July 1, 2004 | David F. Coppedge

Cell Technology Celebrated

Humans are just beginning to imitate the manufacturing techniques cells use all the time, right under our noses.  A book just came out about the subject, entitled Bionanotechnology: Lessons from Nature by David S. Goodsell.  It’s hard to tell if Christof M. Niemeyer was more impressed with the book or with the living machines themselves, in his review in the July 1 issue of Nature.1  He writes,

Nanotechnology is perfectly realized in biological systems.  Cells are essentially biological assemblers that build thousands of custom-designed molecules and construct new assemblers.  In Bionanotechnology, structural biologist David Goodsell describes what biology can teach us about engineering and manufacturing at the nanometre scale.

Small wonder,” reads a caption whimsically; “antibodies … are just one example of the way nature uses nanotechnology.”  Niemeyer mentions a few more examples of “the composition and structural principles of biomolecules harnessed in the cell”—

  • the machinery of DNA transcription and translation
  • biomolecular motors
  • the information-driven synthesis of biological molecules
  • the energetics and regulation of biological processes
  • the traffic across membranes and signal transduction along them
  • the interplay of myosin and actin filaments within the muscle sarcomere

Although the book focuses on how humans can tinker with this biological nanotechnology, reviewer Niemeyer enjoyed every page of this “fascinating journey.”


1Christof M. Niemeyer, “Living Machinery,” Nature 430, 20 (01 July 2004); doi:10.1038/430020a.

Here is a book that had no need for the E word, but plenty of occasion for the word design.  The only evolutionary reference was to directed evolution, a misnomer referring to intelligently-guided sorting and artificial selection of mutants (see 06/16/2004 headline.)
    Any Darwinite who would be called on to explain how nanotechnology was “perfectly realized” in a cell that can assemble “thousands of custom-designed molecules” including “new assemblers” would probably rather call in sick (see 06/14/2004 commentary.)
    The review accidentally mistyped the author“s name as “Godsell.”  God doesn’t sell His technology; he gives it to you for free.  That’s the lesson from nature.  Good sell.

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