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First-class Protein Crystals Thanks To Weightlessness On Earth

Date:
April 24, 2008
Source:
Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research
Summary:
A Dutch chemist 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.

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.

Space crystals

In order to prevent fluid flows, the decision is often taken to grow the protein crystals in space on, for example, the International Space Station ISS. 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.

Paul Poodt (Zevenaar, 1979) studied physical chemistry. His PhD research - supported by the Open Competition of NWO Chemical Sciences - is part of the programme of the Institute for Molecules and Material (IMM) of the Radboud University Nijmegen. He is currently employed at TNO.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research. "First-class Protein Crystals Thanks To Weightlessness On Earth." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 April 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080423093249.htm>.
Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research. (2008, April 24). First-class Protein Crystals Thanks To Weightlessness On Earth. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080423093249.htm
Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research. "First-class Protein Crystals Thanks To Weightlessness On Earth." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080423093249.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

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