Get Your Motor Running: Studying the Tiny Machines That Power Us
When you see a delivery truck on the road, you probably give it little thought, but without these machines, grocery stores would have no food, construction sites no building materials, and most other services in our cities would grind to a halt. As little as we think about these delivery systems, inside each of us is an even more intricate system we never notice, a constant bustle of microscopic delivery trucks powered by molecular machines, without which life would be impossible.
Like delivery trucks, these molecular machines go in all directions, carrying things to and from the nuclei of our cells, helping build DNA, even transporting things between cells—allowing our muscles to move, our organs to function, and our bodies to grow and repair themselves. As Canada Research Chair in Molecular and Cellular Biomechanics, Dr. Walter Herzog will shed light on some of the mysteries of this remarkable process.
Researchers are still uncovering how these molecular motors use chemical energy to transport molecules. In addition to exploring this process, Herzog will also be studying a problem that is familiar to anyone who has seen a wobbly-legged astronaut returning from space. Their bones and muscles are less dense and more brittle because their bodies have adapted to the lack of gravitational loading, an adaptation that involves the molecular transport system. But the precise mechanisms of how mechanical loading produces tissue adaptation are still unknown. By understanding this adaptation, Herzog hopes to discover new ways to treat injuries and detect, prevent and treat diseases like osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, and fibromyalgia. He will also be studying the skeletal muscle motor myosin and actin to determine how these proteins interact physically, and how relative motion between them is achieved.
Having already won many awards for his research, Herzog will contribute even more to the field of musculoskeletal biomechanics. His work will be immediately helpful to an aging population that will suffer from a variety of muscoskelatel ailments. It will also help other health researchers by shedding new light on a process that is fundamental to almost everything our bodies do.