With molecules for moving parts, this nanorobot
links together amino acids (colored balls) by
attaching them to a moving ring (blue).


Molecular robot mimics life’s protein-builder

Ribosome-inspired nanomachine links amino acids in pre-determined sequence.

Mark Peplow
10 January 2013

The ribosome, the molecular machine that translates our genetic code to build the body’s proteins, is a mechanical marvel. Now, chemists have invented a nanomachine that can achieve a similar feat.

The artificial system is not about to displace nature’s ribosome, a complex of proteins and RNA. It is much simpler, and only about about one-tenth of the size — and, it is achingly slow, destroys the code it reads and can produce only very short chunks of protein, known as peptides. It does, however, show that some of the tactics of biology’s molecular machines can be adopted to make useful chemicals.

“We were inspired by the ribosome,” says synthetic chemist Dave Leigh at the University of Manchester, UK, who led the team behind the development. “But our machine is extremely primitive compared to the ribosome.”

Read more: Molecular robot mimics life's protein-builder : Nature News & Comment.

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