Researchers at the University of Warwick, in the UK, have succeeded in adopting the helical structure of a corkscrew to create a new synthetic class of molecules which may results in new treatments for diseases such as E. coli and MRSA infections. The results of this work, entitled “Optically pure, water-stable metallo-helical ‘flexicate’ assemblies with antibiotic activity” have just published in the latest issue of the journal Nature Chemistry.
While scientists have previously been able to create helical molecular structures, they have had limited success in using them to treat disease because they cannot be optimized for specific applications, are insoluble, or are too difficult to synthesize. The new structures, called flexicates, overcome these limitations by taking advantage of chirality or ‘handedness’, a powerful structural property which allows for a more targeted approach to attacking pathogens.
According to Prof. Peter Scott of the University of Warwick’s chemistry department and one of the lead authors on the paper:
“These new molecules are synthetically flexible, which means that with a bit of tweaking they can be put to use against a whole host of different diseases, not just bugs like MRSA which are rapidly developing resistance to traditional antibiotics.”
On a side note, chirality or ‘handedness’ in chemistry turns out to be quite an interesting and substantial field of study. It is the focus of at least one peer reviewed journal and one Nobel Prize winning body of work. To get your head around the concept checkout the Chirality Game.
Abstract in Nature Chemistry: Optically pure, water-stable metallo-helical ‘flexicate’ assemblies with antibiotic activity