The challenge of understanding protein folding has led researchers to try several methods, including developing online games like Foldit. Researchers at the University of California, Irvine, are taking another approach — they are "wiretapping" enzymes so that they can listen as the proteins unfold, reports Popular Science's Rebecca Boyle. Their paper, published in Science, shows that they attached "nanoscale transistors" to lysozymes in human tears to monitor the way their structure changes over a long period of time, she says. "They attached the enzyme to a single-walled carbon nanotube, and put the enzyme to work in a reaction assay," Boyle adds. "The folding and twisting motions induced teeny changes in electrostatic potentials, which the carbon nanotube could detect. Amplifying these signals gave the team a glimpse of the movements the enzyme was making." One of the paper's co-authors, Philip Collins, likens the process to listening to a heartbeat with a stethoscope, but on a much smaller scale.
What's That You Say?
Jan 21, 2012