After Friedrich Wohler accidentally synthesized urea in 1828, chemical synthesis - and organic synthesis for that - has been a driving force in pharmaceutical innovation.

We live longer and better than ever and we can thank the continuous advancement of synthetic chemistry, which allows scientists to design and build new molecules.

A new reaction even allows for the edition of organic molecule's skeletons, opening up new avenues of research. In a paper published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society a team present a new reaction able to edit the skeletons of organic molecules by breaking strong C-C double bonds and inserting a carbon atom through a catalytic process. 

The researchers present the first catalytic generation of Rh-carbynoids, which emulate the carbene/carbocation behavior of a monovalent cationic carbyne. The catalytic generation of Rh-carbynoids represents a new platform for carbyne transfer that enables skeletal remodelling, and circumvents a long-standing challenge in the catalytic generation of metal-carbynes.

Credit: 10.1021/jacs.9b08632

Aside from inserting a new monovalent carbon atom, the reaction also introduces extra complexity in the molecule: a single C-C bond and a double C-C bond are created together with a chiral center at one of the C atoms with the cleaved double bond.

The skeletal editing will allow building complex architectures, thus expanding the synthetic possibilities of creating new materials or medicines.