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The Perfect Fit

Like Cinderella’s glass slipper, the interaction between most biomolecules relies on a perfect fit. Humans have taken advantage of this recognition-binding behavior in research and medicine for over a century
May 24, 2015
The Perfect Fit

This Los Alamos-designed protein acts as a biosensor to detect a toxic insecticide by binding perfectly to a molecule produced as it degrades.

Nearly $350 million is wasted annually, in the United States alone, on research-grade antibodies that are nonfunctional.

Molecular recognition is a key function in biological systems: One molecule uniquely fits inside a complementary binding site on another molecule—like a lock and key—to catalyze a reaction, activate a switch, or send a chemical message. Unfortunately, currently available recognition molecules, such as antibodies, for use in research do not work as well as they should. To tackle this problem, and to improve research methods overall, two Los Alamos teams are developing the next generation of biological research tools by creating high-affinity binding proteins that are defined by their genetic codes, so they can be reproduced reliably and sustainably.