The nerve agent sarin causes a deadly overstimulation of the nervous system that can be stopped if treated with an antidote within minutes of poisoning. Today, a ground-breaking study has been published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which in detail describes how such a drug works. Researchers at the Swedish Defence Research Agency, Umeå University and in Germany are behind the study.
A model of how sarin and HI-6 are positioned in the protein acetylcholinesterase just before HI-6 removes sarin and restores the function of the protein. The model was developed by a combination of X-ray crystallography and quantum chemical calculations. Sarin in magenta, HI6 in green, oxygen in red, phosphorus in orange and nitrogen in blue.
Credit: FOI, Swedish Defence Research Agency