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Molecular simulation of a group of amino acids revealing their dynamic behaviour on nanoseconds time-scale

01 June 2023

Protein Shake

Even the building blocks of life are constantly on the move. Here, brightly coloured amino acids jitter around due to tiny, but powerful, molecular forces. Their chemical structures bond together to make proteins, each connected to the whole by a looping ‘backbone’ (pink). These molecular simulations, based on a variety of data fed into a computer model, allow researchers to watch the molecular 'dance' that might otherwise be hidden inside living cells. Zooming in, they might study how proteins fold into 3D shapes to act as tiny machines in life’s processes. Simulations can also make predictions for how changes to the amino acid sequence – caused by genetic mutations – might affect how proteins behave in health and disease. Similar models, albeit with different demands on computer power, might follow multiple proteins as they whirl, vibrate and clash through daily life.

Written by John Ankers

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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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