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Are U.S. Flu Death Figures More PR Than Science?

methods to slow and inhibit the contraction, to freeze-frame it, and to discern details of the calcium fuel system.

Earlier research had identified a cellular protein, spasmin, as the possible calcium-responsive component of the stalk. "The Vorticella spasmins are now known to belong to the centrin family of calcium-binding proteins," says France. "Centrins are ubiquitous to eukaryotic cells and some family members are found in filamentous structures in organisms other than Vorticella, ranging from green algae to humans."

In sorting out centrin's role in the Vorticella spring, France and colleagues found that an antibody to Vorticella centrin abolished contractility. Along with other evidence, this interference suggests that the spasmoneme uses a powerful centrin-based mechanism that is unlike any complex actin or microtubule-based cellular engine, says France. "This leads us closer to understanding two things: how cells use centrin-based engines to generate enormous forces and how we can possibly reconstruct centrin-based materials and devices for our own use at the micrometer and nanometer scales."


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