First-class protein crystals thanks to weightlessness on earth

April 23, 2008

Dutch chemist Paul Poodt has developed two attractive alternatives for allowing protein crystals to grow under weightless conditions. If the crystals are grown upside down in a strong magnetic field, fluid flows that disrupt crystal growth are suppressed. Therefore, high-quality proteins no longer need to be grown in space, but can be grown here on earth.

Protein crystals provide vital knowledge for drug development. The production of an effective drug requires knowledge of how biomolecules such as body proteins are constructed. If you want to know how proteins work, you must first of all determine their molecular structure using X-ray diffraction.

This requires exceptionally high-quality protein crystals. However, allowing these to grow can be extremely difficult and sometimes even impossible: the presence of gravity gives rise to fluid flows in the crystal solution, which, in turn, disrupt the growth process. Undisturbed growth yields the finest crystals.

In order to prevent fluid flows, the decision is often taken to grow the protein crystals in space on. However, as this is a very expensive and time-consuming undertaking, scientists are looking for methods to create weightlessness on earth. The experiment in Nijmegen is the first in the world to demonstrate that a crystal can grow uniformly in a strong magnetic field.

Source: NWO

Explore further: Team identifies structure of tumor-suppressing protein

Related Stories

Team identifies structure of tumor-suppressing protein

August 20, 2015

An international group of researchers led by Carnegie Mellon University physicists Mathias Lösche and Frank Heinrich have established the structure of an important tumor suppressing protein, PTEN. Their findings provide ...

New way of studying the tiniest microcrystals

August 6, 2015

Unlocking the mysteries of microcrystals can be a huge challenge for scientists. But a European team led by scientists from DESY – a German national research centre composed of a series of particle accelerators – have ...

A novel toxin for M. tuberculosis

August 4, 2015

Despite 132 years of study, no toxin had ever been found for the deadly pathogen Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which infects 9 million people a year and kills more than 1 million.

The mystery of the instant noodle chromosomes

July 23, 2015

A group of researchers from the Lomonosov Moscow State University tried to address one of the least understood issues in the modern molecular biology, namely, how do strands of DNA pack themselves into the cell nucleus. Scientists ...

Recommended for you

Which insects are the best pollinators?

September 3, 2015

Bees top the charts for pollination success according to one of the first studies of insect functionality within pollination networks, published today by researchers at the University of Bristol and the University of St Andrews.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.