North West | Technology & innovation

With St. Pete super-crystal, new drugs could become easier to develop

13 Oct '16
Researchers at St. Petersburg-based ITMO University have put together an optically active nanodimensional super-crystal with unusual architecture that is believed to enable the separation of organic molecules. This is expected to help simplify new drug development technology considerably. The results of the research in English in Scientific Reports.

The super-crystal is an assembly of achiral semiconductor quantum dots (QDs) a few nanometers in size, which are arranged in a helix. The QD-based super-crystal is said to exhibit giant optical activity and almost complete dissymmetry in optical absorption (or chirality, which is a geometric property of some molecules and ions that are non-superposable on their mirror image). Such super-crystals could be widely used in pharmacology to identify chiral biomolecules.

“As with any chiral nanostructure, such super-crystals have wide applications. In pharmacology, they could be used to recognize chiral medicinal molecules. Arranged in a helix around the molecules, QDs can display unusual shared properties that could increase the molecules’ absorptive characteristics by a hundred times or more. That, in its turn, would help boost the accuracy of identifying the molecules in a solution substantially,” said Ivan Rukhlenko, the head of ITMO’s nanostructure modeling and design laboratory.

In addition to pharmaceutical science, the optically active super-crystals could be used in a range of technical applications to polarize light.