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November 20, 2012 4:30 p.m.

UCI chemists find protein folding similar to granular jamming ยป

Microscopic proteins, the building blocks of cells, get stuck in exactly the same way that coffee beans do in a grocery store dispenser, according to new findings by UCI chemists recently published in the online version of Nature Communications. "Jamming of granular material is a common phenomenon in day-to-day life," said lead author Ioan Andricioaei, an associate professor of chemistry at UCI. "We found that proteins, when folded in the unique structure needed for them to function properly, show remarkable similarity to jammed granular material. They feature force distributions that, when scaled to account for the nine-orders-of-magnitude difference, exhibit a peak universal for grains visible to the human eye and protein atoms a hundred million times smaller." The results could be important in improving the future design of man-made plastics and other nanotechnology materials.

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