Results promising for computational quantum chemical methods for drug development

Dec 20, 2007

New research, led by a Virginia Tech chemist, may someday help natural-products chemists decrease by years the amount of time it takes for the development of certain types of medicinal drugs. The research by T. Daniel Crawford, associate professor of chemistry, involves computations of optical rotation angles on chiral—non-superimposable—molecules. The research titled, The Current State of ‘Ab Initio’ Calculations of Optical Rotation and Electronic Circular Dichcoism Spectra, appeared recently as the cover article in The Journal of Physical Chemistry A.

Many chiral molecules are important for medical treatment for illnesses ranging from acid-reflux to cancer. The term “chiral” means that two mirror images of a molecule cannot be superimposed onto each other. In other words, some are “left-handed” and some are “right-handed.”

“Most drugs have this handedness property,” Crawford said, “and for many of these drugs, even though both hands can cause a reaction, it is a situation where one hand does a good thing and one does a bad thing.” He used thalidomide as an example. A mixture of both hands of the drug was used in the late 1950s and early 1960s to treat morning sickness in pregnant women. Later studies revealed that, while one of the two hands acted as the desired sedative, the other hand was found to cause significant birth defects. Thalidomide was never approved by the FDA in the United States and was eventually taken off the market in Europe.

For chemists, therefore, it is often vital to determine which hand of a molecule they are using. In other words, when you have a sample of a chiral molecule, how do you distinguish between the left and right hand"

This is where a technique called polarimetry comes in to play. By shooting plane-polarized light through a sample of one hand, the chiral molecule in question will rotate to a characteristic angle either clockwise or counterclockwise, and the two hands of a chiral molecule produce opposite rotations.

“So if we figure out the direction and rotation of the light or each hand, we have a frame of reference for determining whether we have the left or right hand of a molecule,” Crawford said.

The problem with this method is that synthesizing the two hands of chiral molecules is often extremely time consuming. “It can take anywhere from weeks to years,” Crawford said.

Crawford’s research applies the theory of quantum mechanics to devise computational methods in order to eliminate having to create a synthetic molecule. “The hope is that this will allow us to calculate things like optical rotation very accurately,” he said. “So when an organic chemist has a molecule and doesn’t know if it is left- or right-handed, we can calculate that directly on the computer.”

Crawford said the ultimate goal in his research is to be able to provide organic chemists with computational tools to determine the handedness of a particular molecule they are working with. He said that such tools could speed up the drug development process by years.

Source: Virginia Tech

Explore further: Space-tested fluid flow concept advances infectious disease diagnoses

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Proposed Mars 'Icebreaker' mission detailed

9 hours ago

Scientists supported by the Astrobiology Technology for Exploring Planets (ASTEP) and Astrobiology Instrument Development Programs (ASTID) have outlined the proposed 'Icebreaker' mission to Mars in a recent ...

Thinnest feasible nano-membrane produced

Apr 17, 2014

A new nano-membrane made out of the 'super material' graphene is extremely light and breathable. Not only can this open the door to a new generation of functional waterproof clothing, but also to ultra-rapid filtration. The ...

New study outlines 'water world' theory of life's origins

Apr 16, 2014

(Phys.org) —Life took root more than four billion years ago on our nascent Earth, a wetter and harsher place than now, bathed in sizzling ultraviolet rays. What started out as simple cells ultimately transformed ...

Recommended for you

User comments : 0

More news stories

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...