The important similarity is that boron, like carbon, combines with hydrogen to form stable compounds that can participate in biochemical reactions and syntheses. The key difference is that these compounds have distinctive geometrical shapes and electronic charge distributions with greater 3D complexity than their carbon based equivalents. As Lesnikowski put it, while organic carbon molecules tend to comprise rings and chains, boron hydrides (compounds comprising mostly boron and hydrogen) are made up of clusters and cages. This 3D structure makes it possible to design molecules with specific charge distributions by varying their internal structure, and this in turn brings the potential to tune how each part of the structure relates to water molecules, and biomolecules present in living organisms if a component is hydrophobic, meaning it repels water, it is well placed to enter cells by crossing the membrane. If it is hydrophilic, meaning water-loving, it will naturally be soluble in water. The hydrophobic/hydrophilic interactions also affect how a molecule makes contact and communication with target proteins and nucleic acids.
The fact that novel boron compounds will be unfamiliar to life has potential advantages for antibiotic drugs, since pathogens will be less able to develop resistance against them. "Also the kind of interactions would be somehow different from key-lock systems build up in living cell lines in nature for billions of years," said Lesnikowski. "We can thus anticipate that active substances would be less prone to development of resistance," said Lesnikowski. "This is an obvious advantage of boron drugs." While eventually pathogens such as bacteria and viruses are capable of evolving resistance against almost any molecule that attacks them, Lesnikowski believed that it would take longer for this to happen in the case of boron based compound
|Contact: Zbigniew Lesnikowski|
European Science Foundation