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Cell Calcium Channel: Meet Me at the Gate

All cells use calcium ions for signalling.  The ions flow through specialized gates in the plasma membrane.  Inside the cell, receptors line the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), a kind of subway system where finishing work on proteins is done.  How do the two get together?  They arrange a meeting.     Richard Lewis, writing in Nature,1 […]

Watch a Ribosome in Action

A remarkable article about a remarkable machine: that’s what Chemical and Engineering News has published about the ribosome, a molecular machine vital to everything alive in the world.  Stu Borman’s article lavishes praise on the details of this assembly-line factory that translates RNA into proteins.  He surveys the history of investigation into the ribosome’s secrets.  […]

OOL on the Rocks

An important survey of the origin-of-life (OOL) field has been published in Scientific American.  Robert Shapiro, a senior prize-winning chemist, cancer researcher, emeritus professor and author of books in the field, debunks the Miller experiment, the RNA World and other popular experiments as unrealistic dead ends.  Describing the wishful thinking of some researchers, he said, […]

Cells Perform Nanomagic

The cell is quicker than the eye of our best scientific instruments.  Biochemists and biophysicists are nearing closer to watching cellular magic tricks in real time but aren’t quite there yet.  They know it’s just a trick of the eye, but it sure is baffling how cellular machines pull off their most amazing feats.  Think, […]

Contingency and the Structure of Life’s Building Blocks

Some Yale scientists found they could construct protein-like molecules using amino acids of a type not found in living things.  They found that beta-amino acids can fold into shapes similar to the proteins made of alpha-amino acids used in living things.  Beta-amino acids have an extra carbon on the backbone.  “Yale chemists show that nature […]

Cells Perform Sporting Interactions

The components of living cells perform such acrobatic moving interactions, one would think they are having fun.  Here’s the news from the Wide World of Cellular Sports. Speedway:  A news release from Penn Medicine talks about how motor proteins step on the gas and the brakes in their motions around the cell.  The announcer from […]

Cell Quality Control Runs a Tight Ship

Without the surveillance and rapid response of quality control, cells would collapse and die.  Here are some recently-published examples of nanoheroes in action. Plant checkpoints:  Picture a child watching the wonder of a seedling breaking through the soil into the light for the first time.  Within hours, the ghostly-white stem turns green, and a day […]

Cell Membrane Has Ticket-Operated Turnstiles

Cells are like castles surrounded by walls.  A wall without gates, however, would prevent commerce and trap the inhabitants inside.  The cell has ingenious gates that control the flow of goods and services through its outer membrane under tight surveillance and quality control.  This controlled flow, as opposed to passive diffusion or osmosis, is termed […]

The Evolution of Electrical Engineering:  An Imaginary Tale

Nerves carry electrical impulses.  Ipso facto, they are subject to laws of physics concerning conductance, capacitance, and resistance.  Getting a signal from one end of an animal to the other in time can be a matter of life and death.  In order to maintain optimum levels of electrical conductivity to meet their lifestyle requirements, animals […]

Are Cellular Motors Related by Evolution?

Just because two things go round and round, does that make them related by common ancestry?  A Japanese team thinks so.  A bacterial flagellum rotates (06/04/2002).  So does ATP synthase, though it is about 10 times smaller (04/30/2004).  Publishing in PNAS,1 these researchers looked for a relationship, and noted that these two motors bear some […]

This Bacterium Moves Like a Tank

Mark McBride (U of Wisconsin) has been trying for a decade to figure out how a gliding bacterium glides.  His conclusion: the microbe has tire treads like a conveyor belt that make it roll over a variety of surfaces, like an all-terrain vehicle.     According to a U of Wisconsin press release, the Department […]

Cell Zippers, Linemen and Editors Put on a Show

The golden age of cell biology continues.  Scientists keep unlocking the secrets of cellular machinery with newer and better techniques.  With the curtain rising on a show we could not previously imagine, played out on a stage so small it took centuries of scientific work to even see it, biochemists are discovering amazing tricks that […]

Animal Plan IT

Imitating animal technology is one of the hottest areas in science.  The engineering and information technology (IT) observable in living things continues to astonish scientists and makes engineers want to imitate nature’s designs.  Biomimetics is leading to productive, useful discoveries helping solve human problems and leading to a better life for all.  Here are some […]

Mutations Accelerate Each Other’s Damage

As reported in our 10/14/2004 entry, mutations do not work in isolation; even the good kind usually conspire against the host.  This fact has been largely ignored by neo-Darwinists.  Some researchers at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, Israel, writing in Nature,1 tested the interaction of mutations (epistasis) on proteins.  They found, in short, that harmful […]

The Nature of Cellular Tech

For molecule-size entities working in the dark, cellular machines seem pretty clever.  Here are some tricks they perform day and night to keep life functioning, described this month in Nature and PNAS.  Cell biology is sounding more and more like a mixture of Popular Mechanics and Wired. Energy balancing act:  Cells have to use oxygen […]
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