Berkeley Lab Research Review Winter 2000
of cancer, Alzheimer's disease, or AIDS. Imagine replacements for a damaged organ, such as a liver, a lung, or a kidney, being grown from a patient's own cells. Imagine an injection that regenerates the damaged tissue of a heart or a brain. How about vaccines that counteract the ravages of aging, or foods that counteract the effects of diabetes, high cholesterol, or hepatitis B? Welcome to the future of protein design and engineering, a world in which the biological machinery that shapes living cells and controls the chemical reactions which make those cells work is retooled, refitted, repaired or replaced for optimal performance. To reach this future, scientists will first have to learn a great deal more about the structure and function of proteins. The federal government recently launched the "Protein Structure Initiative," a logical sequel to the Human Genome Project but perhaps an even larger, more ambitious undertaking. What has made this initiative a realistic consideration is the combination of powerful new computational tools and a new generation of imaging resources such as the Macromolecular Crystallography Facility at Berkeley Lab's Advanced Light Source.
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