The committee of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry to the Americans Carolyn Bertozzi and Barry Sharpless and the Dane Morten Meldal, for “laying the foundations of what is known as “click chemistry” and taking it to a new level. dimension”, a fact that allowed applying this knowledge to living organisms.
”This year’s Chemistry Prize tries not to complicate things too much, but to work with what is easy and simple. Functional molecules can even be built by following a direct route,” said Johan Åqvist, chairman of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry.
The breakthrough for which this team was awarded focuses on two key concepts: click chemistry and bioorthogonality. “The term click, with which this type of chemical reaction is designated, comes from the image of two parts of the clasp of a garment that come together. One end -substance- is recognized with the other in a univocal way and they are immediately assembled creating a new molecule. These are chemical reactions that take place quickly and with a yield of almost 100 percent, a fact that avoids collateral actions that are often uncontrollable and undesirable”, explains, in dialogue with the CTyS-UNLaM Agency, Dr. Pedro Aramendía, researcher at the National Council for Scientific and Technical Research (CONICET) in Argentina.
For her part, the doctor in Chemical Sciences and specialist in organic synthesis, Julieta Comin, points out that this “click” concept is a reaction that has multiple applications. “For example -he details-, it can be used to synthesize drugs or to be able to conjugate antibodies with drugs in highly specific therapies. It is also applied to label biomolecules with fluorescent probes and thus be able to study biochemical processes. Today the reaction is even used in clinical trials on patients who have cancer.”
Comin emphasizes that, although Barry Sharpless was the one who developed the “click” chemistry nearly 20 years ago, Carolyn Bertozzi’s contribution was fundamental. “The new Nobel winner adapted the chemistry developed by Sharpless to be able to carry it out in cells and not have to damage the cellular machinery in the process. What is happening today in these clinical trials to develop cancer therapies is, to a large extent, thanks to their contributions”, assures the manager of Technological Development and Innovation of the National Institute of Industrial Technology (INTI) of Argentina in dialogue with the Agency CTyS-UNLaM.
Carolyn Bertozzi. (Photo: courtesy of Carolyn Bertozzi)
The discovery of the “click” chemistry gave rise to the concept of bioorthogonality, developed by Bertozzi. “To understand this term we have to remember that the metabolism of living beings involves a huge number of reactions and a wide diversity of chemical structures. The bioorthogonal ones have the property that they can be carried out in a biomolecular environment, involving only one target molecule and without disturbing the others”, explains Aramendía.
“As this type of reaction allows a molecule to be chemically distinguished in a complex environment, it is a method that can be applied to, for example, the dosage of drugs, the recording of images or the so-called cell therapies”, the researcher adds. highlighting the work of Bertozzi. (Source: Magalí de Diego (CTyS-UNLaM Agency))