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Proteins have now been designed in the lab to zip together in much the same way that DNA molecules zip up to form a double helix. The technique, whose development was led by University of Washington School of Medicine scientists, could enable the design of protein nanomachines that can potentially help diagnose and treat disease, allow for the more exact engineering of cells and perform a wide variety of other tasks.

"For any machine to work, its parts must come together precisely," said Zibo Chen, the lead author of the paper and a UW graduate student in biochemistry. "This technique makes it possible for you to design proteins so they come together exactly how you want them to."

The research was performed at UW Medicine's Institute of Protein Design, directed by David Baker, professor of biochemistry at the University of Washington School of Medicine and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. The researchers report their findings in the Dec. 19 issue of the journal Nature.

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