Moving forward

by Vivienne Baillie Gerritsen

Nature's imagination seems endless, and so is Man's. For as long as humans have existed, they have twisted Nature to meet their own needs. Wood has been used to keep them warm. Whale oil has been used to make light. Water has been harnessed to make electricity. And when the era of bio-engineering developed, it was not long before scientists found ways to tinker with an organism's genome for the benefits of mankind. Nowadays, the realm of medication depends heavily on biotechnology. And so, undoubtedly, will novel biofuels. With fossil fuels slowly trickling away, it is becoming paramount to find alternative sources of fuel. And ethanol, though not a new idea, is one. Ethanol is synthesized quite naturally by microorganisms - usually as a waste product - and is the result of the degradation of sugars, by an enzyme known as inulinase, and their subsequent fermentation.

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Protein Spotlight (ISSN 1424-4721) is a monthly review written by the Swiss-Prot team of the SIB Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics. Spotlight articles describe a specific protein or family of proteins on an informal tone. Follow us: Subscribe · Twitter · Facebook

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Tales From A Small World

Tales From A Small World cover

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.

Journey Into A Tiny World

Journey Into A Tiny World cover

« 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 : 1,2 rhamnosyltransferase

Given the choice, there is a fair chance that a child would prefer a slice of orange to a slice of grapefruit…because an orange is not bitter. The bitterness you taste when eating a grapefruit is due to a molecule known as naringenin-7-O-neohesperidoside, otherwise known as naringin. Naringin is a flavanone. Citrus fruit – such as oranges, mandarins and grapefruit – harbour large quantities of flavanones which are either bitter or tasteless. Oranges, like mandarins, house the tasteless ones, while grapefruit accumulate the bitter ones. The bitterness of any citrus fruit is directly proportional to the amount of naringin present.

A little bit of praise!

“I recently stumbled upon your columns. Let me congratulate you on achieving the near impossible, for your articles have enabled me to successfully marry IT with the Life Sciences and better explain the concepts of bioinformatics to those who are not in the know of the field.

Your articles are very well written, lucid, and contain just enough information to excite the reader to want to learn more about the topic being discussed. They fall in a very rare category where they are accessible to everyone, from the undergraduate students to research students who want to have a basic idea of the topics being discussed. Some of your articles, like "Our hollow architecture" and "Throb" are outstanding pieces.

I would highly recommend your articles as a necessary reading in undergrad classes to get students inspired about the various avenues of research.”

— Rohan Chaubal, Senior Researcher in Genomics, July 2011

Thank you to Ralf Sommer whose work we reproduce on our site!