The highest resolution X-ray image of a protein ever taken

Evan Bartlett@ev_bartlett
Sunday 07 December 2014 17:20
Science and Tech
An artist's rendering of a protein reacting to light

Scientists have been able to capture the highest resolution image of a protein using an X-ray laser ever.

This picture was taken using a Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) with lasers that are about one billion times brighter than conventional X-rays and allowed the team to understand changes to the protein within millionths of a second of it being exposed to light - an important breakthrough.

Proteins, known as the "molecules of life", are present in all the chemical reactions that take place in the human body, according to the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory who helped carry out the research.

These results establish that we can use this same method with all kinds of biological molecules, including medically and pharmaceutically important proteins.

We are on the verge of opening up a whole new unexplored territory in biology, where we can study small but important reactions at ultrafast timescales.

  • Marius Schmidt, lead researcher

The protein they studied is found in purple bacteria - which is capable of producing energy through photosynthesis - and reacts in a similar way to those found in the human eye.

By using what was effectively a super-speed camera, the team were able to piece together a number of different snapshots and build a very detailed picture of the protein's structural changes after it reacted with the light.

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