A fabric whose weave is slack is less resistant to strain than one whose knit is close. These physical principles of toughness are followed by Nature all the way down the molecular scale. At the cellular level, protrusions known as microvilli grow at the apical end of the epithelial cells that line the intestinal tract. Each protrusion is like a finger dipping into the gut lumen. There can be up to one thousand protrusions on the end of each cell, which together form a fuzzy lining that looks like the bristles of a very long brush, hence its name: the brush border. These protruding digits are not free to wiggle as they wish however. Each protrusion is linked firmly to neighbouring protrusions thus making the whole system tougher in a realm - digestion - where tissues can undergo severe mechanical insults. But you need something to tighten the mesh. This is performed by proteins that belong to a family known as the cadherins, namely cadherin-related family members 2 and 5.
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Tales From A Small World
Tales From A Small World is a collection of the first hundred articles which originally appeared on this site. Published in September 2009, the book is enriched by poems from the Dublin poet, Pat Ingoldsby. Learn more and order your copy online.
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« Globin and Poietin set out to save Lily's life. But time is running short and they can't find the marrow... Here is the tale of their courage, fun and laughter on a journey that takes them deep into the tiniest of worlds.» For children. Learn more and order your copy online.
Snapshot : P protein
There is a famous sequence in Quai des Brumes – a very popular French film shot in the 1930s – in which Jean Gabin, subdued by the sky blue of his interlocutor’s gaze, leans over and breathes into Michèle Morgan’s ear, “T’as d’beaux yeux tu sais” – meaning literally: “You’ve got beautiful eyes you know” ... though it means far more. The blue of an eye is both fascinating and mysterious, and we are getting closer to an explanation for it. It is common knowledge that the colour of our eyes is due to the accumulation of a pigment in the iris – melanin – whose synthesis depends on the activity of a protein known as P protein. Despite years of research, scientists had not been able to pin down a modification in P protein, which could explain the azure of a look, until recently when the long sought after mutation was discovered – only not at all where they were expecting it!
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