Molecules designed to interfere with DNA upon signal

Blacksburg, Va., March 24, 2003 -- Medical science's arsenal against cancer includes compounds that interfere with the DNA of cancer cells. However, these medicines often damage noncancer cells as well, making chemotherapy a sickening treatment. Many scientists are trying to develop compounds that can be released upon command in the presence of disease cells. Now, Virginia Tech researchers have developed a new molecule that early results show can be signaled to bind to target DNA and stop replication.

Karen Brewer, professor of chemistry at Virginia Tech, will present the research at the 225th national meeting of the American Chemical Society March 23-27 in New Orleans.

Brewer, whose group develops mixed-metal supramolecular complexes for a wide assortment of molecular devices, has been working for sometime on DNA binding agents and photo initiated DNA cleavage agents. At the meeting, she will talk about interactions with DNA using a complex of molecules with functions that allow it to bind to DNA and to stop replication.

"This is a new class of molecules," says Brewer. "The complex does not become toxic until it receives a light signal, at which point it cleaves the DNA so that it cannot replicate."

Results in test tubes and under the microscope with different cell lines have demonstrated that the specially constructed molecules can kill cells in the presence of light.

The researchers have applied for a patent through Virginia Tech Intellectual Properties Inc. (www.vtip.org). The technology has been licensed to Carilion Biomedical Institute of Roanoke, Va.

The poster, "Mixed-metal supramolecular complexes as photochemical molecular devices and DNA binding and photocleavage agents (Inor 357)," coauthored by Brewer, Alvin A. Holder of the University of West Indies, and R. Lee Williams, Shawn M. Swavey, and Mark Elvington, all of Virginia Tech, will be presented as part of the Coordination Chemistry session of the Divisi

Contact: Karen Brewer
Virginia Tech

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