Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Scientific Community
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article

UW Professor Researches Beer Molecule for Pharmaceutical Company

Published: Friday, March 01, 2013
Last Updated: Friday, March 01, 2013
Bookmark and Share
Crystallographer studies humulones molecule.

Werner Kaminsky, a crystallographer and UW professor of chemistry, closely studied a molecule called humulones, which is found in bitter beers, and his results contradicted previous findings about the molecule. His findings were published in the scientific journal Angewandte Chemie last week.

Kaminsky’s studies involved identifying the structure of the humulones molecule by using technology called X-ray crystallography. The atoms diffract the X-ray beams in a way that shows the molecule’s structure. Yet through his research, he discovered something else. Previous research hadn’t found handedness and assumed uniformity between the molecules.

Handedness results when a molecule can be arranged in two different ways with the same atoms. Jan Urban, a chemist who worked on the project with Kaminsky, said the handedness of a molecule is like the difference between a left hand and a right hand — they are the same but differently arranged. He said handedness can have huge effects on how the molecule works in pharmaceuticals.

“To me, it was surprising that something was out there for 40 years, and it’s wrong,” he said. “Nobody seemed to come across that so far.”

Kaminsky’s research was conducted for a Seattle-based pharmaceutical company called KinDex Therapeutics, which is working to use this molecule in a therapeutic drug to treat people with glucose management issues and insulin sensitivity. The company is now performing more trials of this molecule for use in treatment.

“We wanted to really get it right,” Kaminsky said. “It’s not being secretly done, and it’s not to prove someone wrong. It’s just to get the right result.”

Urban said the beer compound has a variety of benefits, but correctly identifying the structure was the project’s primary focus.

“Imagine if you go to play baseball, and you are going to buy a baseball mitt, you should be pretty certain whether you are buying it for right-handed or left-handed player,” he said. “If you don’t get the structure right, it will be really difficult to find where the compound binds.”

An example of handedness’ significance appeared in the drug Thalidomide in the 1950s, which was produced and distributed to pregnant women to decrease nausea and for use as a sleeping pill. Because scientists at the time didn’t know the handedness of the molecule, one orientation caused birth defects while the other orientation did what the pill was designed to do.

“The discovery of the handedness, or the absolute stereochemistry, has profound implications for the use,” said Brian Carroll, director of chemistry at KinDex. “So when you know the absolute stereochemistry, you can use that information to design new and improved compounds that may be even better in terms of their therapeutic effects.”

Kaminsky’s choice to use X-ray crystallography, a 100-year-old technology was simple.

“Being such an old technology, people say that there must be something better or something new,” Kaminsky said. “But that’s not very true. It’s not a bad technology; it’s very good. It’s the oldest nanotechnology, because we actually see objects on the size of several nanometers, which is the size of molecules, down to less than that so one nanometer is typically the size of a molecule.”

Carroll and Urban think that crystallography is the best way to determine a molecule’s structure.

“There are many ways to figure out the structure of a small molecule,” Carroll said. “Sometimes we as chemists don’t think of X-ray crystallography as the very first tool to use.”

Further Information
Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,800+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 4,000+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters

Sign In

Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Scientific News
A New Way to Look at MOFs
International study challenges prevailing view on how metal organic frameworks store gases.
Major Advance in Crystal Structure Prediction Methods
The Cambridge Crystallographic Data Centre (CCDC) announces that the results of its 6th blind test of crystal structure prediction methods demonstrate significant advancement in in comparison with previous tests.
Protein Structure Discovery Opens Window on Basic Life Process
Biochemists at Oregon State University have made a fundamental discovery about protein structure that sheds new light on how proteins fold, which is one of the most basic processes of life.
Clearest Ever Images of Enzyme that Plays Key Roles in Aging, Cancer
UCLA-led research on telomerase could lead to new strategies for treating disease
New Approach to Treating Heparin-induced Blood Disorder
A potential treatment for a serious clotting condition that can strike patients who receive heparin to treat or prevent blood clots may lie within reach by elucidating the structure of the protein complex at its root.
Escape Prevention
Studying flu virus structure brings us a step closer to a permanent vaccine.
Structure of Protein at Root of Muscular Disease Decoded
Researchers at Rice University and Baylor College of Medicine have unlocked the structural details of a protein seen as key to treating a neuromuscular disease.
A Natural Light Switch
MIT scientists identify and map the protein behind a light-sensing mechanism.
First Complete Structural Study Of A Pegylated Protein
Significant data obtained at NUI Galway reports first crystal structure of a protein modified with a single PEG chain.
Cellular Contamination Pathway for Heavy Elements Identified
Berkeley Lab scientists find that an iron-binding protein can transport actinides into cells.
Skyscraper Banner

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,800+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
4,000+ scientific videos