Imagine standing in a lumberyard and being asked to build a house -- without blueprints or instructions of any kind. The materials are all in front of you, but that doesn't mean you have the first idea how to get from point A to point B. That was the situation facing the National Science Foundation-funded biologists who are building microtubules, the skeleton of the cell, from scratch. For years, the researchers have dazzled the biological world with videos of what they call "the fireworks of life," which show the branching and growth of these microscopic structures. In that time, the team had painstakingly determined the fireworks' components, one protein at a time, and had come up with a model for the sequence, but testing it seemed impossible. But then the journal's reviewers told them they couldn't publish their model unless they proved it experimentally.
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