Appropriately, the researcher is also a football fan and watches the Super Bowl each year on Australian television. Super Bowl XXXIX will be played at ALLTEL Stadium in Jacksonville, Fla., on Feb. 6.
The superbowl molecule consists of five concave surfaces, or bowls: four on the outside and one on the bottom. It has an open top, much like an open-air stadium. Its general molecular formula is C268H320O52. The tiny molecules can be modified to include other functional groups that give it additional properties, Sherburn says.
For instance, one highly active version of the superbowl molecule goes by the name tetrabromo-superbowl (C268H320O52Br4) due to the addition of four bromine atoms. The bromine atoms make the hole at the top of the molecule smaller, which makes it more difficult for things to pass in and out. This is ideal if you're trying to capture certain molecules and hold them until they're ready for release, the researcher says.
Superbowl molecules are similar in function to buckyballs, the experimental soccer-ball shaped molecules also known as fullerenes (C60), which also show promise for drug delivery and other useful applications. Whereas a single buckyball is designed to hold either a single atom or a hydrogen molecule, a superbowl molecule can hold large molecules of up to a hundred atoms, particularly those of medicinal value, Sherburn says.
"I'm sure that we will be able to encapsulate compounds such as [the anticancer drug] taxol in the near future," he says, but cautions that the superbowl molecule has not yet been tested in animals or humans. Until then, no one knows yet when this experimental molecule will actually enter the consumer market, but any useful application is likely to take five to ten years, the researcher estimates. Administration of the molecule for drug delivery could be by mouth or by injection, he adds.
There are hurdles to overcome. The current version o