Introducing biochemistry: revisiting chirality (Introduction)

by David Turell @, Friday, April 29, 2022, 18:52 (275 days ago) @ David Turell

Organic molecules have handedness. That is they are either right handed or left handed:

"Chirality, while not a rarity in the world of molecules, is nevertheless a special property. If a molecule is chiral (from the Greek word chiros = hand), it exists in two mirrored versions that are very similar but not identical—like two hands that can be folded together, but cannot be placed congruently on top of each other. This is why we speak of right-handed and left-handed molecules, or enantiomers, which means "opposite shape" in Greek.

"An international team of scientists from the Fritz Haber Institute of the Max Planck Society and the Prokhorov General Physics Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences has found a way to address these molecules separately. Since chiral molecules are very similar to each other, this is a real challenge. "The trick is to expose them to electromagnetic radiation in a way so that only one 'hand,' i.e., one enantiomer, responds. This allows us to specifically control right- or left-handed molecules and learn more about them," says Dr. Sandra Eibenberger-Arias, head of the Controlled Molecules group at the Fritz-Haber-Institut.

"Learning this is important because enantiomers sometimes have very different biological and chemical qualities, for which explanations are sought. Take, for example, the chiral molecule carvone: one "hand" smells like mint, the other like caraway. Or the notorious sedative thalidomide, which is named after its active ingredient, a chiral molecule: while one form had the intended sedative effect, the other caused birth defects. Eibenberger-Arias' group studies the physical properties of chiral molecules. "Theory predicts a small energy difference between the two enantiomers, due to what is called parity violation. However, this has not been shown experimentally so far," explains JuHyeon Lee of the Fritz-Haber-Institut, first author of the published results, which appeared in the journal Physical Review Letters."

Comment: All essential amino acids in life are left-handed, but DNA is right-handed. This complicates the theories about origin of life. In nature in the universe amino acids are equally present. So how did life form in specified ways? For me, by design

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