Narrator: This is Science Today. Proteins in our body perform different functions according to their shape, so understanding how a protein folds is considered a very important area of study. Physicist Everett Lipman of the University of California, Santa Barbara explains why.
Lipman: Misfolding has been implicated in a lot of diseases and the other reason why it's interesting to understand the folding is because we now have all this genetic information and so we know, sort of in some sense, what proteins are gonna be made. But it's like having a book in another language because we really don't understand what's going to happen at the end of the day when these proteins are put together.
Narrator: For the first time, Lipman observed single molecules at various times of the folding process using a tiny microfluidic device, which is a set of channels etched onto a silicon chip.
Lipman: In the past, people have been able to do an experiment like this where they would take millions of millions of these molecules and put them in a solution and make some measurements. But what we've been able to do is look at one of these at a time and that way you can actually see what's going on at a much more detailed level.
For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.