Tokyo, Japan - A research team at The University of Tokyo has reproducibly synthesized staircase-like supramolecules of a single handedness, or chirality, using standard laboratory equipment.
By gradually removing the solvent from a rotating solution containing non-chiral precursors, they were able to produce helixes that twist preferentially in a particular direction.
This research may lead to new and cheaper drug production methods, as well as finally addressing one of the lingering quandaries about how life began.
One of the most striking features of the molecules most important to life--including DNA, proteins, and sugars--is that they have a "handedness," referred to as chirality.
It becomes even more puzzling when you consider that chiral pairs behave identically chemically.
One hypothesis is that some early imbalance broke the symmetry between left- and right-handed molecules, and this change was "locked in" over evolutionary time.