Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Beer’s bitter compounds could help brew new medicines

Researchers employing a century-old observational technique have determined the precise configuration of humulones, substances derived from hops that give beer its distinctive flavor.

That might not sound like a big deal to the average brewmaster, but the findings overturn results reported in scientific literature in the last 40 years and could lead to new pharmaceuticals to treat diabetes, some types of cancer and other maladies.

The configuration of a humulone molecule is superimposed on a hops vine and a glass of beer.

“Now that we have the right results, what happens to the bitter hops in the beer-brewing process makes a lot more sense,” said Werner Kaminsky, a University of Washington research associate professor of chemistry.

Kaminsky is the lead author of a paper describing the findings, published this month in the journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition.

There is documentation that beer and its bittering acids, in moderation, have beneficial effects on diabetes, some forms of cancer, inflammation and perhaps even weight loss.

Kaminsky used a process called X-ray crystallography to figure out the exact structure of those acids, humulone molecules and some of their derivatives, produced from hops in the brewing process. That structure is important to researchers looking for ways to incorporate those substances, and their health effects, into new pharmaceuticals.

Humulone molecules are rearranged during the brewing process to contain a ring with five carbon atoms instead of six. At the end of the process two side groups are formed that can be configured in four different ways – both groups can be above the ring or below, or they can be on opposite sides.

Which of the forms the molecule takes determines its “handedness,” Kaminsky said, and that is important for understanding how a particular humulone will react with another substance. If they are paired correctly, they will fit together like a nut and bolt.

If paired incorrectly, they might not fit together at all or it could be like placing a right hand into a left-handed glove. That could produce disastrous results in pharmaceuticals.

Kaminsky cited thalidomide, which has a number of safe uses but was famously used to treat morning sickness in pregnant women in the late 1950s and early 1960s before it was discovered to cause birth defects. Molecule “handedness” in one form of the drug was responsible for the birth defects, while the orientation of molecules in another form did not appear to have the negative effects.

To determine the configuration of humulones formed in the brewing process, coauthors Jan Urban, Clinton Dahlberg and Brian Carroll of KinDex Therapeutics, a Seattle pharmaceutical firm that funded the research, recovered acids from the brewing process and purified them.

They converted the humulones to salt crystals and sent them to Kaminsky, who used X-ray crystallography – a technique developed in the early 20th century – to determine the exact configuration of the molecules.

“Now that we know which hand belongs to which molecule, we can determine which molecule goes to which bitterness taste in beer,” Kaminsky said.

The authors point out that while “excessive beer consumption cannot be recommended to propagate good health, isolated humulones and their derivatives can be prescribed with documented health benefits.”

Some of the compounds have been shown to affect specific illnesses, Kaminsky said, while some with a slight difference in the arrangement of carbon atoms have been ineffective.

The new research sets the stage for finding which of those humulones might be useful in new compounds to be used as medical treatments.

For more information, contact Kaminsky at 206-543-7585 or

Vince Stricherz | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Biologists unravel another mystery of what makes DNA go 'loopy'
16.03.2018 | Emory Health Sciences

nachricht Scientists map the portal to the cell's nucleus
16.03.2018 | Rockefeller University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

Im Focus: ILA 2018: Laser alternative to hexavalent chromium coating

At the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show from April 25–29, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is showcasing extreme high-speed Laser Material Deposition (EHLA): A video documents how for metal components that are highly loaded, EHLA has already proved itself as an alternative to hard chrome plating, which is now allowed only under special conditions.

When the EU restricted the use of hexavalent chromium compounds to special applications requiring authorization, the move prompted a rethink in the surface...

Im Focus: Radar for navigation support from autonomous flying drones

At the ILA Berlin, hall 4, booth 202, Fraunhofer FHR will present two radar sensors for navigation support of drones. The sensors are valuable components in the implementation of autonomous flying drones: they function as obstacle detectors to prevent collisions. Radar sensors also operate reliably in restricted visibility, e.g. in foggy or dusty conditions. Due to their ability to measure distances with high precision, the radar sensors can also be used as altimeters when other sources of information such as barometers or GPS are not available or cannot operate optimally.

Drones play an increasingly important role in the area of logistics and services. Well-known logistic companies place great hope in these compact, aerial...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

International Virtual Reality Conference “IEEE VR 2018” comes to Reutlingen, Germany

08.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Wandering greenhouse gas

16.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

'Frequency combs' ID chemicals within the mid-infrared spectral region

16.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Biologists unravel another mystery of what makes DNA go 'loopy'

16.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>