Source: Scientific American.
Author: Nona Griffin and Daniel Grushkin
A biophysicist and composer have banded together to create a music box that turns biology into sound. Click here for the full article.
First comes a cacophony of gongs, then flutters of chimes, then a deep melodic whale call—these are the sounds of the first musical instrument powered by biotechnology. The music comes from a black box in the home lab of Josiah Zayner, a biophysicist at the University of Chicago. Inside the box blue lights pulse on vials of proteins, which in turn trigger the sounds. Zayner calls it the chromochord. “Chromo” refers to the colored lights and “chord” refers to the strings of a musical instrument. Essentially, it’s light activated. “Scientists see beauty in a well-crafted experiment,” Zayner says. “The chromochord allows other kinds of people to experience that beauty.”
The chromochord relies on proteins from plants that respond to sunlight, known as light-, oxygen- and voltage-sensing (LOV) proteins. Sunlight causes proteins in leaves and stems to expand, which sets off a cascade of cellular signals that allows plants to grow toward a light source. Zayner isolated LOV proteins from oats, collected them in vials and bioengineered each sample to react differently to blue light. “People don’t have the chance to consciously experience life on the cellular level,” says Zayner, who studies LOV protein activation and movement in his research. “This brings it smack-dab in their ears.”
>> View the Slide Show here