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Chemical Reaction: The Chirality of Life

By: Steve Herman
Posted: October 14, 2008, from the May 2006 issue of GCI Magazine.

The universe is asymmetric and I am persuaded that life, as it is known to us, is a direct result of the asymmetry of the universe or of its indirect consequences. The universe is asymmetric. —Louis Pasteur

We all know that cosmetics contain chemicals and pH. To make matters worse, we now talk about “chirals”:

… even labels that appear to have “good” ingredients—vitamins, enzymes, alpha hydroxy and beta hydroxy acids—can be deceiving, because of something called a “chiral.” Chemical molecules, such as vitamin C, for instance, are composed of mirror-image components, which are exact opposites of each other. Oversimplified, one part of the molecule does good work in the body, while the other—the evil twin, or chiral—wreaks harm. “Everything in nature appears in opposition to each other,” the doctor explains. “It’s the same with every chemical compound. You have to purify out the bad chemicals that cause harm, and keep the good ones. People need to look for chiral-free products.”1

Ah, if only we could remove the chirals from our products.

In all fairness, there is science behind this, very significant science. Life on earth is left-handed. Specifically, the 18 optically active amino acids of life are all l-enatiomers. This chemistry comes out of the plane of the paper when we draw pictures of it.