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Scientists Discover One of Nature’s Tiniest Switches

September 25th, 2017
Scientist with Vial


If the advent of computers launched the Information Age, the ability to engineer tiny machines from molecules could define the coming decades.

In a testament to the rapid advance of nanotechnology, the 2016 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to scientists who built the world’s first synthetic molecular machines by interlocking single molecules into devices capable of mechanical motion.

Now, a discovery by Princeton University scientists, reported Aug. 2 in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, demonstrates that humans don’t have the monopoly on building the world’s tiniest machines. The Princeton researchers found a lasso-shaped bacterial molecule capable of altering its configuration when exposed to heat, a shape-changing ability akin to that used to operate certain synthetic molecular machines. The lasso is a type of molecular chain known as a peptide.

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