Monday, February 15, 2010

Tinkering with Proteins

Tucked into today's broadcast of NPR's Morning Edition was an exciting story not quite 4 minutes long, and easy to miss.  Listen to Joe Palca as he explains how "tinkering with proteins can have fundamental consequences on anything that's alive."  The research of Jason Chin and his group at Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, England, as described by Jim Collins at Boston University, has resulted in re-engineered ribosomes that can "read" quadruplets of thymine, adenine, guanine, and cytosine, the bases of DNA, rather than the standard triplets, leading to faster creation within certain bacterial cells of many more types of amino acids, capable of being strung together to construct novel proteins.  This technology, says Chin, could be used to develop "heartier" proteins with therapeutic properties, available in the body without being degraded.  The work of the research teams of both Chin and Collins is briefly reviewed in a news article on Nature's web site, along with other research challenges for synthetic biology.

A 2009 article on the technology developed by Chin appeared in PNAS: Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. PNAS May 26, 2009 vol. 106 no. 21 8477-8482

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