31 Days – Ribosomes

I hope you enjoyed yesterday’s videos of Charlotte and Jonathan. And now for something completely different: an excursion to geekdom.

This year, I was home-schooling one of my daughters in biology and totally fell in love with the subject. We’ll probably go there more than once during August’s 31 Days of Wonder. One of the most fascinating biological processes is the assembly of proteins by ribosomes.

Ribosomes are ugly, gnarly molecules that float around in in your cells. As you’ll see in the video, other molecules called mRNA (messenger RNA) emerge from the nucleus bearing your genetic code, which is in the form of nucleotide triplets called codons. The ribosome latches itself onto the mRNA, recruits amino acids that match the codons, and sticks the amino acids together to form the proteins that form everything from bones to brain. The proteins come out of the ribosome looking very much like poop coming out of a guppy.

The process would be amazing enough if a thinking human were doing it, but the fact that lumpy, unconscious molecules pull it off is truly a wonder.

And that’s only the general idea. The ribosome also proofreads what it does and discards the protein if there was a mistake. Amazing.

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