Protein crystals

Knowledge of protein structures is indispensable in biochemistry and in the development of new medicines. This information can be acquired by X-ray crystallography. However, this approach needs the growth of high-quality protein crystals, which is far from easy. One of the parameters affecting crystal perfection is free convection of the solution surrounding the growing crystal. As this convection is induced by gravity, it can be suppressed by carrying out growth experiments in space. Such experiments have limited accessibility. In collaboration with the High Field Magnet Laboratory and with biochemistry we were able to simulate a micro-gravity environment by using a strong magnetic field gradient (4500 T2/m). Under these conditions artificial microgravity is created and the free convection is largely suppressed.  Recently we introduced an ‘upside-down' geometry in which convection-free growth is possible without the use of a magnet. This is a very promising substitute for space experiments.

Protein Crystals