Good and Bad Thalidomide

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Good news and bad news about the drug thalidomide that caused deformities in babies after their mothers took it during pregnancy last century. The good news is that we now know the drug comes in two slightly different molecular shapes and only one shape causes deformities. The other shape is proving a useful drug for treating many diseases, including some cancers. Chemists can separate the two forms so patients can be given a pure dose of the "right" form. The bad news is that once absorbed into the body, it changes rapidly into a mixture of both shapes. (Bjorkman, E.T. et al, 1995, Chirality, Vol.7, pp44-52)

Editorial Comment: Many life molecules come in two shapes. Like left and right hands they have the same overall structure but are mirror images of one another. Unlike your hands, biological molecules can change from one form to the other. This is a serious problem for those who want to believe life evolved from chemicals in water. Living cells are made of proteins which are made of amino acids, which come in right and left handed forms. Only left handed ones are used by cells. All attempts to make amino acids from simple chemicals produce mixtures of right and left handed forms. Even a pure solution of one form left lying around will slowly but surely convert into a mixture of both forms which is fatal to life. (Ref. Thalidomide, chirality, amino acids)

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