Researchers Find Novel Way to Produce New Kind of Chiral Molecules Bringing New Hope for Drug Development

A research team from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) has discovered a method that would allow the production of a new type of spherical molecules not easily obtainable before. Preliminary testing has also shown that such molecules – chiral tetraarylmethanes (CTAMs), display good deterrent effects against cancer cells such as those of cervical, lung, breast and colorectal, as well as the virus causing the Hand, Foot and Mouth disease (HFMD) and a type of coronavirus.

Prof. Sun (middle) and his research team
Prof. Sun (middle) and his research team

According to the preliminary biological activity study, the spherical chiral molecules produced by this new method possess anti-cancer and anti-viral qualities. One molecule, for instance, demonstrated inhibiting effect against HeLa cells (cervical cancer cells) comparable to that of Doxorubicin – a common deterrent against the growth of such cells, but with a toxicity level 28 times lower1 , indicating that such spherical chiral molecules could be used to develop cancer treatments with fewer side effects.

The molecules are also found effective against enterovirus A71 – the culprit behind HFMD, which is still incurable by medicine as of today2. Upon application of the spherical molecule at low concentration, the amount of virus yield fell by up to 121 folds. The molecules can also inhibit the replication of a common cold virus called OC43. Since it is a human beta-coronavirus, there is a high chance that such spherical molecules may also be effective against other coronaviruses, such as SAR-CoV-2 that causes the Covid-19 pandemic.

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