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Born on this Day Crystal Clear
22 June 2018

Crystal Clear

Proteins are a fundamental building block of life, forming everything from powerful muscles to delicate hormones. They are made according to recipes encoded in our DNA, and our understanding of this production process has been central to countless medical breakthroughs. DNA is first transcribed into RNA, a sort of molecular photocopy, which is shepherded to a protein synthesis factory, the ribosome. The final translation inside ribosomes presented a mystery until Ada Yonath – born on this day in 1939 – managed to visualise it. Defying expectations, Yonath crystallised the ribosome and gradually revealed its structure by observing patterns of x-rays bouncing off it – a technique called X-ray crystallography, and an achievement that won her a share of a 2009 Nobel Prize. Since microbes’ ribosomes are subtly different to humans’, they sparked a wealth of new antibiotic opportunities, and are increasingly important today in the face of a growing antibiotic resistance threat.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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What is BPoD?

BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.