This workshop shows the use of steam distillation to extract essential oils. Moreover, the compounds responsible for the medicinal and olfactory properties of several medicinal plants are represented by means of molecular models. These models allow the identification of the functional groups present in these compounds. In addition, the concept of stereoisomerism is introduced. In particular, enantiomers are studied through the representation of two molecules that are the mirror image of each other.
The Laboratory of Smells consists, on the one hand, of a practical workshop which will show the procedure of extracting the essential oil of cinnamon, cinnalmaldehyde. This process consists of a steam distillation and a liquid-liquid extraction. On the other hand, plants, flowers and fruits will be displayed, and the main molecule responsible for the most important features of each of these plants, flowers and fruits will be represented using molecular models. This will be useful to identify the functional groups present in these molecules and also to explain the relationship between the structure and the properties of these compounds. For example, the molecules responsible for the smell of mint and caraway, which have the peculiarity of being the mirror image of each other, will be represented. This will allow the introduction of the concept of stereoisomerism and, more specifically, of enantioisomerism.
This workshop is related to the research focused on the development of new bioactive compounds. The biological properties of a compound can be related to the functional groups that it contains and to how they are oriented in space. These two features are involved in the interaction of this compound with its biological target. For instance, this target can be the lipid bilayer of a cell membrane or a receptor expressed on the surface of a cell. The LIPPSO group is one of the UdG groups that focus its research in this field. Specifically, the research of LIPPSO is mainly centered on the design and synthesis of compounds with antimicrobial activity that may be useful to control plant diseases of economic importance. In particular, LIPPSO studies the use of antimicrobial peptides as novel pesticides. These peptides contain a combination of cationic and hydrophobic amino acids that is suitable for their interaction with the bacterial membrane. To date, peptides with high activity have been identified and can be considered good candidates as new pesticides.