Mirror-image chemicals may revolutionize drug delivery

Lab-created chemicals may make it easier to formulate and deliver complex medications

Tuesday, Jun 18, 2024 • Katherine Egan Bennett : contact

Daniel Armstrong
Daniel W. Armstrong is the Robert A. Welch Distinguished University Chair in Chemistry

Cyclodextrins (CDs) are complicated carbohydrates, a term that describes the natural, sugar-based, starchy material that makes up much of fruits, vegetables and grains.

Their unique chemical properties make them ideal for all sorts of uses, including air fresheners, medications and cosmetics. Scientists also are exploring their potential to treat cardiovascular diseases caused by atherosclerotic plaques.

Now, more than 130 years after CDs were first discovered and reported, a University of Texas at Arlington team of scientists has created chemical mirror images of these complex carbohydrates in the laboratory. This discovery may revolutionize how medications are delivered to patients.

Daniel W. Armstrong, the Robert A. Welch Distinguished University Chair in Chemistry, has co-authored a new peer-reviewed publication in Nature Synthesis describing mirror-image cyclodextrins for the first time along with his former graduate student Saba Aslani.

“This discovery is exciting, as it may make it easier to formulate and deliver complex medications to patients,” Armstrong said. “This missing piece of the puzzle definitely paves the way for additional gains in treating and curing disease.”

Other authors on the paper are from Northwestern University; University of Hong Kong; University of Wyoming; ZJU-Hangzhou Global Scientific and Technological Innovation Center in China; National University of Singapore; Universite d’Angers in France; Zhejiang University in China; and University of New South Wales in Australia.

After creating these mirror-image CDs in the lab, researchers were able to confirm their discovery using X-ray crystallography and binding studies of other mirror-image molecules.

“In the pharmaceutical industry, it is common and even mandated to synthesize and test such mirror-image drug entities, as they may have different medicinal properties and toxicities,” Armstrong said. “Based on how popular CDs are already for delivering medications, this newly discovered mirror image may have even more biomedical uses. Plus, we know that such mirror-images carbohydrates are more resistant to biological degradation than their natural counterparts.”