Biomedical applications of copper-free click chemistry: in vitro, in vivo, and ex vivo
Recently, click chemistry has provided important advances in biomedical research fields. Particularly, copper-free click chemistry including strain-promoted azide–alkyne cycloaddition (SPAAC) and inverse-electron-demand Diels–Alder (iEDDA) reactions enable fast and specific chemical conjugation under aqueous conditions without the need for toxic catalysts. Click chemistry has resulted in a change of paradigm, showing that artificial chemical reactions can occur on cell surfaces, in cell cytosol, or within the body, which is not easy with most other chemical reactions. Click chemistry in vitro allows specific labelling of cellular target proteins and studying of drug target engagement with drug surrogates in live cells. Furthermore, cellular membrane lipids and proteins could be selectively labelled with click chemistry in vitro and cells could be adhered together using click chemistry. Click chemistry in vivo enables efficient and effective molecular imaging and drug delivery for diagnosis and therapy. Click chemistry ex vivo can be used to develop molecular tools to understand tissue development, diagnosis of diseases, and therapeutic monitoring. Overall, the results from research to date suggest that click chemistry has emerged as a valuable tool in biomedical fields as well as in organic chemistry.