When this week’s print issue of the journal Science comes out, a collective cheer will go up from New Mexico, Montana and even the Netherlands, thanks to the type of collaborative effort that is more and more the norm in these connected times.
The research will produce innovations in biology, medicine, biotechnology and agriculture. It could save lives, and it happened because this scientist talked with that one, that one knew another one, and they overcame geographic distance to advance human understanding.
“It is tremendously exciting working with researchers around the world, helping them apply the software and algorithms that we have developed to see the inner workings of molecular machines,” said Thomas Terwilliger, a senior Los Alamos scientist and Laboratory Fellow.
In this case, researchers at Montana State University have provided the first blueprint of a bacterium’s “molecular machinery,” showing how bacterial immune systems fight off the viruses that infect them. By tracking down how bacterial defense systems work, the scientists can potentially fight infectious diseases and genetic disorders. The key is a repetitive piece of DNA in the bacterial genome called a CRISPR, for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats.