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Metals and Life (MAL)


Although biological organisms and molecules are mostly made of non-metal elements such as carbon, hydrogen or phosphorus, metals are ubiquitous in nature. They play a major role for living organisms, e.g. for the transmission of signals along nerves, for the structure of proteins such as zinc fingers, or for the reactivity of protein such as hemoglobin, carbonic anhydrase, or nitrogenases.

In a first part this course describes the abundance and uptake of metal ions in biological organisms, their transport through biological membranes, their binding modes to biological molecules, and the function of a few important metal-containing proteins.

In the second part the toxicity of metal ions is shortly reviewed, and the effects of the metal balance disruption on human health are described. Finally, the use of transition metals in medicine form the third part of this course. The principles and applications of metal complexes in imaging and therapy are described first, including clinically available techniques such as radioimaging, MRI, anticancer metallodrugs, or photodynamic therapy. Then, the emerging role of metal nanoparticles in medicine are exemplified by a few representative examples taken from the recent literature.

Topics covered:

Part 1 – Metals in biology
1) Abundance and uptake of metals in biological systems
2) Transport of metal ions across biological membranes
3) Binding of metal ions to biological molecules
4) Reactivity of selected metal-containing proteins: examples of hemoglobin, carbonic anhydrase, OEC of PSII, nitrogenase

Part 2 – Effects of metal on life
5) Toxicity of metal ions
6) Metal-related diseases 1) Metal overload 2) Metal deficiency 3) Role of metals in neurodegenerative diseases

Part 3 – Metals in medicine
7) Metal complexes in imaging 1) In vitro cell imaging with metal-based fluorophores 2) Contrast agents in MRI 3) Nuclear imaging with metal complexes
8) Metal complexes in therapy 1) Radiotherapy 2) Metal-based chemotherapeutics 3) Photodynamic therapy 4) Other uses of metal compounds
9) Metal nanoparticles in medicine 1) Uptake of nanoparticle 2) Sensing and imaging 3) Therapy

“Metals and life” by Janes, Smart, Davies, and Walton, Ed. Eleanor Crabb and Elaine Moore, RSC Publishing/The Open University, ~29 €
Prerequisites info:
CTO (Chemie en toepassingen van Overgangsmetalen)