Harvard University and XVIVO have come together again (Previouslyw/ a commercial focus, Previouslierw/an Academic focus) to add to the growing series of scientific animations for BioVisions -- Harvard's multimedia lab in the department of Molecular and Cellular Biology. 'Protein Packing' strives to more accurately depict the molecular chaos in each and every cell, with proteins jittering around in what may seem like random motion. Proteins occupy roughly 40% of the cytoplasm, creating an environment that risks unintentional interaction and aggregation. Via diffusion and motor protein transport, these molecules are directed to sites where they are needed.
Much of this is no doubt inspired by the beautiful art and explained illustrations of David Goodsell, a biologist at Scripps who has been accurately portraying the crowdedness of the cellular landscape for a long time now.[more inside]
The Hidden Life Of the Cell (57:24) There is a battle playing out inside your body right now. It started billions of years ago and it is still being fought in every one of us every minute of every day. It is the story of a viral infection - the battle for the cell. This film reveals the exquisite machinery of the human cell system from within the inner world of the cell itself - from the frenetic membrane surface that acts as a security system for everything passing in and out of the cell, the dynamic highways that transport cargo across the cell and the remarkable turbines that power the whole cellular world to the amazing nucleus housing DNA and the construction of thousands of different proteins all with unique tasks. The virus intends to commandeer this system to one selfish end: to make more viruses. And they will stop at nothing to achieve their goal. Exploring the very latest ideas about the evolution of life on earth and the bio-chemical processes at the heart of every one of us, and revealing a world smaller than it is possible to comprehend, in a story large enough to fill the biggest imaginations.
You may be familiar with molecular movies from my two previous megaposts collecting them, but this extended documentary uses original animation that is collected into a coherent educational narrative and is just so fucking gorgeous. Enjoy.[more inside]
Uri Alon, professor of molecular cell biology at the Weizmann Institute of Science, gives a lecture on the subjective and emotional sides of doing science at CalTech, complete with guitar.
OpenPCR now has a kit available to build a thermal cycler for $512. The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is one of molecular biology's most common and often indispensable techniques, used for wide ranging purposes including testing (e.g., uncovering sushi fish fraud) and genetic engineering. OpenPCR puts the technology within better reach of educators and amateurs: commercial thermal cyclers normally cost thousands of dollars. via.
ZOMGscience.net. For those who think science could use more swearing. [Text is very NSFW, images are fine.] [more inside]
The secret, social lives of bacteria. "Bonnie Bassler discovered that bacteria 'talk' to each other, using a chemical language that lets them coordinate defense and mount attacks. The find has stunning implications for medicine, industry -- and our understanding of ourselves." [Via]
Recent work by Yichao Wu, Judy Lieberman, and Deborah Palliser has led to a topical treatment that knocks out the herpes virus in testing with mice by way of RNA interference (RNAi). Notably, it works when applied prior to or after sexual contact and holds promise for human usage. (RNAi is a very recent (1998) discovery that garnered the 2006 Nobel prize [MetaFilter thread] for Fire and Mello.) You can read more about the intravaginal application of siRNAs in the January issue of Cell Host & Microbe.
[MediFilter] The 2006 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine goes to the discoverers of RNA interference (RNAi) [Note: Links to original 1998 Nature paper .pdf]. The finding that cells have an intricate mechanism for blocking viral RNA replication quickly spawned a new technology for investigating the role of different genes by allowing scientists to quickly, (relatively) cheaply and easily "knock down" their expression and measure the effects. When Kerry Mullis won in 1993 for the discovery of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), there was talk of whether or not the prize had gone to a technical advance and not a fundamental discovery. It will be interesting to see, in this case, which receives more focus: the discovery of a new technology or of a new cellular mechanism.
Vernon Ingram, who discovered the molecular cause of sickle cell anemia, has died. Dr. Ingram, a professor and active neuroscientist at MIT, demonstrated that conversion of glutamic acid to valine at position 6 of the ß-chain of human hemoglobin [Note: .pdf of original paper] was the sole abnormality in sickle hemoglobin. This seminal observation, which was based on an early version of 2-D protein electrophoresis, demonstrated that a protein abnormality in which a single amino acid is altered can produce a complex clinical disorder. Linus Pauling said, in response to Ingram's discovery, "“It is astounding that the difference in structure is so small – only about a dozen atoms out of 10,000 in the molecule are different. On such small atomies man’s fate depends!” Often called "The Father of Molecular Biology," Ingram's discovery is part of a remarkable, fascinating, and century long scientific endeavour to understand the biology of sickle cell disease.
Multilingual bacteria are being used in synthetic biology techniques to display computer functionality.
"We have [a substance] that extends the life of every species it's given to. We're 50 years ahead of where I thought we would be 10 years ago." While Harvard Medical School rules prevent David Sinclair from recommending product, "I know a number of scientists who think [it] is their best shot. Others satisfy themselves with a glass of red wine," which contains the compound. Too good to be true?