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November 26, 2014

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Listening to the "voice" of proteins

When Reuven Gordon describes the biomedical engineering technique of listening to, and recording, the “voice” of proteins, it sounds a lot like a modern take on Horton Hears a Who, Dr. Seuss’s children’s story of an elephant who hears a voice calling from a microscopic dust speck.

“Everything small has resonances. Everything has a voice,” he says of the protein molecules measuring a single nanometer in size, the building blocks of life that are a million times smaller than an ant and emit sound at a frequency a million times higher than the human ear can hear.

Gordon calls the technique Extraordinary Acoustic Raman spectroscopy (EAR) and he thinks this way of examining proteins is about to change the pace of drug discovery for diseases from cystic fibrosis to cancer. It’s described in a new study published this week in Nature Photonics.

“It’s just that nobody before has been able to hear them. And because we’ve invented this new way to listen-in at this frequency range, we’re opening the way for scientists to discover all kinds of new things,” he says.

Gordon's group has discovered that when the protein is trapped with two lasers it will vibrate at a particular frequency, which can be measured and the unique acoustic vibration “fingerprinted.”

“When you listen to a voice,” Gordon explains, “you can identify the person you’re talking to by the tone of their voice. In the same way, the tones that proteins emit can tell you what you’re looking at. And just as a person might sound different when they’re sick, the mutant form of a protein will sound different from the healthy one.”

Once these two forms are identified—the healthy and the mutant—the lengthy work begins: adding drug combinations to the mutant form of the protein and listening for the acoustic vibration to change back to the sound of a healthy “voice.” Gordon has already partnered with a drug company that sees potential of this nano-tech tool to accelerate new drug discoveries.

Listen to the sound of an excited protein from SoundCloud:

View an animated gif on YouTube:

(Video, gif or wav files available to media on request.)

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  Media Contacts:

Dr. Reuven Gordon, (Electrical and Computer Engineering) at 250-472 5179 or rgordon@uvic.ca
Suzanne Ahearne (University Communications + Marketing) at 250-721-6139 or sahearne@uvic.ca

Follow us on Twitter: @uvicnews

UVic media relations & services: www.uvic.ca/communicationsmarketing/media

Historic charge books return to VicPD with a techno twist

Victoria Police Department News Advisory

Victoria, BC – “Book ‘em!” It’s a phrase commonly used in police TV dramas and refers to the handwritten charge books used on the front lines of law enforcement. On Nov. 26, historic charge books were returned to VicPD after being preserved electronically by volunteers of the Victoria Genealogical Society and the UVic Libraries’ Digitization Unit.

These historic charge books from the 19th century are part of Victoria’s rich history and document chargeable offenses within our borders from April 1873 to November 1874. The following are examples of the type of “routine” infractions included in the charge books over the years:

  • 1860: “John Kelly was arrested yesterday on a charge of driving a horse over the bridge leading to the ‘Songish village’ at a rate faster than allowed by law. He was fined 5 s (shillings).”
  • 1862: “Furious driving of Horses & Drunken furious driving.”
  • And the “Growing of Noxious Weeds” (something that the later Mounted Patrol unit of the early 1910s would be tasked to keep an eye out for).

The books reflect numerous infractions similar to those listed above, as well as the tremendous strain put on the department dealing with the level of intoxication and routine drunken fights—much like any “frontier town” would have seen back then.

The Victoria Genealogical Society (VGS) and the Victoria Police Historical Society teamed up in a joint effort to digitally preserve and make accessible this irreplaceable historical information after learning that a part of our history could be lost forever if not for proper documentation and preservation. The two agencies contacted UVic’s Research Partnership and Knowledge Mobilization (RPKM) Unit to match those needs with UVic expertise and to facilitate collaboration between both agencies and the university.

Staff in UVic Special Collections and University Archives have now digitized the information and hope to make it part of their digital collections in the near future. VGS volunteers have already begun to index the charge book entries for ease of research.

The charge books came home on Nov. 26 at 10 a.m. when members of the VGS and UVic Libraries, along with the VicPD charge books, were officially escorted to police headquarters in a historic squad car.

About the Victoria Police Historical Society

The VicPD Historical Society is a non-profit society formed in 1994 with the aim of preserving the proud history of the Victoria Police Department (est. 1858) including the ad hoc police units that were present on Vancouver Island starting in 1849. All sworn and professional support staff of VicPD are members in the society. The society’s artifacts include charge books, mug-shot books and articles of uniform and equipment. The society is also actively restoring the original 1921 Commerce Mercantile Patrol wagon, one of the first motorized vehicles in the department’s fleet.

About the Victoria Genealogical Society

The VGS is a non-profit, volunteer-run organization, founded in 1978. VGS welcomes both young and old, beginners and advanced genealogists, and family history research queries from both near and far.

The VGS aims to further the study of genealogy in the various areas of interest to the members while collecting and preserving, by donation or purchase, materials relevant to genealogical study. The VGS also wants to advance and encourage public knowledge of genealogical resources in the Greater Victoria area while encouraging and instructing members in the ethical principles, scientific methods, and effective techniques of genealogical research.

About UVic Libraries and RPKM

UVic Libraries is the second largest in BC being composed of three libraries, the William C. Mearns Center for Learning - McPherson Library, the Diana M. Priestly Law Library, and the Curriculum Library. UVic Libraries support the learning, teaching and research needs of the university community. UVic Libraries’ combined collections include over 2.1 million books and growing digital collections.

RPKM at UVic provides partnership brokering services to UVic scholars and community, government and industry partners looking to collaborate on research. Its suite of practical services supports the creation of new knowledge to improve the social, cultural and economic well-being of people—turning that new knowledge into action.

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  Media Contacts:

For UVic-related questions: Susan Henderson (UVic Libraries Communications) at 250-853-3612 or shenders@uvic.ca or Tara Sharpe (University Communications + Marketing) at 250-721-6248 or tksharpe@uvic.ca

Follow us on Twitter: @uvicnews
UVic media relations & services: www.uvic.ca/communicationsmarketing/media

UVic media releases and other resources for journalists are available on the World Wide Web at http://communications.uvic.ca/media

(image: fern)