Scientists find ways to pick a protein’s pockets

Folded protein
This graphic shows the structure of a computationally designed protein that incorporates sheet-like structures with pockets, known as beta sheets. The beta sheets are the wavy “noodles” in the diagram. The structure also incorporates curled-up molecular spirals. (UW Institute for Protein Design / AAAS)

Researchers at the University of Washington have cracked the code for producing molecular structures with tiny pockets – structures that are likely to expand the repertoire for custom-designed proteins.

The structures, technically known as beta sheets, are thought to have an effect on metabolic pathways and cell signaling. Knowing how to produce them synthetically in precise configurations could lead to new treatments for maladies such as AIDS, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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