“Inteins were originally found in nature and seen as an oddity before we knew their function,” says Dr. Paul Liu, professor in the department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. “But with greater research curiosity, more was understood about their usefulness and they attracted wider attention.”
Dr. Liu was recently awarded $120,000 from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) to study the evolutionary and functional versatility of inteins. The funding will also help Dr. Liu replace his graduating students with new students without a gap in training.
The first to discover intein-splitting, his group develops intein-based protein splicing technology for various applications. Now, protein fragments can be pieced together to form larger ones leading to new pathways for researchers to make proteins, whereas before they could only split them – like “cutting and pasting.”
The splicing has allowed for segment labeling in protein nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR), a process used to study the structure and dynamics of proteins – the molecules responsible for making us do the things we do, our health, the things that make us tick.
In fact, Dr. Liu’s group collaborates with laboratories in the U.S. to overcome difficulty in gene therapy. “In past cases large genes couldn’t be delivered into a person’s cells,” explains Dr. Liu. “Now you can deliver smaller proteins to the gene and splice them together once there.”
One of the most interesting prospects of intein research is that it may finally be the key to creating spider-silk. For centuries many have tried — unsuccessfully — to create the substance, the strongest fibre known to humans. While the silk-like fibre is made of proteins, it can’t be made in cells with recombinant (artificial) proteins. However, as Dr. Liu explains, with the use of intein-splitting, it may be possible to produce proteins fragment by fragment and splice them into spider-silk.
So, Will Spiderman one day be swinging past your office window? Stay tuned.
Charles Crosby | Newswise Science News
Closing in on advanced prostate cancer
13.12.2017 | Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona)
Visualizing single molecules in whole cells with a new spin
13.12.2017 | Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard
MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.
Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...
Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...
Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.
To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...
The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.
Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...
With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong
Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
07.12.2017 | Event News
13.12.2017 | Health and Medicine
13.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
13.12.2017 | Life Sciences