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Northwestern exposing most deadly infectious diseases in 3-D
Date:10/31/2007

usands of viral and bacterial protein crystals grow in what resemble miniature ice-cube trays. The trays are stacked in giant incubators to keep the proteins at their favorite temperature.

Because Anderson is never sure what environment will produce a crystal -- some proteins prefer more acidity or salt than others, he tries hundreds of different recipes for each one.

Viewing these proteins down to the arrangement of their atoms requires an intense x-ray beam. One of the few sites in the country with this technology is the enormous Synchrotron at Argonne National Laboratory. From the air, the Synchrotron looks like an indoor track. And, in a way, it is. The only runners, however, are electrons circling the Synchrotron, which is actually a 40-sided polygon one kilometer around. As the electrons race around the polygon, they shoot off intense x-ray beams.

Working with equipment inside a special lead-walled station to protect them from radiation, scientists place a protein crystal -- just 1/10 of a millimeter -- into the Synchrotron x-ray beam. As the x-rays scatter off the crystal, the diffraction pattern reveals the location of the protein's electrons and atoms, a process called x-ray crystallography.

In early November, the university will launch a website, www.csgid.org, for scientists who specialize in different bacteria or viruses, so they can scan the project's list of infectious diseases and suggest which proteins Anderson and his colleagues should examine. We hope well get suggestions from people in the scientific community," said Anderson, who also is co-director of Northwestern's Synchrotron Research Center. "Their knowledge can be a big help to us because each bacteria makes thousands of proteins." The website also will be continuously updated to show scientists newly mapped proteins.

"We hope our effort will lay the groundwork for new drugs to treat or prevent some of the worst infectious diseases to plag
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Contact: Marla Paul
Marla-Paul@northwestern.edu
312-503-8928
Northwestern University  
Source:Eurekalert

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