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Distinguishing between left-handed and right-handed (chiral) molecules is crucial in chemistry and the life sciences, and is commonly achieved using a method called circular dichroism. However, during biochemical reactions, the chiral character of molecules may change. EPFL scientists have now developed a method that uses ultrashort, deep-ultraviolet pulses to accurately probe such changes in real-time in biomolecular systems.
In nature, certain molecules with the same chemical composition can exist in two mirrored configurations, much like human hands. This property is known as "chirality," and molecules with different chirality are called enantiomers. Enantiomers can exhibit entirely different chemical or biological properties, and separating them is a major issue in drug development and in medicine.
Method - Enantiomers - Dichroism - CD - Spectroscopy
The method commonly used to detect enantiomers is circular dichroism (CD) spectroscopy. It exploits the fact that light polarized into a circular wave (like a whirlpool) is absorbed differently by left-handed and right-handed enantiomers. Steady-state CD spectroscopy is a major structural tool in (bio)chemical analysis.
While functioning, biomolecules undergo structural changes that affect their chiral properties. Probing these in real-time (i.e. between one picosecond and one nanosecond) provides a view of their biological function, but this has been challenging in the deep-UV spectrum (wavelengths below 300 nm) where...
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