Organic chemists are always looking for the next great catalyst — basically, ingredients that speed up the rate of chemical reactions. Here, a group of Chinese chemists make an unusual suggestion: using ground-up earthworms as a catalyst for a range of important reactions. Presumably, proteins and/or molecules in the earthworm extracts were responsible for the catalysis, and they actually work pretty well (perhaps too well, according to our chemist sources…). Why earthworms? Because they’re “eco-friendly, environmentally benign, safe, cheap, easily accessible and stable.” The fact that they’re easy to purée probably doesn’t hurt…
Earthworm Is a Versatile and Sustainable Biocatalyst for Organic Synthesis
“A crude extract of earthworms was used as an eco-friendly, environmentally benign, and easily accessible biocatalyst for various organic synthesis including the asymmetric direct aldol and Mannich reactions, Henry and Biginelli reactions, direct three-component aza-Diels-Alder reactions for the synthesis of isoquinuclidines, and domino reactions for the synthesis of coumarins. Most of these reactions have never before seen in nature, and moderate to good enantioselectivities in aldol and Mannich reactions were obtained with this earthworm catalyst. The products can be obtained in preparatively useful yields, and the procedure does not require any additional cofactors or special equipment. This work provides an example of a practical way to use sustainable catalysts from nature.”
What’s worse than a colonoscopy? A colonoscopy involving an earthworm.
NCBI ROFL: The chemistry of pig sh*t.
NCBI ROFL: Is that a ruthenium polypyridine complex in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?