Can the Same Molecule Cure Cancer and Solve the Energy Crisis?
Ken Wade Lecture Theatre, Calman Learning Centre
17 May 2011, 18.15-19.15
Probably no...but the prospect is intriguing. In this lecture, Professor Randy Thummel will give a general overview of how metal containing molecules, such as ruthenium polypyridine complexes, are currently being explored as a way to utilize the energy of sunlight, and also the potential of these complexes to improve drug treatments used to fight cancer.
Upon the absorption of light, the dark colored complexes provide an excited state that contains energy that can be used to help carry out many useful processes. For example, with regard to using sunlight as a source of energy, ruthenium complexes are among the more promising photocatalysts. These complexes can be used to catalyze the oxidation of water, which is an integral and challenging component of artificial photosynthesis (chemicals acting like plants) and may be adapted to provide hydrogen from water, enabling us to tap a virtually limitless supply of clean energy. Alternatively, the excited state of ruthenium complexes can initiate a key step in the operation of a new generation of solar cells that are designed to convert sunlight directly into electricity.
With regard to the destruction of tumors caused by cancer, photoexcited ruthenium complexes can sensitize the conversion of the 'normal' triplet form of oxygen in which the highest lying electrons have parallel spins into highly reactive singlet (or spin opposed) oxygen. When generated in a tumour cell, this high energy form of oxygen rapidly leads to cell death. Being able to target ruthenium drugs to the tumor and then specifically activate them with light is the basis of photodynamic therapy, and is beginning to find application in cancer treatments.
Randolph Thummel is the John and Rebecca Moores Professor of Chemistry in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics at the University of Houston. He was raised in Montclair, New Jersey and earned his B.S. degree from Brown University in 1967 and his Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of California at Santa Barbara in 1971. After a two year postdoctoral fellowship at The Ohio State University, he joined the UH faculty in 1973, where he was promoted to Associate Professor in 1978 and Full Professor in 1987. In 1990-91 he was a Senior Fulbright Fellow at the Université de Strasbourg working with Prof. Jean-Marie Lehn and in 2005 he won the UH Award for Excellence in Research. He is the author of more than 170 refereed research papers. His research is sponsored by the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, and the Robert A. Welch Foundation. The main focus of his work centers on the design and synthesis of novel ligand systems and their corresponding metal complexes. These complexes may serve as photosensitizers with application in the utilization of solar energy and photodynamic therapy.
This is a public lecture, hosted jointly by the Institute of Advanced Study and the Durham Energy Institute. It is open to all (students, staff, and members of the general public) and is free to attend but registration is essential. To register, please email firstname.lastname@example.org