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DNA Translator More Complicated Than Thought

One of the most remarkable molecular machines in your body, the ribosome, is coming to light, nanometer by nanometer, as scientists find new ways to peer into the inner workings of the “black box.”     Science Daily reported on work at Berkeley that has given the clearest imagery yet.  “Ribosomes, which number in the […]

Protein Function: It’s All in the Fold

Most chemical reactions involve atoms or molecules bumping into one another and exchanging electrons.  Proteins, by contrast, derive their immense functional repertoire from their shapes.  Several recent studies explore the amazing potential for strength, motility and catalysis that derives from the way proteins fold. Clots:  A picture of fibrin graces an article in Science Daily.  […]

Did Evolution Create Genetic Proofreading?

Protein manufacture in the cell is such a critical operation, there are numerous error-checking mechanisms the cell uses to get it right.  One of the most amazing is the careful association of DNA codons with amino acids, and the “proofreading” or “spell checking” that ensures fidelity.  How could spell checking evolve?     Science Daily […]

Nanotech Blurs Line With Biophysics

Machines on the molecular scale – in the literature these days, one needs to dig to find whether a news article is talking about man-made machinery or the living cell.  Both employ laws of physics to do work.  Notice how seamless the connection is in the following examples. Kinesin tightrope walk:  Scientists at Northwestern University […]

Biological Big Bang: Another Explosion at the Dawn of Life

Eugene Koonin and two friends from the NIH went tree-hunting.  They examined almost 7,000 genomes of prokaryotes.  They found trees all right – a whole forest of them.  They even found 102 NUTs (nearly universal trees) in the forest.  Unfortunately, it’s not what they wanted to find: a single universal tree of life that Darwin’s […]

More Going On in the Brain Than We Realize

The news story about a girl who can see in both eyes with half a brain has stunned neurophysiologists (see New Scientist and Live Science).  Somehow, the remaining parts of her brain underwent a massive reorganization of the circuits involved in vision.  “It was quite a surprise to see that something like this is possible,” […]

Systems Biology Oddly Silent About Darwin

Two papers on the rise of “systems biology” appeared in Nature last week.  Both are astounded by the complexity of the cell, but neither had anything to say about evolution, Darwin, or phylogeny – mildly surprising when the proponents of evolution keep saying that “nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.” […]

Warning: Do NOT Mutate This Protein Complex

In each cell of your body there is a complex of 8 or more proteins bound together called the BBSome.  This protein complex, discovered in 2007, should not be disturbed.  Here’s what happens when it mutates: “A homozygous mutation in any BBSome subunit (except BBIP10) will make you blind, obese and deaf, will obliterate your […]

How Cells Proofread DNA Is Still Mysterious

An amazing fact about DNA transcription is that the machinery not only copies DNA onto RNA, but checks it for errors.  A story in Science Daily says that researchers would expect 100 times more errors statistically than the actual results of transcription in the cell.     One of the mechanisms revealed in more detail […]

Cells Use Cloud Computing

“Cloud computing” is the up-and-coming trend in information technology.  It allows processes to run in parallel on multiple networked processors with more robustness, because other processors can pick up the slack if a major server fails.  Scientists are finding that cells have been using this technology all along.     Science Daily reported on work […]

Discovering Health and Technology in the Human Body

Why invent technology from scratch, when the body contains substances that point the way to high tech, and can heal almost like magic?  Several articles show that harnessing the body’s own resources is the wave of the future.     Umbilical cords were usually tossed into the maternity ward biowaste can, but now they are […]

World’s Smallest Rotary Engine Highlighted

The smallest rotary motor in the world keeps your body humming.  It also keeps bacteria, plants, polar bears, giraffes, salmon, sea urchins and just about everything else humming.  It’s a nano-wonder called ATP synthase.  This molecular motor has been reported many times in these pages, but not recently; what’s new?  The state of our knowledge […]

Scientific Data Can Mislead

Some recent stories should remind scientists that data do not exist in a philosophical vacuum.  Sometimes empirical measurements can be downright misleading. Pillars of creation:  The famous Hubble photo of the Eagle Nebula’s “pillars of creation” seemed to have a straightforward explanation: nearby stars were eroding the pillars with blasts of radiation.  Scientists have been […]

Who Needs Embryonic Stem Cells?

Cells can be “reprogrammed” to act just like embryonic stem cells, a Nature stem cell blog called The Niche reported.  This eliminates the need to use viruses or inserted DNA to induce the cells to become pluripotent.  The resulting cells are “morphologically indistinguishable” from embryonic stem cells, the article said.     The prior week, […]

Evolving Complexity

Anyone analyzing a scientific explanation should evaluate whether it explains the phenomenon or explains it away.  For instance, to say that bats have sonar because they evolved it provides little in the way of understanding of how or why that happened.  Recently, some scientific papers have directly addressed the topic of complex systems in biology.  […]
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