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Techniques & Tools Chemical, Liquid Chromatography

Poles Apart

Chiral molecules have the potential to “flip” and exist as different enantiomers – non-superimposable mirror images of the original molecule with an identical chemical structure. Though these molecules look identical, their different “handedness” can have dramatic biological effects – as was made painfully clear by the thalidomide scandal. In the 1950s and 1960s, the drug was marketed to pregnant women to treat morning sickness, which its “right-handed” enantiomer did well. But the “left-handed” enantiomer caused thousands of babies worldwide to be born with malformed limbs.

Today, the separation of chiral molecules is an expensive process, but an international team of researchers has developed a generic and cheaper method of separating chiral molecules, using magnets (1).

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Joanna Cummings

A former library manager and storyteller, I have wanted to write for magazines since I was six years old, when I used to make my own out of foolscap paper and sellotape and distribute them to my family. Since getting my MSc in Publishing, I’ve worked as a freelance writer and content creator for both digital and print, writing on subjects such as fashion, food, tourism, photography – and the history of Roman toilets. Now I can be found working on The Analytical Scientist, finding the ‘human angle’ to cutting-edge science stories.

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