Biosingularity

Archive for November 2005

A Stanford University research team has designed the first microscope sensitive enough to track the real-time motion of a single protein down to the level of its individual atoms. Writing in the Nov. 13 online issue of the journal Nature, the Stanford researchers explain how the new instrument allowed them to settle long-standing scientific debates about the way genes are copied from DNA–a biochemical process that’s essential to life.

In a second paper published in the Nov. 8 online issue of the journal Physical Review Letters, the scientists offer a detailed description of their novel device, an advanced version of the “optical trap,” which uses infrared light to trap and control the forces on a functional protein, allowing researchers to monitor the molecule’s every move in real time.
“In the Nature experiment, we carried out the highest-resolution measurement ever made of an individual protein,” says Steven Block, professor of applied physics and of biological sciences. “We obtained measurements accurate to one angstrom, or one-tenth of a nanometer. That’s a distance equivalent to the diameter of a single hydrogen atom, and about 10 times finer than any previous such measurement.”
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Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology in Berlin discovered why lung, but not skin, anthrax infections are lethal. As reported in the newest issue of PloS Pathogen (November 2005) Neutrophils, a form of white blood cells, play a key role in anthrax infections. They can kill Bacillus anthracis by producing a protein called alpha-defensin. This discovery might now pave the way towards the development of new therapies for the fatal lung form of anthrax.
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