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Something scary for Halloween – polio virus

When my parents were young, summer made cities a scary place for young families.  My mother tells me children were often sent away from their homes to relatives in the country, if possible, and swimming pools were definitely off limits.  The disease they feared, poliomyelitis, and the havoc it wrecked were the stuff of nightmares.  Children…

Making the most of Molecule of the Month with Molecule World

We’ve been fans of the Molecule of the Month series by David Goodsell, for many years. Not only is Dr. Goodsell a talented artist but he writes very clear descriptions of the ways molecules like proteins, RNA, and DNA work together and function inside a cell. To learn about proteins and their activities, I like…

Some like it hot – receptors for capsaicin and wasabi

To have an effect, a molecule must bind to a receptor and trigger a signal.  Studying a receptor’s structure can give us insights about the way this triggering process works. Capsaicin is a fascinating molecule that puts the “pep” into peppers.  Curiously, the amount of capsaicin in a pepper is measured with a test devised in 1912 by…

Making DNA art for DNA Day 2015

National DNA Day has a fun challenge for teachers and classrooms using Pinterest.  Your class can join a larger, national, effort to create a National DNA Day Pinterest board by making your own class Pinterest board on DNA, genetics, and genomics.  Some possible topics are: Things to do with DNA DNA and health DNA and the Arts…

Bio Databases 2015

Something interesting happened in 2014. The total number of databases that Nucleic Acids Research (NAR) tracks dropped by three databases! What happened?  Did people quit making databases?  No.  This year, the “dead” databases (links no longer valid) outnumber the new ones. To celebrate Digital World Biology’s release of Molecule World I’ll discuss...

Using a rainbow to show how proteins fold

Pull a spaghetti noodle out of a box of pasta and take a look.  It’s long and stiff.  Try to bend it and it breaks.  But fresh pasta is pliable.  It can fold just like cooked noodles. When students first look at an amino acid sequence, a long string of confusing letters, they often think those letters are…

And the plant goes “moo” ? – a bioinformatics case study with insulin

Sometimes when you go digging through the databases, you find unexpected things. When I was researching the previous posts on insulin structure and insulin evolution, I found something curious indeed.                     I wanted to find out how many different organisms made insulin, so I used a database…

Don’t pine for me – some parts are not edible

On pinene and inhibiting enzymes. People of a certain age may remember a series of really funny commercials featuring Euell Gibbons and his famous question about whether you’ve ever eaten a pine tree.  “Some parts are edible” said Euell. Perhaps some parts are, but other pine tree products aren’t so nourishing.  Crystallography365, aka @Crystal_in_city  had...

Insulin, sugar, and evolution

In my last post, I wrote about insulin and interesting features of the insulin structure.  Some of the things I learned were really surprising.  For example, I was surprised to learn how similar pig and human insulin are.  I hadn’t considered this before, but this made me wonder about the human insulin we used to give…

While visions of sugarplums danced through their heads

Molecules of sucrose tore apart in their bellies letting glucose course free in their veins. Luckily for us, a system evolved long ago to capture that glucose and minimize it’s potential for damage. Removing sugar from the blood and sequestering it in liver, fat, and muscle cells, minimizes the harm that might result if sugars were free to…

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