Nav: Home

A new role for the 'pigments of life'

February 06, 2018

Scientists have just discovered how to reconfigure porphyrins -- the "pigments of life" -- which they have long had in their minds as potentially useful players in the fields of cancer therapy, solar energy, and materials science.

In nature, porphyrins are responsible for the green colour of leaves and the red colour of blood. All their functionality is based along the same core chemical structure: four smaller rings connected to one larger ring, with a little cavity in the centre. Most of their functions in nature (photosynthesis, oxygen transport) arise when they host different guest metals (magnesium, iron, cobalt, nickel) in the centre of the molecule. Different metals spark different functions in these 'metalloporphyrins'.

The discovery made by a five-strong research team was that by overcrowding the large porphyrin ring, they could force it to turn 'inside out' and change into the shape of a saddle. Importantly, this little trick enabled them to exploit the special properties of the formerly inaccessible core.

The team was led by Principal Investigator at the Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute, and Chair of Organic Chemistry at Trinity College Dublin, Professor Mathias O. Senge. In close cooperation with Professor Stephen Connon, an expert in the field of organocatalysis, the scientists established standard reaction conditions and published their work in leading international journal Chemical Communications, which features the study on the front cover.

Professor Matthias O. Senge said: "By bending the porphyrin core out of plane, we hypothesised that we would be able to make use of the formerly buried functionalities by using the porphyrin as a catalyst."

"A catalyst is a compound that attracts other molecules and converts them into new entities and catalytic processes are at the heart of chemistry and nature, so they are of significant industrial and commercial interest. The discovery that these metalloporphyrins act as efficient metal-free catalysts now opens new horizons for these natural pigments."

"Soon, we hope to tailor porphyrins according to specific requirements and use our rational design approach for various applications in chemistry, biochemistry, physics and beyond."
-end-


Trinity College Dublin

Related Chemistry Articles:

The chemistry of olive oil (video)
Whether you have it with bread or use it to cook, olive oil is awesome.
With more light, chemistry speeds up
Light initiates many chemical reactions. Experiments at the Laser Centre of the Institute of Physical Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences and the University of Warsaw's Faculty of Physics have for the first time demonstrated that increasing the intensity of illumination some reactions can be significantly faster.
The chemistry of whiskey (video)
Derby Day means it's time to recognize the chemical process of distillation, which makes bourbon possible.
Restoration based on chemistry
Considered the pinnacle of mediaeval painting, the Ghent Altarpiece was painted around 1432 by Jan van Eyck and probably his brother Hubert.
The chemistry of redheads (video)
The thing that sets redheads apart from the crowd is pigmentation.
Scientists discover helium chemistry
The scientists experimentally confirmed and theoretically explained the stability of Na2He.
What might Trump mean for chemistry? (video)
Donald Trump is now the 45th president of the US.
Chemistry on the edge
Defects and jagged surfaces at the edges of nanosized platinum and gold particles are key hot spots for chemical reactivity, researchers confirmed using a unique infrared probe at Berkeley Lab.
Light powers new chemistry for old enzymes
Princeton researchers have developed a method that irradiates biological enzymes with light to expand their highly efficient and selective capacity for catalysis to new chemistry.
Better chemistry through...chemistry
Award-winning UCSB professor Bruce Lipshutz is out to make organic chemistry better for the planet

Related Chemistry Reading:

Chemistry: Concepts and Problems: A Self-Teaching Guide
by Clifford C. Houk (Author), Richard Post (Author)

Chemistry: A Novel (Vintage Contemporaries)
by Weike Wang (Author)

Organic Chemistry As a Second Language: First Semester Topics
by David R. Klein (Author)

The Cartoon Guide to Chemistry
by Larry Gonick (Author), Craig Criddle (Author)

Chemistry: The Central Science (14th Edition)
by Theodore E. Brown (Author), H. Eugene LeMay (Author), Bruce E. Bursten (Author), Catherine Murphy (Author), Patrick Woodward (Author), Matthew E. Stoltzfus (Author)

Chemistry Essentials For Dummies
by John T. Moore (Author)

Chemistry: Atoms First
by OpenStax

Chemistry
by OpenStax

Chemistry: A Molecular Approach (4th Edition)
by Nivaldo J. Tro (Author)

Chemistry For Dummies (For Dummies (Math & Science))
by John T. Moore (Author)

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Bias And Perception
How does bias distort our thinking, our listening, our beliefs... and even our search results? How can we fight it? This hour, TED speakers explore ideas about the unconscious biases that shape us. Guests include writer and broadcaster Yassmin Abdel-Magied, climatologist J. Marshall Shepherd, journalist Andreas Ekström, and experimental psychologist Tony Salvador.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#513 Dinosaur Tails
This week: dinosaurs! We're discussing dinosaur tails, bipedalism, paleontology public outreach, dinosaur MOOCs, and other neat dinosaur related things with Dr. Scott Persons from the University of Alberta, who is also the author of the book "Dinosaurs of the Alberta Badlands".