Paper clip boosts yield of de-addiction drugs

August 8th, 2011 - 1:58 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Aug 8 (IANS) Sheer chance can tip the odds in favour of success and help research in ways that scientists could have never thought or planned for. For instance, the paper clip became instrumental in the improved production of anti-addiction drugs.

Thanks to the clip, a team at the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Science led by Peter Scammells, could design a more efficient eco-friendly yet low-cost method to produce drugs required for treatment of alcohol and heroin addiction.

“It was quite a fortuitous discovery,” revealed Scammells. “One night, quite by accident, a member of our group left a stainless steel spatula in her reaction (chemical compound),” the journal Organic Biomolecular Chemistry reports.

“In the morning, we found a high amount of the desired product in the flask. Since then, we have been raiding the institute’s stationery cupboard for cheap stainless steel paper clips!”

Commonly used anti-addition drugs such as buprenorphine and naltrexone are produced synthetically through a number of steps, starting from the sap of the poppy plant, an opiate.

While most of the steps have previously been optimised, one critical step has remained problematic - until now, according to a Monash statement.

“Our new method uses free radical chemistry and friendly old stainless steel resulting in higher opiate yield,” said Scammells. “It dispenses with the costly, less safe and difficult to work with chemicals used in older methods.”

Australia currently supplies 25 percent of the world’s medicinal opiate needs.

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