The Macromolecular, Supramolecular and Nanochemistry Program of the Chemistry Division supports Professor Timothy Glass of the University of Missouri on a project focusing on the design and preparation of fluorescent sensors and receptors for various classes of biologically important lipids. These sensors are synthesized from tube-like hydrophobic receptor molecules that selectively recognize certain lipids by shape-selective interactions. Both macrocyclic 'closed tubes' and non-macrocyclic 'open tubes' are being explored. Because most lipids are embedded in a membrane or lipid compartment, the receptors are designed to extract the lipids from the membrane. The introduction of head-group binding units is a central focus of this project. This work lays a foundation for approaching many different problems in lipid recognition.
Fundamental work on lipid recognition and sensing may eventually lead to the ability to selectively detect such lipids in humans. For example, such analyses can be used to test for oxidized phospholipids which have been found to be involved in atherosclerosis; or certain glycolipids which are know to be overproduced on the surface of cancerous cells. Moreover, students involved with this project are trained not only in the design and synthesis of novel compounds, but more broadly in methods of approaching biological problems from a chemical perspective.