Genetic tools create new opportunities for decoding protein structures

Proteins are made up of linear sequences of amino acids but understanding how these amino acids fold to form a three-dimensional structure is notoriously difficult. Knowing what a protein looks like in 3D is often necessary for understanding how it functions and how it can be manipulated. For instance, understanding how proteins such as antibodies bind to viruses like the flu would enable scientists to … Continue reading Genetic tools create new opportunities for decoding protein structures

Gamers and scientists work together to conquer a cancer-causing menace

A unique partnership between academic laboratories, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UN FAO), and Mars, Incorporated hopes to leverage the power of crowdsourced science to develop new protein structures that can degrade the aflatoxin poison. Aflatoxin, produced by certain fungi, is a potent cancer-causing poison estimated to contribute to up to 28% of liver cancer cases globally. This toxin can contaminate crops in the … Continue reading Gamers and scientists work together to conquer a cancer-causing menace

The Hidden Genetic Code

by Amir Bitran figures by Daniel Utter Proteins, the molecules that sustain all life, are similar to cars and other machines in an important way: they require a specific, well-defined structure to function. Obviously, a random pile of car parts cannot be driven. And similarly, a protein that is not assembled correctly cannot perform crucial tasks like producing energy, supporting cell structure, and generating electric signals. In … Continue reading The Hidden Genetic Code

Foldit players beat scientists in determining a protein’s shape

Eight years ago, a team at the University of Washington developed Foldit, a protein folding game that pits gamers against scientists and computer algorithms. Proteins, which are made up of a string of building blocks, called amino acids, form much of the core machinery of cells. When immersed in water, protein chains adopt a variety of shapes that enable them to perform their cellular roles. … Continue reading Foldit players beat scientists in determining a protein’s shape