University of Central Florida scientists' molecular discovery could help drugs target unhealthy cells

Orlando 18 January 2001University of Central Florida (UCF) and University of California (UC) Riverside professors are a step closer to being able to deliver life-saving drugs through tiny molecules that would travel through the bloodstream and destroy only cancer-ridden cells. In a paper published January 18 in Science Express, the scientists describe how they got an adsorbate molecule or anthraquinone to pick up two carbon dioxide atoms and carry them in a specific direction on a flat copper surface. Their discovery helps scientists understand how they someday may be able to attach therapeutic drugs to molecules.

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"It's significant because we wouldn't expect atoms to move that way", stated UCF physics professor Talat Rahman, who co-authored the study with Sergey Stolbov. "Atoms tend to move randomly, like dust particles, and getting them to move in a specific direction will help in our understanding and manipulating of the region around atoms."

It's what sci-fi fans have seen on television - nanotechnology that sends microscopic creatures to space or the body to make repairs. That sci-fi reality is years away, but this research is a step in that direction.

"Right now the only way we can transport atoms is with instruments", Talat Rahman stated. "Being able to control that at a molecular level would help us create a natural transportation system that could aid us in many ways in the future."

Next, the researchers want to see if they can make the molecule carrier go around corners, rotate its cargo or send out photons to let scientists know where it is located.

Talat Rahman worked with Sergey Stolbov and UC Riverside Associate Chemistry Professor Ludwig Bartels. Ludwig Bartels is also a member of the university's Center for Nanoscale Science and Engineering. Talat Rahman, who speaks four languages fluently, has a doctorate from the University of Rochester in New York. She began at UCF as the chair of the Physics Department in September 2006 after spending several years as a university distinguished professor at Kansas State University and previously as a research scientist at the University of California at Irvine. Sergey Stolbov worked with Talat Rahman at Kansas State and also arrived at UCF in 2006. He is a native of Rostov, Russia, and he earned his doctorate in physics in that country.

UC Riverside's Ludwig Bartels described the chemical reaction as a molecule with two shopping bags, carrying atoms from place to place. Figuring out exactly how that works would allow anything to be put into those "shopping bags". Ludwig Bartels explained that the research is still in its infancy but compared the promise it holds to the evolution of cell phones during the past ten years. "Ten years ago, a cell phone could just place calls, nothing else", he stated. "Now it plays MP3 files, organizes your day and lets you send e-mails and browse the Web."

Conducted in the Bartels Lab, the research was funded by the United States Department of Energy, the Petroleum Research Fund and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research. The San Diego Supercomputer Center provided resources as well. Talat Rahman and Sergey Stolbov will continue their work at UCF. "UCF is an exciting place to be with lots of opportunities", Talat Rahman stated. "That is why I came here to continue my work."


Leslie Versweyveld

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