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Thursday, August 24, 2017
We Can’t Live Without Protein Research
Focusing intensely on natural environments helps keep the samples authentic and creates better data. Furthermore, they can provide a higher density of data points which translates into better data quality and seeing more in the data that other technologies could miss. Before we get into the fantastic ways we have benefited from protein research, let’s actually discuss it just a little bit further.
Proteins Are What I Eat, Right?
It’s true that we eat proteins in our diet but we are not talking about those proteins. We are talking about the building blocks of the cells within our bodies. All of our life information is encoded within our DNA; proteins manage the process of our life maintenance, defense, reproduction, and replication. They are often studied individually so that if we were to clone a cell, we would get the protein structure correct. When all of the proteins are cloned individually, they then come together in the cell. This suddenly makes cloning sound a lot more complicated, doesn’t it?
Why Do We Study Proteins?
Of course, the reason why we study proteins can vary. The simplest answer is so that we can understand the DNA better. The interesting thing about DNA is that a protein can be modified without ever affecting DNA. So simply studying DNA can leave us with questions on why something happened. When we research the proteins, we can see a clearer map. When proteins are modified and we can identify it, it will tell us how that specific protein worked and can lead to why it was modified. This point was really driven home when researchers studied dinosaur proteins. The proteins were able to identify the age of the sample, which could affect changes in when we thought a particular species existed, and what the environment was like that the dinosaur lived in or was buried in. Not all DNA evolve for evolution but proteins certainly do!
So, How Does It Help Us?
Studying proteins helps us in a myriad of ways. Medicines are often designed around the proteins within our bodies and learning how to affect the protein isn’t easy. Often they have to build a structure of a specific protein as a template in a computer program and bind it to a natural molecule. The natural molecule works sort of like a key, it unlocks the biological action of the protein. When designing certain medicines, they will want to either unlock that action or block it all together. The more response they get from the proteins, the easier it is to create these types of medicines. When they don’t work, they know to go back to the proteins and research some more.
One of the more popular examples of how protein research has helped us is when researchers were stumped on how to understand the structure of a particular protein. However, they employed video gamers to assist in the research. They were able to successfully replicate the structure and understand why some viruses, like HIV, could spread. When we have that type of information released, it makes finding the medicines and treatments easier to eradicate some diseases all together.
As we continue researching proteins, we expect to find a lot more treatments and a few cures along the way. We will also be able to notice genetic tendencies towards certain types of illnesses and disorders. Nothing but good can come from protein research!
This is a blog post by Nancy Evans.
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