X-rays and Crystals

Even if you have no interest in science or medical research, these are some very interesting images, read below to learn more about them.
Glutamine Synthetase - x ray crystallography

If you ever wondered what “medical research” means, here is one example.
(Keep in mind that I am not a scientist myself, so I will keep any technical references to third party sources).
X-ray Crystallography – Wikipedia

X-ray crystallography is a method of determining the arrangement of atoms within a crystal, in which a beam of X-rays strikes a crystal and diffracts into many specific directions. From the angles and intensities of these diffracted beams, a crystallographer can produce a three-dimensional picture of the density of electrons within the crystal. From this electron density, the mean positions of the atoms in the crystal can be determined, as well as their chemical bonds, their disorder and various other information.”

Protein Crystal - x ray crystallographyTo attempt to put this in very simple terms.  A scientist will research a particular protein (perhaps to develop a drug that can interact with it).  As a part of this research, it is helpful to “see” what it looks like, they are very complicated 3-dimensional structures.  A technique was developed that shoots x-rays through a sample of the proteins, and these x-rays bounce off of them in different directions.  Mathematically it is possible to reverse the information collected to “see” what this protein looks like.  Proteins are extremely small, so this special technique was developed.  That’s about all I can intelligently say at this time without making things up 🙂  If you are curious you can read more on Wikipedia.  Many of the software programs that are used to do research in this way are freely available “open-source” applications that will run on Macintosh, Windows and Linux/Unix operating systems.  Coot, CCP4 and PyMOL are a few examples.

x-ray crystallography, xtal, xtallography, protein, research, medical

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