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From protein folding to vaccines

Our most simple actions like picking up a mug of coffee, or even the involuntary task of breathing, require the co-ordinated, controlled activities of many proteins. Proteins form the functional units of our body and carry out many varied functions; alteration in the synthesis or function of any part or parts of a protein has been the known cause of various diseases.

Picturing a peptide: The 3-D shape of a snail toxin

Buried in sand in the warm waters of the Bay of Bengal, a predator waits. As a fish darts past, a tiny harpoon tipped with deadly venom flashes by and buries itself in the fish. The, predator, a marine cone snail of the genus Conus glides towards the paralysed, weakly twitching fish and engulfs it. It’s all over in a matter of seconds. The potent neurotoxic venoms of Conus snails, called conotoxins, are hot topics for research since they have immense potential as pain relief agents or analgesics (think very strong, but non-addictive morphine). Researchers from the Molecular Biophysics Unit at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, have added their mite to this fascinating field. They have figured out the 3-dimensional structure of a conotoxin named Mo3964 from the venom of the cone snail Conus monile.

Peering into the hardware that makes our minds tick

One of the hallmarks of the human body is our nervous system, which helps us sense our surroundings and carry out complicated activities. The nervous system is made of millions of neurons. Studying them can provide insight into normal bodily function, disorders and a holy grail of research: how the human brain functions.

Extremely tiny bits of curcumin for use as antimalarials

The active ingredient in turmeric, curcumin, has been converted into nanoparticles 20-50 nanometres in diameter, by a group of researchers from IISc, Bose Institute Kolkatta and the University of Pune. This "nanotised" curcumin has been demonstrated to be extremely effective against malaria in mice, with only oral treatment.