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In the current issue of Chemistry World, Philip Ball calls proteins "Goldilocks molecules": everything has to be "just right" for them not to unravel. Proteins are sensitive to temperature,  pressure, acid levels, and exposure to certain small molecules known as denaturants. 

Why should we care how and why proteins behave? Because, Ball points out, understanding what makes proteins unravel is central to understanding what makes our earth habitable. It is also a driving force behind all manner of neurodegenerative diseases, from Alzheimer’s to Parkinson’s.

In his survey of cutting-edge protein folding research, Ball highlights work by Pablo Debenedetti and Frank Stillinger at Princeton and Peter Rossky at the University of Texas. Their lattice model (see image above) explores the nuanced way that temperature and pressure can destabilize proteins. For more on their research, conducted with former Princeton graduate student Bryan Patel and now continuing with postdoc Silvina Matysiak, read the full article here.

In the spring, Debenedetti and colleagues published research on a new way to freeze water.