Gold catalysts capable of working as artificial enzymes inside living cells



To analyse, understand, interfere, and correct. Researching about life machinery goes through deciphering how cells, the smaller alive units within an organism, work. Being healthy depends mainly on adequate behaviour of our cells. In fact, nowadays it is well established that many diseases (such as cancer) start when malfunctioning is occurring inside them.

Thus, to diagnose and treat those diseases it is strictly necessary to puzzle out the molecular keys that drive the cellular machinery, developing tools and technologies that allow us to alter the cellular behaviour in a controlled and predictable manner. This is one of the main objectives of Prof. J. L. Mascareñas' research group at CiQUS. In fact, one of their research lines involves the design of metal-based chemical catalysts that can be used as enzymes right after internalisation in the living cell (enzymes are those proteins capable of accelerating most of the processes occurring in the body tissues). In other words: to create artificial enzymes that will promote reactions which are not taking place spontaneously in living organisms.

This work is part of the METBIOCAT European Project, led by Prof. Mascareñas and funded by an Advanced Grant from the European Research Council (ERC). Previously, Mascareñas' research group had shown the possibility of using ruthenium-based catalysts to promote chemical transformations in vivo, also controlling chemical reactions at will in specific cell organelles, such as the mitochondria.

At the moment, CiQUS scientists have communicated to the distinguished publication Nature Communications a new type of chemical transformation promoted by gold catalysts, which increases the chances to get new bioactive compounds within the living cell in a fully controlled manner. And that, because in this case chemical reactions are just taking place when this brand new catalyst is at play.

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