Scientists from Trinity have created a suite of latest biological sensors by chemically re-engineering pigments to act like tiny Venus flytraps.
The sensors are capable of detecting and grab particular molecules, akin to pollutants, and can quickly have a number of critical environmental, medical, and safety applications.
Porphyrins, a novel class of intensely colored pigments—also known as the “pigments of life”—present the key to this ground-breaking discovery.
The word porphyrin comes from the Greek word porphura, which means purple, and the first chapter detailing the medical-chemical history of porphyrins goes again to the days of Herodotus (circa 484 to 425 BC).
This story has been progressing ever since and is at the core of Professor Mathias O. Senge’s work at Trinity.
In nature, the active variations of these molecules comprise a variety of metals of their core, which gives rise to unique properties.
The researchers at Trinity, under the supervision of Professor Mathias O. Senge, Chair of Natural Chemistry, selected a disruptive strategy of exploring the metal-free model of porphyrins. Their work has created a completely new range of molecular receptors.
By forcing porphyrin molecules to show inside out, into the shape of a saddle, they had been capable of exploiting the previously elusive core of the system.
Then, by introducing functional groups close to the active center, they had been in a position to catch small molecules—such as pharmaceutical or agricultural pollutants, for instance, pyrophosphates and sulfates—after which keep them in the receptor-like cavity.
Porphyrins are color-intense compounds, so when a target molecule is captured, this leads to the color altering extensively. This highlights the value of porphyrins as biosensors since it is clear when they have successfully achieved their targets.