Stereochemistry is a term used to describe the orientation and spatial arrangement of molecules, and has very important implications in society, especially in the fields of medicine and pharmacology. A famous case of stereochemistry at work occurred in the late 1950’s. A drug called thalidomide was developed by German scientists in the 1950’s as a sedative and was eventually marketed and sold as Contergan. At the time, not much was known about the effects of medicine on developing fetuses, and pregnant women took thalidomide to relieve their morning sickness symptoms. When producing the drug, it existed in the form of two enantiomers, one form with re medical benefit and the other causing serious birth defects in children. Shortly afterwards the sale of thalidomide was banned. Thalidomide was later discovered to have positive effects on people with leprosy and even cancer treatments. Thalidomide was found to inhibit angiogenesis (the growth and development of blood vessels) which helped treat some cases of blood cancer.
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