Understand What We Do
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From mammals to microorganisms such as bacteria or micro-algae, cells form the basis of all life. Cells consist of a multitude of different building blocks which are studied in biophysics. As a multidisciplinary field of research, biophysics combines biological, physical and chemical questions: How are particular cellular building blocks structured, how do they function, how do they behave under different conditions, and how do they interact with each other?
A cell is 1000 times smaller than a needle tip and consists of numerous building blocks that perform various functions and control important processes in the organism.
At the Max Planck Institute of Biophysics, we mainly study protein building blocks that are incorporated into membranes. Such membranes separate and protect the cell from its environment and enclose individual areas within the cell, so-called cell organelles, which perform specific tasks - e.g. produce energy or remove cellular waste. The membrane proteins enable the cell or cell organelles to exchange nutrients and information with their environment - with other cells and organelles or organs.
In addition to individual proteins, we also study protein complexes, which are assemblies of several hundred or even thousands of proteins, and the genetic material of living organisms, the DNA.
We want to know how all these tiny building blocks are structured to explain how they function. You can think of it as solving a 3D puzzle. Since the individual pieces are so small that they are invisible to the naked eye, we use powerful microscopes, modern experimental techniques and computer-based simulations to "do the puzzle".
Our research teams are constantly providing new insights into the structure and function of vital building blocks such as proteins or DNA, which help us to better understand and treat diseases such as covid-19 or tuberculosis.
What Is Basic Research?
At Max Planck Institute of Biophysics we are dedicated to basic research. What is basic research about? Take a look at this explainer: