Chinese scientists realize precise artificial synthesis of hexose from CO2
The scientists in lab experiment of synthetic sugar. /Chine Media Group
The scientists in lab experiment of synthetic sugar. /Chine Media Group

The scientists in lab experiment of synthetic sugar. /Chine Media Group

Chinese scientists have achieved new progress in synthetic sugar by developing an artificial method of synthesizing hexoses from carbon dioxide (CO2), according to a study published in the journal Science Bulletin on Wednesday.

Sugars are important substances in production and life. They are also named depending on the number of carbons they contained, and hexoses are simple sugars with six carbon atoms.

Hexoses are widely distributed and abundant in nature, which is closely related to the nutritional metabolism of the body. The most common hexoses are glucose, fructose and galactose.

After more than two years' efforts, the research team from Chinese Academy of Sciences' Tianjin Institute of Industrial Biotechnology and the Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics developed an artificial CO2-to-sugars pathway for precise sugars synthesis.

"We present a versatile chemoenzymatic roadmap based on aldol condensation, iso/epimerization, and dephosphorylation reactions for asymmetric CO2 and H2 assembly into sugars with perfect stereocontrol," the team said in the study.

"This chemical-biological platform demonstrated a greater carbon conversion yield than the conventional 'CO2-bioresource-sugar process' and could be easily extended to precisely synthesize other high-order sugars from CO2," said the study.

The team said that developing artificial CO2-sugar platforms is "meaningful to addressing challenges" brought by land scarcity and climate change to the supply of dietary sugar.

The research provides a synthetic route that does not depend on land or on planting, which is shorter, requires less energy, and is more efficient, said Yang Jiangang, associate professor of Tianjin Institute of Industrial Biotechnology.

Next, the research team expects to further synthesize oligosaccharides, glycosides, sugar alcohols and other compounds based on this technology, to obtain sugar molecules that are rare or even nonexistent in nature, which can be used as raw materials in the fields such as food, medicine and biological manufacturing.

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