Proteins—what have they done for you lately?
Pretty much everything. These organic compounds—long strings of molecules which yield amino acids vital to sustaining life—control growth, respiration, immune systems and more.
For UM chemistry Assistant Professor Thomas Rush III, proteins recently created something new: a Research Innovation Award from Research Corp., a Tucson, Ariz.-based foundation for the advancement of science. Rush, a physical chemist, received the $33,000 award to investigate the development and applications of de novo—synthetic— proteins.
“It’s a challenge for the 21st century,” says Rush from his UM office. He lists a number of possible uses for synthetic proteins, including a de novo protein to replace hemoglobin, the natural protein that transports oxygen from the lungs to other parts of the body. Not synthetic blood, exactly—more like a booster pack, an emergency infusion of oxygen-transporting proteins for use when the body’s manufacturing or delivering capacity is diminished—for example, after a stroke or traumatic accident.
“Kind of like Fix-a-Flat,” Rush chuckles. “Get it in there and it’ll do the job, but you don’t want to use it all the time.”
“My whole theory is: Why fight nature?< Rush continues, explaining that the idea is not to create artificial processes with synthetic chemicals, but to learn to replicate certain organic processes by creating de novo protein strings and trying to make them behave like natural ones. “Nature has evolved over millions of years to produce essential chemical reactions. Shouldn’t we just learn from what it’s done already?<
Earlier this week, the Independent received word from the national headquarters of the Libertarian Party that lawmakers in Mississippi are considering a bill that would redefine criminal nudity in such a way as to make “public tumescence” punishable by hefty fines and prison time. In other words, Mississippi men could soon be looking at, er, stiff penalties for pitching tents in public. Gathering wood. Popping wheelies. Unauthorized erection of public works. Are we on the same page yet?
The bill in question—SB 2013, introduced by Mississippi State Sen. Tom King—would enlarge the current definition of criminal nudity to include the showing of “covered male genitals in a discernibly turgid state.” Under the revised Mississippi penile code, men unable to concentrate on baseball statistics or dead puppies under priapic duress could find themselves getting the shaft to the tune of $2,000 in fines and/or a free trip to one of many Mississippi correctional facilities already engorged with repeat offenders.
Libertarian Party press secretary George Getz thinks the proposed measure would be needlessly hard on behavior which, however inappropriate or impolite, can scarcely be considered criminal. Sen. King insists that the bill is intended to regulate the behavior of patrons in strip clubs but, according to Getz, the only thing SB 2013 really demonstrates is that politicians have too much time on their hands.
“The ‘discernibly turgid’ language comes up again and again in cases like these,” says Montana ACLU executive director Scott Crichton, noting that male tumescence is a matter of degree and, hence, opinion as well. “But who gets to decide?”
We’ll take the zero.