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Chemistry au Naturel

Mimicking nature's clean and efficient ways

Over the past 3.5 billion years, cells have evolved into superlatively sophisticated chemical factories capable of churning out thousands of the most complex and capable molecules known. Whether it's translating DNA into proteins, responding to a viral attack, or transforming sugar into cellular fuel, many biochemical feats rely on a choreographed series of steps. The exquisite efficiency with which cells manage this chemical jig is capturing the imagination of scientists such as David Liu at Harvard University. "The way chemists synthesize molecules is very different from the way Mother Nature goes about it," he says. "The question is, What is it about nature's approach that is so efficient?"

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