Biochemistry: The Machine Tools of Life

Living cells are complex chemical factories, and whatever they manufacture, they use protein molecules called enzymes as their machine tools. Scientists probing the secrets of life have learned that enzymes are long chains of amino acids linked together in definite order and tightly coiled or folded. But no one is sure just how they work. Last week Biochemist Klaus Hofmann of the University of Pittsburgh offered a glimmer of understanding by announcing the first partial synthesis of a working enzyme.

For his model Dr. Hofmann selected ribonuclease, a much-studied natural enzyme that breaks down the ribonucleic acid found in all...

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