Biological ‘robots’ will blow your mind!

by Calvin Smith

 

Stand and deliver

Kinesin molecules are motor proteins found inside living things. Known as the ‘workhorse of the cell’, they haul vital cargo along roadways in cells called microtubules. Steven Block (professor of applied physics and of biological sciences at Stanford University) has described kinesin this way; “Kinesin functions like a locomotive in cells to ferry cargo back and forth.”1

A typical kinesin molecule is a mere 70 billionths of a metre (three-millionths of an inch) long and has an amazing likeness to a person! A typical kinesin has two ‘arms’ on one end (that hold onto the cargo) and two ‘legs’ on the other end that walk along the microtubule, pulling the cargo toward its final destination. In a sense they are like the ‘postman’ delivering mail inside cells.

Biological robots?

Inside all life forms that have nuclei in their cells (eukaryotes), proteins and other parts need to be delivered to specific places within the cell at specific times. If the needed part is a protein, a manufacturing plant (called the ribosome) receives blueprints for the part from the nucleus (the information is stored in the nucleus on a strand of DNA, but the blueprint is sent in the form of an RNA copy of that section of DNA).

This is a complex coordinated effort, as something must first access the creature’s DNA library, unzip it at the exact location needed for the specific information required (for whatever part is to be manufactured), create a duplicate of the information for the part and deliver it to the factory. (See animation, below left.)….

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