Programming Proteins With New Building Blocks

Proteins are essential components that allow us to exist. If you look down at your hands, the surface or skin is composed of various proteins. And if you were able to look through your skin, you would see a myriad of proteins working to sustain you.

Now consider a situation in which, deep inside your body, there is a tiny abnormal cell that contains an abnormal protein beginning to wreak havoc. Perhaps there would be a way to reprogram the protein so it can do the job it should do.

Well, that is what we sought to do! The most traditional way to re-engineer proteins is to change their composition by making mutations, which will alter the amino acid building block sequence. However, we decided to take it up a notch and integrate new artificial building blocks into proteins.

To help you understand this, imagine that the building blocks of proteins are like opaque, colored Legos. The protein would be represented as a pattern of those colored Legos in a certain shape or pattern, and an artificial building block would be represented as a transparent Lego.

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