One of the central concepts of organic chemistry is that carbon atoms can form long strands of bonds to other carbon atoms. There seems to be no limit to the variety of shapes and configurations that organic molecules can adopt. Some may look like hexagons, some like pentagons, some like fuzzy balls, some like soccer balls. However, a recent new finding puts hard limits on the number of chemical building blocks that researchers will have to study in order to develop new drugs and pharmaceutical treatments. The results were published in the prestigious scientific trade magazine the Journal of Organic Chemistry.
Researchers have long recognized that certain structures like rings and cages appear over and over in all types of organic products, including pharmaceuticals and food products. These types of structures have been the primary focus for chemists. In the study published in the Journal of Organic Chemistry, the researchers focused on less familiar structures and found an array of linkers, building blocks, and scaffolds that together were able to describe over half the molecules found in the American Chemical Society’s Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) Registry. The CAS Registry is the world’s largest and most comprehensive listing of known molecules. It’s a master listing, of sorts, of all the molecules that mankind has been able to identify and categorize.
By simplifying a seemingly impossible feat – finding common links between so many million compounds – the researchers have opened the possibility of finding new compounds of interest for their medicinal and synthetic properties. Because the number of common shape types is so small – only 143 – the search for new drug candidates doesn’t seem so impossible after all. If one drug doesn’t seem effective, chances are all the other members in that shape class are also ineffective, and so researchers can move on to the next one in line. Instead of checking millions of compounds more or less at random, only 143 loosely organized groups need to be examined for their potential benefits.
The source of this article is:
Lipkus, A.H.; Yuan, Q.; Lucas, K.A.; Funk, S.A.; Bartelt, W.F.; Schenck, R.J.; Tripe, A. J. “Structural Diversity of Organic Chemistry. A Scaffold Analysis of the CAS Registry”.J. Org. Chem. 2008, 73, 4443-4451.