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Scientists Make First Step Towards 'Holy Grail' of Crystallography
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Scientists Make First Step Towards 'Holy Grail' of Crystallography

Scientists Make First Step Towards 'Holy Grail' of Crystallography
News

Scientists Make First Step Towards 'Holy Grail' of Crystallography

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Scientists from Imperial College London and the University of Surrey have developed a technique for crystallising proteins.  

To direct the proteins to become crystals, researchers use a substance called a nucleant, which does this by encouraging protein molecules to form a crystal lattice.

The research published online in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows how the team, consisting of bio-medical scientists, material scientists and physicists, collaborated to develop a theory concerning the design of porous materials for protein crystallisation and put it into practice.

The theory is based on the rational that the porous structure of a material traps the protein molecules, and encourages them to crystallise.

They tested the theory using BioGlass, a substance developed by Imperial’s material scientists, as a scaffold to trap and encourage the growth of protein crystals. BioGlass is a porous material, with a variety of different size pores able to trap different size proteins.

They found BioGlass induced the crystallisation of the largest number of proteins ever crystallised using a single nucleant.

Professor Naomi Chayen, from Imperial College London, who led the research, said, "The first step in obtaining a good crystal is to get it to nucleate in an ordered way."

"The 'holy grail' is to find a 'universal nucleant' which would induce crystallisation of any protein."

"Although there has been considerable research in search of a universal nucleant, this is the first time we have designed one which works on a large number of materials."  

The researchers plan to commercialise this discovery using Imperial Innovations, the College’s technology transfer company.

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