Some day in the future, the PG5 molecule could save your life.

PG5, you see, is a synthetic molecule created by Dieter Schlüter and other scientists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich. With a amass of 200 million hydrogen atoms, it's also the world's largest synthetic molecule, and represents an important next step in the creation of tailor-made molecules that could (and will) deliver targeted medicines into the human body.

Previously, these large synthetic molecules would collapse in on themselves at a certain point in their construction, thereby limiting their size and capabilities. But not PG5.


Using what Klaus Mullen of the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany calls an "outrageous trick," the PG5 creators did a number of things that make my plebeian brain hurt:

To synthesise PG5, Schlüter combined standard polymerisation reactions, which assemble small molecules into a long chain or backbone, with reactions from other areas of organic chemistry which attached groups of atoms to the backbone in a radial fashion. Schlüter says that because both techniques are standard, his team's work should encourage other researchers to create synthetic macromolecules that they were previously "not brave enough" to attempt.

Indeed, this tree of life could have an incredible impact in the drug world. Specialized drugs, cancer-fighters perhaps, could be "docked" to PG5, or even "folded" within its behemoth network of bonded parts, and delivered to specific locations or tumors within the body. [New Scientist]