The field of structural biology currently relies on computer-generated graphical representations of three-dimensional (3D) structures to conceptualize biomolecules. As the size and complexity of the molecular structure increases, model generation and peer discussions become more difficult. It is even more problematic when discussing protein–protein interactions wherein large surface area contact is considered.
Masaru Kawakami, Ph.D., a biophysicist researcher at JAIST (Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology) in Ishikawa, Japan developed a new handleable protein molecular model with a full-color 3D printed main chain structure embedded in a soft and transparent silicone body similar to the molecule's surface.
(The models will enable researchers to quickly and collaboratively see, touch, and test ideas about molecular interactions and the behavior of proteins. Credit: Masaru Kawakami/ Review of Scientific Instruments)
Its advantage over traditional computer and solid models is that it is mostly transparent and easy to manipulate, which will help researchers more intuitively understand protein structures, positions, and interactions.
These new models are mechanically durable, washable and can be used as an effective discussion tool for the classroom or laboratory.
The models will enable researchers to quickly and collaboratively see, touch, and test ideas about molecular interactions and the behavior of proteins. These insights are keys to innovation in drug design because they help generate discussion about what a particular molecular surface might be like and how a protein is shaped and structured. The models also allow researchers to simulate docking maneuvers involving molecules known as ligands and their partners, a chemical binding step that can turn a biological process on or off.
It appears in the current issue of the American Institute of Physics (AIP) journal Review of Scientific Instruments. "Because my new model is soft, users can deform the model and experience ligand binding or protein-protein association, which has never been possible with other physical molecule models", said Kawakami. "I believe my model would be an effective discussion tool for the classroom or laboratory to stimulate inspired learning."
- Masaru Kawakami. A soft and transparent handleable protein model. Review of Scientific Instruments, 2012; 83 (8): 084303 DOI: 10.1063/1.4739961
Posted in 3D Printing Applications
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