Posted on May 14, 2018, 1 p.m.
Breakthrough technology has been developed by researchers at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem with the possibility to create better medicines with fewer unwanted side effects, as published in Science.
Chemical compounds are made up of many molecules, one of the most important being chiral molecules, which look alike and contain the same number of atoms that are mirror images of another; meaning some chiral molecules are right handed and other are left handed, different handedness is important and yields different biological effects.
It was made more than painfully clear in the 1950’s of the importance of gaining better understanding of the differences between chiral molecules with the release and consequences of the drug thalidomide marketed to pregnant women for morning sickness, which resulted in horrible deformities in babies; due to thalidomide being a right chiral molecule with the left having disastrous results and the drug company did not separate left from right before marketing.
Separation of chiral molecules has become a crucial step in drug safety, which is an expensive process that requires a tailor made approach for each type of molecule, the past shows this must be done, yet it isn’t fully being done. Following a decade of collaborative research the team of Naaman and Paltiel have discovered a generic uniform method that will enable chemical and pharmaceutical manufacturers to cost effectively separate left from right chiral molecules. The method that they developed relies on the use of magnets, with chiral molecules lining up according to their direction of interaction with magnetic substrates. Left chiral molecules interact better to one pole of the magnet, while rights will interact better with the other, allowing manufacturers to keep good molecules and discard bad ones relevant to the drug being made, and usher in better, safer drugs.
Many generic medications are not separated, drugs such as Ritalin and Cipramil which are popular are sold in chirally pure forms. Only 13% of chiral drugs are currently separated despite FDA recommendations that all chiral drugs be separated. To further this in the field of argochemicals chirally pure fertilizers and pesticides will require smaller doses and cause less environmental contamination than the unseparated counterparts.
The new method was designed with statistics such as these in mind. The end result is a simple cost effective chiral separation technique with a far greater ability to produce better medical and agricultural products such as food ingredients, dietary supplements, medicines, pesticides, and fertilizers. The science is now being transformed into real life practice, placing better environmental and medical products onto the global market is a win win situation for patients, industry, and environment alike.
Materials provided by The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
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Koyel Banerjee-Ghosh, Oren Ben Dor, Francesco Tassinari, Eyal Capua, Shira Yochelis, Amir Capua, See-Hun Yang, Stuart S. P. Parkin, Soumyajit Sarkar, Leeor Kronik, Lech Tomasz Baczewski, Ron Naaman, Yossi Paltiel. Separation of enantiomers by their enantiospecific interaction with achiral magnetic substrates. Science, 2018; eaar4265 DOI: 10.1126/science.aar4265