Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Taming the molecule’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

Many organic molecules are non-superimposable with their mirror image. The two forms of such a molecule are called enantiomers and can have different properties in biological systems.

The problem is to control which enantiomer you want to produce – a problem that has proved to be important in the pharmaceutical industry. Researchers at the University of Gothenburg have now come up with a new method to control the process.

“Organic chemists think that it’s impossible to create only one of the enantiomers without introducing some kind of optical activity into the reaction, but I’ve succeeded,” says Theonitsa Kokoli at the University of Gothenburg’s Department of Chemistry. “My method will allow the industry to produce the version they want without the use of a catalyst.”

The phenomenon of non-superimposable mirror-image molecular structures is known as chirality. The two enantiomers can be compared to a pair of hands; they are non-superimposable mirror images of each other. A consequence of the different properties in biological systems is that a molecule can behave either as Dr Jekyll or Mr Hyde. The different characteristics in the enantiomers can be harmless, like in the limonene molecule. One enantiomer smells like orange and the other like lemon.

Thalidomide is a good example of how different forms of the same molecule can have disastrous consequences. One of the enantiomers was calming and eased nausea in pregnant women, while the other caused serious damage to the foetus. The thalidomide catastrophe is one of the reasons that a lot of research is devoted to chirality, as it is absolutely vital to be able to control which form of the molecule that is produced. Research on chirality has resulted in several Nobel Prizes over the years.

In biomolecules like DNA and proteins only one of the enantiomers exists in nature. In contrast to biomolecules, the same does not apply when chiral compounds are created synthetically in the lab. Generally an equal amount of both enantiomers is produced. One way of creating an excess of one enantiomer is to use a chiral catalyst, but this only transfers the properties that are already present in the catalyst.

“I’ve been working with absolute asymmetric synthesis instead, where optical activity is created,” says Kokoli. “This is considered impossible by many organic chemists. I’ve used crystals in my reactions, where the two forms have crystallised as separate crystals, which in itself is fairly unusual. The product that was formed after the reactions comprised just one enantiomer.”

While the results of Kokoli’s research are particularly significant for the pharmaceuticals industry, they can also be used in the production of flavourings and aromas.

The thesis has been successfully defended on May 6, 2011

Helena Aaberg | idw
Further information:

Further reports about: Hyde Jekyll Kokoli Nobel Prize Taming biological system molecular structure

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Novel mechanisms of action discovered for the skin cancer medication Imiquimod
21.10.2016 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Second research flight into zero gravity
21.10.2016 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>