Medicinal inorganic chemistry

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Chapter: Essentials of Inorganic Chemistry : Introduction

Medicinal inorganic chemistry can be broadly defined as the area of research concerned with metal ions and metal complexes and their clinical applications.


Medicinal inorganic chemistry

Medicinal inorganic chemistry can be broadly defined as the area of research concerned with metal ions and metal complexes and their clinical applications. Medicinal inorganic chemistry is a relatively new research area grown from the discovery of the anticancer agent cisplatin. Indeed, the therapeutic value of metal ions has been known for hundreds and thousands of years. Metals such as arsenic have been used in clinical studies more than 100 years ago, whilst silver, gold and iron have been involved in ‘magic cures’ and other therapeutic applications for more than 5000 years.

Nowadays, the area of metal-based drugs spans a wide range of clinical applications including the use of transition metals as anticancer agents, a variety of diagnostic agents such as gadolinium or technetium, lanthanum salts for the treatment of high phosphate levels and the use of gold compounds in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. In general, research areas include the development of metal-based therapeutic agents, the interaction of metals and proteins, metal chelation and general functions of metals in living systems .

 

Why use metal-based drugs?

Metal complexes exhibit unique properties, which, on one hand, allow metal ions to interact with biomolecules in a unique way and, on the other, allow scientists to safely administer even toxic metal ions to the human body. Coordination and redox behaviour, magnetic moments and radioactivity are the main unique properties displayed by metal centres together with the high aqueous solubility of their cations. The ability to be involved in reduction and oxidation reactions has led to the use of metal complexes in photodynamic therapy (PDT). In particular, transition metals are able to coordinate to electron-rich biomolecules such as DNA. This can lead to the deformation of DNA and ultimately to cell death. Therefore, transition metals are under scrutiny as potential anticancer agents. Metals that display a magnetic moment can be used as imaging reagents in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Many metals have radioactive isotopes, which can be used as so-called radiopharmaceuticals for therapy and imaging.

There is a huge array of clinical applications for most elements found in the periodic table of elements.

This book tries to give an idea of the core concepts and elements routinely used for therapy or imaging.





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