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Show 0.6 1042x586 2022.07.22 ndp imagen

The researcher Jesús Mosquera of the CICA of the UDC tests logic in a paper published in Science

22/Jul/2022 Coordinación

On 8 July, Jesús Mosquera, Ramón y Cajal researcher in the NanoSelf group at the CICA of the Universidade da Coruña (UDC), published an article in Science, one of the world's most prestigious scientific journals.

The work published in collaboration with the Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) describes a chemical phenomenon that has never been observed before and that, in a way, exceeds the limits of reason. The researchers have discovered that by adding more water to an aqueous solution of certain components (sol), the mixture surprisingly turns into a solid state (gel).

This is a completely unexpected result, as one would expect that the more solvent added, the more liquid the mixture becomes. However, the researchers have shown that this may not be the case, and have called this phenomenon the "sol-gel transition", as there is a transformation from one state to another. "We basically break the myth that dilution leads to less interaction between molecules and therefore to a more liquid state, where the molecules are diluted. In this work, we find a nice example of the opposite due to the interaction between two [supra]molecular systems with completely different chemical structures," explains Mosquera.

The term supramolecular refers to molecules capable of interacting with themselves and with other molecules to form complexes by means of reversible weak bonds. In our cells, these molecular complexes play fundamental roles for survival, such as cell division and DNA replication. Thus, this mechanism of interaction, at first sight counter-intuitive, could explain certain phenomena that occur naturally in our organism. For example, it is known that there are membraneless organelles that regulate vital processes in the cell, such as Cajal bodies or stress granules. How they are formed or how they are diluted are unanswered questions, and the in vitro discovery of this phenomenon could be key to understanding these biomolecular condensates.

As often happens in research, some experiments lead to unsuspected ones, and the authors of the study, Jesús Mosquera and his colleague Lu Su, made this observation by chance. "We were evaluating the interaction between two units typically used in supramolecular chemistry when we came across this phenomenon," says Mosquera.

About CICA:

The CICA is the Interdisciplinary Centre for Chemistry and Biology created at the University of A Coruña in 2015. It has more than 150 researchers organised in three scientific areas ranging from biomedicine to materials science. Research excellence, technology transfer and the transmission of knowledge to society form the three pillars on which the research centre is based. It is recognised for its attraction of talent, the visibility of women scientists and the promotion of gender equality, with a female presence of more than 50%.