Unraveling life's mysteries

Thu, 2011-02-17

Unraveling the molecular basis of life is a long-standing quest of humanity.  A breakthrough towards this goal was reported in a pair of studies published Feb. 3 in the scientific journal Nature, detailing a new method developed to determine structures of biomolecules based on diffracture from protein nanocrystals that are so small that they are not even visible udner the microsocpe.  A tiny aerojet nozzle profides a fully hydrated constant stream of nanocrystals, both supplied from an interdisciplinary reearch team at Arizona State University.

"From the beginning, the resolution of images recorded by biologists has been limited by damage due to the readiation used." said physicist John C.H.Spence, a Regents' Professor in ASU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, one of the lead authors of the studies.  "But what happens if a pulse of imaging radiation is used that terminates before damage begins, yet contains sufficient photos to generate a useful scattering pattern?"   

Many in the scientific community didn't believe such a method could work.  Yet, said Spence, "Theory and recent experiments using soft X-rays had indicated that this might indeed provide a useful path to truly damage-free imaging, and then there was the recent invention of the hard X-ray laser (Linac Coherent Light Source)."  Read more here 



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