Viruses live in a twilight zone, somewhere between life and its ingredients. My fifth structure of Christmas emerges from that zone to wreak havoc on cattle: the foot-and-mouth-disease virus.
Consider the virus: a beautifully crafted set of molecules perfectly arranged to do one thing, and one thing only: subvert life forms to make more of itself. But what is it? Is it ‘alive’, in the conventional sense?
Continue reading “The twilight world between chemistry and life”
The CO2-fixing RuBisCO, a respectable representative of life on Earth, is my fourth structure of Christmas.
If a Martian visited Earth and was asked to report back on the most important protein in our biosphere, quite possibly it would choose RuBisCO. As enzymes go it isn’t the biggest, but it is a very big deal. It is extremely common – every single plant and photosynthetic cyanobacterium is stuffed full of it – and it performs one of the most crucial reactions for all of life: “fixing” gaseous carbon dioxide into sugars and amino acids.
Continue reading “RuBisCO: the lazy, needy carbon fixer”
Life starts with the ribosome: the tireless maker of tiny machines, and my third structure of Christmas.
All the myriad things our bodies do are carried out by tiny biological machines – proteins, mostly – each of which has a specialised function: move muscle, sense light, send message, make tiny machines…
Continue reading “The mighty, mighty ribosome”
The second structure of Christmas is the membrane protein opsin, which allows us to perceive light.
Proteins that control the information going in and out of our cells are harder to crystallise than run-of-the-mill globular proteins, as they have both water-loving and fat-loving parts and are tricky to mass produce. Opsin, our second structure of Christmas, is one such molecule. It is situated on a special membrane in a specialised cell at the back of our eyes, and senses light.
Continue reading “Seeing the light: opsin”
If there is one protein we can say we know inside and out, it is the humble lysozyme, which we carry in our tears. This is my first Structure of Christmas for 2016.
Nowadays, we can see the position of atoms as if we had vision millions of times sharper than human eyes allow. This is the gift of structural biology – the science of determining the 3D structures of molecules and correlating them with function. Structural biology gives us something more powerful than human vision, as the wavelength of ‘visible’ light is too long to resolve the position of atoms.
Continue reading “The shape of our tears: lysozyme”
Patients who contribute their data to research are primarily motivated by a desire to help others with the same plight, through the development of better treatments or even a cure. Out of respect for these individuals, and to uphold the fundamental tenets of the scientific process, I’d like the clinical trials community to shift its default position on data sharing and reuse to align to data availability on publication, similar to the life science community. This will enable more robust, rigorous research, create new opportunities for discovery and build trust between patients and scientists.
Continue reading “Sharing clinical data: everyone wins”
I have tweeted prolifically about the UK Referendum on membership in the European Union, strongly supporting the REMAIN (staying in the EU) campaign. In response to requests for a more substantial explanation of my position, I present here a short version and a long version of my views.
Continue reading “The EU Referendum in the UK: A very personal view”
This is the third and final post in a series in which I share some lessons learned about how to plan, manage, analyse and deliver a ‘big biodata’ project successfully.
Now that you have the results of your carefully planned, meticulously managed and diligently analysed experiment, it’s time to decide on what to publish, and where.
Continue reading “Publishing Big Data Science”
This is the second of three blog posts about planning, managing and delivering a ‘big biodata’ project. Here, I share some of my experience and lessons learned in management and analysis – because you can’t have one without the other. Continue reading “Managing and Analysing Big Data – Part II”