilian Materials Research Society (Brazil MRS) from Sept. 10-14. While there, ACS will promote the following journals: ACS Applied Materials & InterfacesACS Central Science, ACS Energy Letters, ACS Omega, ACS Nano, Chemistry of Materials, Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS), Langmuir, and Nano Letters.

Be on the lookout for ACS’s Growing Globally Brazil page, as well as a portfolio-wide Virtual Issue, “Highlighting Outstanding Work from Authors in Brazil,” which features more than 100 articles from Brazilian researchers.

ACS Editors’ Choice: Building a Chemistry “Recommendation Engine” — and More!

This week: Building a chemistry “recommendation engine,” vacancy engineering in nanosheets, 3D printed smart devices– and more!

Each and every day, ACS grants free access to a new peer-reviewed research article from one of the Society’s journals. These articles are specially chosen by a team of scientific editors of ACS journals from around the world to highlight the transformative power of chemistry. Access to these articles will remain open to all as a public service.

Check out this week’s picks!
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Boosting Gas Involved Reactions at Nanochannel Reactor with Joint Gas–Solid–Liquid Interfaces and Controlled Wettability

J. Am. Chem. Soc., Article ASAP
DOI: 10.1021/jacs.7b05249
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Simple and Versatile Laboratory Scale CSTR for Multiphasic Continuous-Flow Chemistry and Long Residence Times

Org. Process Res. Dev., Article ASAP
DOI: 10.1021/acs.oprd.7b00173
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3D Printed “Earable” Smart Devices for Real-Time Detection of Core Body Temperature

ACS Sens., Article ASAP
DOI: 10.1021/acssensors.7b00247
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Preparation of Biodegradable Cationic Polycarbonates and Hydrogels through the Direct Polymerization of Quaternized Cyclic Carbonates

ACS Biomater. Sci. Eng., Article ASAP
DOI: 10.1021/acsbiomaterials.7b00335
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Photocatalytic E → Z Isomerization of Polarized Alkenes Inspired by the Visual Cycle: Mechanistic Dichotomy and Origin of Selectivity

J. Org. Chem., Article ASAP
DOI: 10.1021/acs.joc.7b01281
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Investigating the Role of Tunable Nitrogen Vacancies in Graphitic Carbon Nitride Nanosheets for Efficient Visible-Light-Driven H2 Evolution and CO2 Reduction

ACS Sustainable Chem. Eng., Article ASAP
DOI: 10.1021/acssuschemeng.7b01477
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The Fragment Network: A Chemistry Recommendation Engine Built Using a Graph Database

J. Med. Chem., Article ASAP
DOI: 10.1021/acs.jmedchem.7b00809
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Love ACS Editors’ Choice? Get a weekly e-mail of the latest ACS Editor’s Choice articles and never miss a breakthrough!

Silencing Mitochondrial Genes with a Designer Molecule

Mitochondria, the organelles which collectively serve as a cell’s powerhouse, are like miniature fortresses. Getting synthetic chemicals past this organelle’s formidable double membrane isn’t easy. As a result, scientists haven’t yet been able to develop any drug treatments that address the core problems underlying mitochondrial disorders, which can be deadly. Now, researchers have developed a peptide-like molecule that penetrates this membrane and targets the mitochondrial genome. The agent inhibited the expression of a gene associated with nerve and muscle diseases in cells.

Over the past couple of decades, scientists have developed chemicals that modify gene expression called pyrrole-imidazole polyamides (PIP), peptide-like polymers that consist of non-natural amino acids with pyrrole or imidazole rings. Using a simple recipe worked out decades ago, researchers can design the sequence of pyrrole and imidazole residues to target and bind to specific stretches of DNA, using them as a tool for silencing genes. When such agents target the promoter region of a gene, they block a transcription factor from binding there and starting the expression of that gene.

Scientists have been making progress toward polyamide-based therapeutics that work on the nuclear genome, but the mitochondrial genome has remained untapped. “Mitochondrial diseases have a high occurrence, and there haven’t been any drugs developed yet that target these diseases,” in part because of the difficulties associated with delivery, says Ganesh N. Pandian of Kyoto University’s Institute for Integrated Cell-Material Sciences. The breakthrough came when Pandian, Hiroshi Sugiyama, and their team found a study reporting on a peptide designed to pass through the mitochondrial membrane. The peptide combines lipophilic amino acids that assist with passage through the membrane barrier and positively charged amino acids that target the molecule to the interior of the mitochondria, which is negatively charged.

In a proof-of-principle experiment, the researchers linked the mitochondria-penetrating peptide to a PIP designed to bind to the promoter region of ND6, a gene associated with several mitochondrial disorders, such as a neurometabolic syndrome called Leigh’s disease and a degenerative eye disease called Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy. The researchers added the agent at a concentration of 10 µM to a human cell culture. After 24 hours, cells treated with the agent produced 90% less ND6 compared with untreated cells. Cells given PIP without the mitochondria-penetrating peptide had no change in ND6 levels. As a final analysis, the researchers tagged the mitochondria-targeted PIP with a fluorescent dye and imaged the live cells to verify that the agent indeed collected in the organelle and remained out of the nucleus.

“This paper brought a big smile to my face because it’s something I never thought of,” says Joel M. Gottesfeld of the Scripps Research Institute. “In fact, I’ve never heard of targeting mitochondrial transcription by any means.” Other methods of silencing genes such as using short interfering RNAs became more popular, putting PIPs “on the backburner,” Gottesfeld says. Mitochondria present a huge drug delivery challenge, he adds, and in those cases, smaller molecules like PIPs show a lot of potential.

This article is reproduced with permission from C&EN (© American Chemical Society). The article was first published on July 19, 2017.