Scientists from the New York University (NYU) team have smashed the record for delivering the most anticipated chemical, i.e., tetrodotoxin, after a freaking 100 years of effort. It has been reported that the chemical has been primarily found in the bodies of marine organisms like pufferfish, snails, octopuses’, newts, frogs, and worms. A Japanese scientist, Dr. Yoshizumi Tahara, first revealed TTX in 1894 and signaled the same in 1909 as well. From that time, scientists were in search of a way to produce the chemical in their lab settings until today, when the breakthrough has finally evolved. No doubt, this is an incredible scientific feat of its own.
According to one of the study authors and Janice Cutler Professor of Chemistry at NYU, “Our synthesis is not the first synthesis of tetrodotoxin; however, it is the most efficient to date, improving on the state of the art by 30-fold.” The researchers have mainly created a 22-step procedure that contains the most biologically active and up-to-date derivatives of TTX. Above all, all of the materials used in the process are commercially available in the market. Also, as per the team, TTX plays the role of a “keystone molecule” as it fosters a “predator-prey relationship in our ecosystem.”
One of the standouts of this neurotoxin TTX is that it blocks the sodium conductive ions in our nerve cell membranes, and this might do an outstanding job in developing effective painkillers for living beings. As per Professor Trauner, “There is an enormous medical need for painkillers with new modes of action, particularly ones that work differently from opioids. Tetrodotoxin has the interesting property of blocking nerve signals. These nerve signals are integral to the sensation of pain, and due to this, tetrodotoxin is thought to be a promising lead for the development of non-addictive, next-generation pain killers.”
While explaining the challenges they faced during the process, Professor Trauner said, “The main challenges in the synthesis of tetrodotoxin are its high-degree chemical complexity, chemical instability, and the challenges posed in its purification and isolation. This is reflected in the previous synthesis, which required more steps and was less efficient overall.” On that count, the research has proven the most effective to date and has given results with a 11% yield efficiency.