Issue 19 | January 2014
Proteins are polymers of amino acids, and they do all sorts of incredible things. They give structure to living things, carry messages and molecules around our bodies, support the immune system and catalyse chemical reactions, and they are used widely in industry and medicine too. In this issue, we explore proteins and discover how they are involved in all kinds of processes in humans and other organisms.
Download the PDF, browse through the individual articles, check out our multimedia content and consider our lesson ideas. We’ve also picked out content from other issues that we think is especially relevant.
Structure and movement
How collagen keeps animals in shape
A look at different sources of protein in our diet
Collagen mutations cause disorders
How proteins keep cells together
Proteins can be separated into broad groups
Watch or download our animation showing muscle contraction and the sliding filament theory
How haemoglobin carries oxygen around the body
Watch our animation showing how this globular protein works
Why a protein problem causes cystic fibrosis
Why we use synthetic blood
Why do scientists study proteins’ shapes?
Why membrane receptors are important proteins
A look at the science of the waterborne disease cholera
Defence and survival
How immunoglobulins help target invaders
Why proteins are vital for blood clotting
Why correct protein folding is essential
Why scientists work to counteract some proteins’ effects
Exploring antibodies as medicine and in research
How proteins stop fish from freezing
How do molecules help organisms survive in extremely low temperatures?
Why living things store amino acids for later use
A look at the role of proteins in blood clotting
Which haemotoxins are released by organisms to defend themselves against threats or to kill prey?
Which neurotoxins are released by organisms to defend themselves against threats or to kill prey?
Find out how insulin regulates glucose in the blood
How kinase proteins control cell processes
Why we all need growth hormone – but in the right amounts
How hormones influence our eating
How drugs can overcome mutations in proteins
How pheromones carry messages
The importance of the protein insulin and its role in diabetes
The function of some of the proteins that allow you to see the world
Find out why mint tastes cold and chillies taste hot
How ATP synthase captures energy for our cells
Enzymes are proteins, but need the right conditions to do their job
‘Extremophiles’ – how organisms survive extreme conditions
How enzymes are involved in ageing
A look at proteins that dispose of proteins
Why digestive enzymes can be useful
Immobilised enzymes – find out what these catalysts are used for
Real Voices interviews
Meet Jack, a high school student and scientist
Meet Samantha, an actress living with brittle bone syndrome
Meet Hannah, an Olympic weightlifter
Meet Martin, a clinical performance nutritionist
Activities and lesson ideas
Explore our ideas for using this issue in the classroom
Discuss this food policy issue from ‘Big Picture: Food and Diet’ in the classroom
The Wellcome Trust has funded many organisations to produce activities and resources to engage and educate young people on the topic of proteins
Each issue of 'Big Picture' comes with a sprinkling of Fast Facts, fascinating snippets of information on the topic covered.