Molecular "Lawnmower" is The First Autonomous Protein-Based Synthetic Motor

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Living cells are filled with powerful molecular motors. Now biophysicists have built their own for the first time.
Molecular motors are the workhorses of life. They open and shut valves in cell walls, force muscle tissue to contract and transport cargo. Every living cell is literally crawling with them.

Cellular biologists have long been fascinated by these devices. Indeed, they have studied how this machinery works, worked out how to operate it outside cells and hope to exploit it in future for their own ends. The idea is that molecular machines could one day transport medicine to therapeutic targets, build complex molecules and carry fuel and waste from synthetic molecular factories.

However, the motors that biologists currently play around with are all variants of the machines that already occur in nature, built using components taken from existing motors. Nobody has succeeded building an entirely synthetic motor of their own design.

Until now. Enter Chapin Korosec and Nancy Forde, biophysicists at Simon Fraser University in Canada. Korosec and Forde have designed and built the first entirely synthetic molecular motor and measured its performance under laboratory conditions. They call their motor "the lawnmower". "We believe the lawnmower is the first example of an autonomous protein-based synthetic motor purpose-built using nonmotor protein components," they say.

Molecular motors are molecules that convert chemical energy into directional motion. Perhaps the most…
The Physics arXiv Blog
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