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Structural View of Biology

Scientists are looking to nature for inspiration, and harnessing biological machinery for use in science and technology. Cells have evolved effective methods for performing a bewildering variety of nanoscale tasks. Many of these molecular machines may be used directly, by simply purifying the molecule and using it in the laboratory. Careful study of these molecular machines is also revealing the underlying nanoscale principles of their action, allowing researchers to create new molecular machines with novel functions.

Some biomolecules are robust enough to be used in industrial applications. For instance, sturdy enzymes may be used to break down starch to form sweeteners. Researchers are also looking to biomolecules for methods to create green energy.

Scroll to a Molecule of the Month Feature in this subcategory:

  • Antifreeze Proteins

    Antifreeze Proteins

    Ice is a big problem for organisms that live in cold climates. Once the temperature dips below freezing, ice crystals steadily grow and burst cells. This danger, however, has not limited the spread of life on Earth to temperate regions. Organisms of all types--plants, animals, fungi and bacteria--have developed ways to combat the deadly growth of ice crystals. In some cases, they pack their cells with small antifreeze compounds like sugars or glycerol. But in cases where extra help is needed, cells make specialized antifreeze proteins to protect themselves as the temperature drops.

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  • Glucose Oxidase

    Glucose Oxidase

    Diabetes is a worldwide health problem affecting hundreds of millions of people. Fortunately, with careful management of diet and medication, the many complications of diabetes can be reduced. Part of this treatment includes the monitoring of glucose levels in the blood, so that proper action may be taken if levels get too high. The enzyme glucose oxidase has made glucose measurement fast, easy, and inexpensive.

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    Discussed Structures

Please see our usage polices for citation and reprint information. Copies of the illustrations used in these features are available for download as high resolution TIFF images. Please note that the structures used to illustrate each installment are chosen at the discretion of the authors; the features are not intended to represent a historical record. The process behind the creation of this feature is described by the author.