Heidelberg chemists study manganese, lutetium, and actinium compounds for potential applications in medicine
Tailor-made chemical complexes of certain elements from the group of metals could be suitable for use in a special way in medical imaging as well as potential applications in personalised precision medicine. This has been demonstrated by a research team led by Prof. Dr Peter Comba at the Institute of Inorganic Chemistry of Heidelberg University.
In their work with manganese, a transition metal with special properties such as the ability to boost the contrast in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), the research team synthesised three different bispidine ligands and their manganese(II) complexes. They exhibit complex stabilities up to ten billion times greater than those of zinc(II), the major competitor of manganese(II) in biological systems. According to Prof. Comba, these compounds are especially well suited as contrast agents in MRI because they do not exchange the manganese ions for zinc ions in animals and humans. Until now, gadolinium(III) substances were used almost exclusively for this purpose.
In recent years, however, safety concerns have increased because free gadolinium(III) ions are toxic, the chemist explains. “This is also true for free manganese(II) ions. However, because manganese, unlike gadolinium, is essential for the human body, there are natural mechanisms that can remove manganese(II) from the body. Further developing these substances for clinical applications can thus be a worthwhile goal,” states Comba. He reports that the quality of initial MRI images in mice with one of the manganese complexes developed in Heidelberg is comparable to the results attained in images with a clinically tested gadolinium contrast agent.