Biochemists have discovered the mechanism by which a simple organism (a bacteriophage) can produce 10 trillion varieties of a single protein. Recreating the process in a test tube could give researchers a new way to generate therapeutic enzymes, vaccines and other medically important proteins.

“If we can learn from these organisms how to set up a system that churns out proteins with enormous variability, it may be possible to target these new proteins to specific cells to treat disease.”

Molecular structure of a few of the phage predator protein variants
(colors reveal different amino acids)