This year, Weissman's lab reported the development of a powerful tool for quickly identifying, and measuring levels of, proteins in cells. Unlike microarray technology, which identifies and measures levels of messenger RNA -- a key step in the conversion of DNA code into protein --the new high-throughput technique, called ribosome profiling, tracks the conversion of messenger RNA into protein, itself.
Ribosomes are molecular machines that bind to messenger RNA and translate the RNA message into protein. The new technique, similar in speed, depth and accuracy to microarray technology, determines which proteins, and how many, are being produced, as well as how fast they are moving, in response to changing conditions.
The ability to monitor precisely which proteins a cell makes should inform many aspects of biology, including developmental biology, learning and aging. The technology may help scientists pinpoint which proteins drive specific diseases, and which of those proteins might be the best target for new drugs.
The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit honorific society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furthering science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Established in 1863, the National Academy of Sciences has served to "investigate, examine, experiment, and report upon any subject of science or art" whenever called upon to do so by any department of the government. For more information, or for the full list of newly elected members, visit http://www.nasonline.org/site/PageServer.
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