The Biochemist Blog

Mimicking molecular machines

By Arwen Nugteren, University of Queensland, Australia

Rotors were used in early combustion engines and are still used in electric engines and turbines today. That means that when we first built cars, back in 1886, they used rotors in their engines simply because that was just what worked.

ATP synthase was discovered in 1960 as an essential enzyme in aerobic cellular respiration, but it wasn’t until the 1990s when John E. Walker partnered with crystallographers to determine its structure.

Venom: killer but also a potential cure

By Steve Allain, Imperial College London

One of my biggest pet peeves as a herpetologist is the trouble that some people have with distinguishing between a venom and a poison – I thought I’d address this early on as I don’t wish to confuse anyone. There is an easy way to remember which is which, a venom has to be injected and a poison has to be ingested. It is very likely that if you ingested a venom it wouldn’t have any effect on your body due to the same protective properties in the stomach that protect us from pathogens, such as the change in pH.

Thinking differently to drive innovation in cancer research

By Jenni Lacey, Cancer Research UK

At Cancer Research UK, we invest over £350 million each year on high-calibre cancer research which we believe has the potential to provide the greatest benefit to the public and cancer patients. We are always looking for novel ways to spark and fund creative ideas, and encourage fresh thinking. That’s why we’ve developed new ways of supporting research and stimulating innovation. We have funding schemes that are open to researchers from all backgrounds, including biochemists, and those not currently working in cancer research.

Let the Trojan vesicles in

By Paulo Szwarc, Federal University of Paraná, Brazil

Cancer sure is tricky. We try to starve it, cut it, stress it out of our bodies. We even bombard it with radiation until it dies. And yet, not due to lack of trying, many times we lose the fight. It escapes, evades our resistance. Its overly mutational nature leads it to adapt, dodging the deadly effects of chemotherapeutics. Not only that, but the lack of selectivity in many treatments means that while we harm the tumour, we also wreak havoc to our own healthy cells. It makes the battle much harder.