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Researchers use greenhouse gas to produce an active ingredient against sleeping sickness

Researchers use greenhouse gas to produce an active ingredient against sleeping sickness


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Not just a harmful waste product: Researchers use greenhouse gas to combat sleeping sickness

According to experts, global LPG concentration has increased dramatically in recent years. One of the gases that contribute to increasing pollution is fluoroform, a by-product that is produced in the manufacture of Teflon. Researchers have now used this substance to produce an active ingredient against sleeping sickness.

Sleeping sickness can lead to death

Sleeping sickness (African trypanosomiasis) represents an enormous health risk for the population in large parts of Africa. The tropical disease is transmitted by the Tsetse fly. The first symptoms include severe headache, insomnia, swollen lymph nodes, anemia and a rash. In the late stages of the disease there is progressive weight loss and a twilight state that has given the disease its name. If the infection is left untreated, it will be fatal. Researchers from Austria have now developed a new active ingredient against sleeping sickness - and used a greenhouse gas for this.

Valuable substance from harmful waste product

Chemists at the Karl-Franzens-University Graz show how a harmful waste product can become a valuable substance for the production of important medicines.

Univ.-Prof. Dr. C. Oliver Deckel and his team have found a way to use the strong greenhouse gas fluoroform using flow chemistry for the synthesis of the drug eflornithine.

The work was recently published in the journal "Green Chemistry".

Drug for sleeping sickness

Fluoroform is produced when Teflon is produced. So that the gas does not get into the atmosphere, it is usually burned. On the one hand, this costs energy, and on the other hand it creates CO2, which in turn causes undesirable emissions.

"In the flow process developed together with an industrial partner, we were able to use fluoroform in a meaningful way," explains C. Oliver Kap in a communication from the university.

"We use it to make eflornithine, a major sleeping sickness drug that was placed on the Essential Medicines list by the World Health Organization," said the scientist.

In flow chemistry, the substances required for synthesis are pumped in a continuous process through reaction chambers in the milliliter range, in which the individual processes take place one after the other.

Extreme temperature and pressure conditions can accelerate reactions many times over.

"Flow chemistry saves time and money compared to conventional processes and is also often more environmentally friendly because there are no waste products between the individual reaction steps," said Deckel.

3D revolution

The scientists linked their “green” synthesis to a revolutionary technology: a flow reactor that was generated using a 3D printing process.

The chemists developed the design of the reactor together with researchers from TU Graz and the Research Center Pharmaceutical Engineering GmbH (RCPE) - a competence center owned by Graz University of Technology (65%), Graz University (20%) and Joanneum Research (15%) and tested.

The Anton Paar company printed the reactor out of steel powder using metal laser sintering. The new technology impresses with its advantages:

“3D reactors can be used to manufacture flow reactors of any complexity, whereas conventional manufacturing methods are very limited in this regard. This also means enormous cost savings, ”explains Deckel.

The results were recently published in the journal "Reaction Chemistry & Engineering". (ad)

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