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New X-ray sources speed protein crystallography

SEATTLE -- Thirty years ago the determination of a protein structure required years of effort and typically was sufficient for a Ph.D. thesis. Today, due to advances in synchrotron X-ray sources and detectors, protein crystal structures can be calculated in just hours, "enabling many types of studies that were previously inconceivable," according to a leading researcher at Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.

Sol Gruner, a Cornell physics professor and an expert in designing and building fast, large-area X-ray imaging detectors, says that high-powered synchrotron X-ray sources and advanced detectors have been largely responsible for the progress in calculating protein structures. "The biotechnological revolution of the last two decades is built upon the twin pillars of protein structure determination and genetic engineering," he says.

Indeed, says Gruner, "Synchrotron X-radiation has become an enormously powerful tool throughout science and technology."

Gruner presented an overview of these advances today (Feb. 16) in a talk, "Future X-ray Sources and Detector Technologies," at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Seattle. His talk was part of a symposium, "Synchrotron Radiation as a Frontier Multidisciplinary Scientific Tool," organized by Ernest Fontes, assistant director of the Cornell High Energy Synchrotron Source (CHESS), Doon Gibbs of Brookhaven National Laboratory and Keith Hodgson of Stanford University/Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC).

Synchrotron radiation is emitted when highly energetic electrons are deflected by magnetic fields. All existing synchrotron X-ray facilities are based on an accelerator physics technology called the storage ring. In such a ring, bunches of electrons are kept in a roughly circular orbit by magnetic deflecting and focusing structures. At Cornell, the National Science Foundation (NSF)-supported Cornell Electron Storage Ring (CESR) is the X-ray source for CHES
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Contact: David Brand
deb27@cornell.edu
607-255-3651
Cornell University News Service
16-Feb-2004


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