A Right Hook Against Asthma

ASTHMA COULD BE THE latest ailment to be alleviated by a hot theory in pharmacology: When it comes to drug molecules, one hand is better than two. Sepracor Inc. in Marlborough, Mass., says it has developed a "right-handed" organic molecule that treats asthma far more effectively than drugs containing both right- and left-handed molecules. Depending on their handedness, or "chirality," molecules perform drastically different roles. In thalidomide, for example, the good isomer acted as a sedative; the other caused birth defects. Today, 90% of synthetic drugs contain equal portions of the right- and left-handed molecules.

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