Where Pure Science Calls The Shots

Listening to Takeshi Sakamoto talk about his work at Hitachi Ltd.'s Advanced Research Lab, I have a sense of unreality. The 33-year-old PhD physicist is obsessed with a light-sensitive protein called rhodopsin, extracted from the retina of an octopus. He's training powerful microscopes on it and probing it with nuclear magnetic resonance and X-ray crystallography. He has studied its gene sequence, pondered its 455 amino acids, synthesized the genes chemically, and mass-produced them in colonies of Escherichia coli bacteria. Asked what all the excitement is about, Sakamoto coolly replies: "This protein responds differently to red and blue light. I need to understand why."

To continue reading this article you must be a Bloomberg Professional Service Subscriber.