Twisted Vibrations Enable Quality Control for Chiral Drugs and Supplements

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In the Lab eNewsletter, Pharmaceutical Technology's In the Lab eNewsletter, April 2022, Volume 17, Issue 4

Research from the University of Michigan showed that Terahertz light can be used to probe both the structures of molecular crystals and their twists.

Research from the University of Michigan has demonstrated that twirling infrared light can be used to probe the structures of molecular crystals. The finding, reported in a March 21, 2022 announcement issued by the university, addresses one of the difficulties associated with drug development, which is determining if drugs and supplements with chiral structures are turning in the correct direction.

Drugs containing molecules with the wrong twist can cause unpleasant or dangerous side effects. According to the university’s announcement, this method uses terahertz radiation, a portion of the infrared part of the spectrum, to quickly recognize wrong twists and wrong chemical structures in packaged drugs.

Researchers hope that the technique can also be used to find harmful accumulations of twisted molecules in the body. This could help diagnose bladder stones, insulin fibrils, and amyloid aggregations such as the plaques that appear in Alzheimer’s disease, according to the university’s announcement.


“We foresee new roads ahead—for instance, using terahertz waves with tailored polarization to manipulate large molecular assemblies,” said André Farias de Moura, professor of chemistry at the Federal University of São Carlos, in the announcement. “It might replace microwaves in many synthesis applications in which the handedness of the molecules matters.”

The technique was developed by an international team consisting of researchers from Federal University, the Brazilian Biorenewables National Laboratory, the University of Notre Dame, and Michigan State University.

Source: University of Michigan