Saturday, May 30, 2009

Science Saturday Challenge #10

Buckyballs and Molecular Biology

I found this article to be an interesting if unusual connection between biology and math.

Buckyball Computer Simulations Help Team Find Molecular Key To Combating HIV

ScienceDaily (2009-05-25) -- Researchers have identified specific molecules that could block the means by which HIV -- the deadly virus that causes AIDS -- spreads by taking away its ability to bind with other proteins. Computer simulations were used to test more than 100 carbon fullerene, or "buckyball," derivatives initially developed for other purposes to see if they could be used to inhibit a strain of the virus, HIV-1 PR, by attaching themselves to its binding pocket.

You can build a buckyball with Zome, or use toothpicks with marshmallows or large gummy candies (yum!) If you look carefully at the picture you will see the model combines pentagons and hexagons in a soccer ball type pattern. Each hexagon has attached to it alternating pentagons and hexagons. Here is the Zome flyer with directions from the old web site should you get stuck.

For an extension, try building a molecule with a binding pocket into which the buckyball "fits" (or at least sits in.)

To help round out your lesson you can read more interesting information about fullerene.

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