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A View Of The Tiny Motors In Your Head

Abstract illustration of cells in mitosis. i
iStockphoto
Abstract illustration of cells in mitosis.
iStockphoto

I have been sitting in a lot of biophysics talks recently. You'll have to excuse me if you are already working in the biological sciences but, to me, this stuff is crazy.

Today, in particular, I would like to share with you the myosin V motor protein. This is a little molecular machine that — literally — hauls stuff around your cells. Here is a clip, from the famous Inner Life of a Cell video, showing a myosin protein hauling something along a strand of the cytoskeleton, which is a cell's internal rigging:

YouTube

If you want to see a bit more of myosin in context check this out:

YouTube

Now, c'mon, is that crazy or what?

The myosin has these little nanoscopic legs that step along the cytoskeleton as it pulls a big honking bag of biomolecules behind it. Now, the next step is to understand why the myosin is doing all this hauling. To explain this point, here is a kind of silly video about myosin in your neurons:

YouTube

Consider, for a moment, that you have zillions of these molecular motors at work in your cells right now. And consider, for another moment, how the specifics of these "machines" are the product of an amazing natural process we call evolution.

So, I ask you: Are the world and its workings not truly worthy of awe?

(I may have made mistakes in my description of the biology here. If so, please excuse me and please correct my folly in the comments!)


Adam Frank is a co-founder of the 13.7 blog, an astrophysics professor at the University of Rochester, a book author and a self-described "evangelist of science." You can keep up with more of what Adam is thinking on Facebook and Twitter: @adamfrank4

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