Molecular Machines of the Body

You may not be able to see them, but there are millions upon millions of tiny molecular machines in your body. While machines in the outside world are made of metals, the machines inside your body are made up of proteins.


The molecular machines in cells help organisms perform a range of biological functions. A tiny protein motor helps microbes like bacteria move around in search of food. There are also proteins like actin and myosin that help you stretch and flex your muscles. When things need to move around inside a cell, molecular machines act like a transport system. Proteins like kinesin can walk and carry cargo and move around the cell!


For really complex functions, cells recruit an entire army of tiny molecular machines to do the task. One example is cell division.


Adults stand to lose nearly 50–70 billion cells every day. Molecular machines work hard to make up for that loss by dividing and creating new cells! In order to make cell division easier, little machines like helicase can help unwind the tightly coiled DNA so that it can be copied and passed on to the new cell. These copies of DNA are packed into strands called chromatids, which then make up chromosomes.


No matter what their purpose is, these machines are able to perform their functions reliably, billions of times over, right inside your body. In order to truly appreciate how they work, animators like Drew Berry have found ways to show just how amazing these unseeable biological machines are!

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