Saturday, December 31, 2005

Nanomachines in nature

Kinesin and dynein are proteins that move along a microtubule and can drag along a mechanical load (another molecule). They are among several molecular motors found in nature. Another example is the flagella that push bacteria around in pond water, driven by a motor that looks like it came from a mechanical parts catalog. Click the image below for an enlarged version.

Ribosomes translate RNA sequences into proteins a chemical/mechanical process.

Some people are using these molecular machines to plan nanotechnology roadmaps, and there has been some laboratory progress. We won't have real nanotechnology any time soon, but these are excellent steps in that direction. Biomechanics hints at a lot of interesting things we can do with available cellular mechanisms.

To people thinking about the long term, as I like to do, these efforts are stepping stones. We'll use them to build tools, and use those tools to build other tools, with the eventual goal of a manufacturing infrastructure that permits us to build large rationally-designed products to atomic precision.