Many potential pharmaceuticals fail during clinical trials. Thanks to recent research from the University of Illinois, biological molecules previously considered for cancer treatment are now being used as organic semiconductors for use in chemical sensors and transistors.
The researchers report their findings in the journal Nature Communications .
Organic semiconductors are responsible for things like flexible electronics and transparent solar cells, but researchers are working to expand their use in biomedicine and devices that allow this to require interactions between electrically active molecules and biological molecules.
Chemical engineer and biomolecule engineer Ying Diao was surprised when the two paths of her research ̵
"This convergence of my two research areas was totally unexpected," said Diao. "In studying these pharmaceutical molecules, we found that their molecular structures resembled those of the organic semiconductors we worked with in the rest of my group."
These molecules, DNA topoisomerase inhibitors, are flat and contain neatly stacked columns of electrically conductive molecular rings – features that make up a good semiconductor. Unlike a typical semiconductor, these molecular columns are connected by hydrogen bonds, which move charges from column to column and form bridges that turn the entire molecular assembly into a semiconductor – something that was rare before this study, the researchers said.
"These molecules can interact with high specificity biological material, making them good candidates for use in biosensors," said Diao. "They are also easy to print but require new solvents because they are chemically different from other organic semiconductors and the manufacturing infrastructure already exists."
The team printed and tested the semiconductors, acknowledging that their efficiency and performance must be improved. Diao said the real enthusiasm for this progress will come from the possibility of discovering similar molecules.
"We are partnering with machine learning researchers who can train computers to discover the unique properties of these molecules," said Diao. "They can search the vast pharmaceutical databases available today to search for molecules with similar or perhaps even better semiconducting properties."
Researchers are developing dynamic templates that are critical to printable electronics
Fengjiao Zhang et al., Repurposing DNA Binding Agents as H-linked Organic Semiconductors, Nature Communications (2019). DOI: 10.1038 / s41467-019-12248-9
Researchers Reuse Failed Cancer Drug for Printable Semiconductors (2019, October 2)
retrieved on 2 October 2019
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