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Researchers at Hebrew U and Weizmann Institute develop method to make safer drugs

By Jesse Schwartz
Published: May 16th, 2018

Researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Weizmann Institute of Science have developed a technology that could create drugs with fewer unwanted side effects.

Certain drugs contain what are known as “chiral” molecules, which look almost exactly alike but are actually mirrored, meaning some are “left handed” and others are “right handed.” The difference is slight but crucial and yields different biological effects.

For instance, the drug thalidomide, administered to pregnant women in the 1950s and 60s to ease morning sickness, contained a “right” chiral molecule that provided nausea relief, while its “left” molecule caused terrible deformities in babies. The drug company producing thalidomide didn’t know to separate these molecules, and it had disastrous results for the children of women who took the medication.

Yossi Paltiel of Hebrew University and Ron Naaman of the Weizmann Institute have developed a uniform method for drug companies and chemical manufacturers to easily and cheaply separate chiral molecules. Their technology involves using magnets that force the molecules to line up according to their handedness, allowing manufacturers to keep the good molecules and discard the unwanted ones.

Currently, only 13% of chiral drugs are separated, despite the FDA’s insistence that all drugs be separated. “Our finding has great practical importance,” says Naaman. “It will usher in an era of better, safer drugs.”

The technology also has applications in medical and agricultural products such as dietary supplements, food ingredients and pesticides.

“We are now transforming our science into practice with the help of Weizmann’s and the Hebrew University’s technology transfer companies,” says Paltiel. “Placing better medical and environmental products on the market is a win-win for industry and for patients.”

Source: ScienceDaily

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