Harnessing boron to develop new drugs, diagnostics

October 22nd, 2008 - 2:15 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Oct 22 (IANS) Researchers are on the verge of harnessing the power of boron in a new generation of drugs and therapies. Boron, an element, and one of biology’s best kept secrets, is now drawing the attention of the pharmaceutical industry to tackle cancer and infectious diseases with new drugs, overcoming limitations and side effects of current products.

European Science Foundation (ESF) workshop ‘Biobor’ set the stage for a new era of boron therapies going beyond the current application in cancer radiotherapy, said its convenor Zbigniew Lesnikowski.

“Yes, it became obvious during the workshop that there is now sufficient knowledge and enough compounds to support a broad programme of screening in the quest for new anti-viral and anti-cancer drugs containing essential boron components,” said Lesnikowski.

The applications in bio-sensing, bio-materials, and drug development all spring from the fundamental chemical properties of boron. All life is derived ultimately from the element carbon, which lies next to boron in the periodic table of elements, their respective atomic numbers being six and five.

Boron compounds share some similarities with carbon but also have important differences. It is the combination of these similarities and differences that give boron its unique potential in medicine, said an ESF press release.

The important similarity is that boron, like carbon, combines with hydrogen to form stable compounds that can participate in biochemical reactions and syntheses.

The key difference is that these compounds have distinctive geometrical shapes and electronic charge distributions with greater 3-D complexity than their carbon based equivalents.

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