Minnesota researchers discover how electricity moves through cells

Mar 11, 2010
This illustration shows the molecular details of a multi-protein battery and wire that generates and conducts biological electricity.

(PhysOrg.com) -- Researchers at the University of Minnesota have created a molecular image of a system that moves electrons between proteins in cells. The achievement is a breakthrough for biology and could provide insights to minimize energy loss in other systems, from nanoscale devices to moving electricity around the country.

The research, led by Carrie Wilmot, an associate professor in the College of Biological Sciences, is published in the March 12 issue of Science.

"Evolution has been fine-tuning electricity in organisms for a lot longer than humans have been using it," Wilmot says. "We can learn a lot from nature about how to use it more efficiently. This new glimpse at how the body uses electricity could lead to nanotechnology to shrink even further or a more efficient grid to provide power to homes and businesses."

Energy generated by intracellular movement of electrons is the fundamental power source that enables humans to exist. As electrons move within cells, energy is channeled to create complex molecules, such as and DNA. These are the building materials that enable organisms to grow, maintain themselves, and store energy. Wilmot's images, obtained using x-ray crystallography, will advance the effort to understand this process better.

"Obtaining a of a complex cellular system is like being behind stage at a magic show," says Vernon Anderson, who oversees biochemistry grants at the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of General Medical Sciences. "We have always known there was a trick, but now the Wilmot group has provided a unique view of how this extraordinary chemical feat is accomplished."

Wilmot, an associate professor in the College of Biological Sciences, is known in the scientific community for pioneering a technique to freeze biological catalysts (enzymes) as they accelerate and orchestrate . This produces snapshots at different points during the reaction that can be viewed as frames in a movie that defines the molecular and structural changes that occur as the chemistry unfolds.

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verkle
1 / 5 (12) Mar 11, 2010
It makes me sick to see so many scientists continously ascribe God's design to evolution. There is no scientific proof that "evolution has been doing this for a long time" so please leave out such ludicrous statements.
pauljpease
5 / 5 (4) Mar 11, 2010
It makes me sick to see so many scientists continously ascribe God's design to evolution. There is no scientific proof that "evolution has been doing this for a long time" so please leave out such ludicrous statements.


The theory of evolution does make testable predictions. For example, according to the theory of evolution, some organisms should have different molecular architectures for transporting electrons due to mutations and inheritance of mutations, and the more closely related the organisms, the closer their molecular architecture. There is a "ludicrous" amount of evidence supporting the predictions of evolutionary theory. Conversely, there is no scientific evidence supporting any theory of "God's design", so please leave out such anti-intellectual comments.
Arikin
5 / 5 (2) Mar 12, 2010
verkle. Fine I will throw you a bone...
No one said evolution explained everything. It is a theory based on human observable facts. The key is "Only what humans can see".
Besides, who says a God doesn't follow the rules to get what He wants. If He understands ALL the rules why can't He use them?

But even stating the above I still need to use what is observable to us now. Discovering facts is dependent on us moving forward and not waiting for a God to give it to us. Would a perfect being really want a bunch of lazy subjects who are unwilling to do the work necessary???
Glyndwr
5 / 5 (1) Mar 12, 2010
'ludicrous statements'

why is God then not a theory like all other theories.........just because mummy and daddy and your local communities told you what is the truth when you were young and easily led..does not mean you have the right to call other theories ludicrous
Yevgen
5 / 5 (1) Mar 12, 2010
Can somebody who read the actual science article explain WHAT is the finding?

All this story is talking about is "how the finding was done" and how revolutionary it is, but what is the conclusion is not clear. So how does the electron transfer happen across seemingly
not conductive and quite wide area between two complexes?
Yevgen
not rated yet Mar 12, 2010
This abstract gives some idea:
http://www.scienc...pe=HWCIT

...but it does not answer how the electron transfer happens.