Protein crystal growth and the International Space Station

Gravit Space Biol Bull. 1999 May;12(2):39-45.

Abstract

Protein structural information plays a key role in understanding biological structure-function relationships and in the development of new pharmaceuticals for both chronic and infectious diseases. The Center for Macromolecular Crystallography (CMC) has devoted considerable effort studying the fundamental processes involved in macromolecular crystal growth both in a 1-g and microgravity environment. Results from experiments performed on more than 35 U.S. space shuttle flights have clearly indicated that microgravity can provide a beneficial environment for macromolecular crystal growth. This research has led to the development of a new generation of pharmaceuticals that are currently in preclinical or clinical trials for diseases such as cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, AIDS, influenza, stroke and other cardiovascular complications. The International Space Station (ISS) provides an opportunity to have complete crystallographic capability on orbit, which was previously not possible with the space shuttle orbiter. As envisioned, the x-ray Crystallography Facility (XCF) will be a complete facility for growing protein crystals; selecting, harvesting, and mounting sample crystals for x-ray diffraction; cryo-freezing mounted crystals if necessary; performing x-ray diffraction studies; and downlinking the data for use by crystallographers on the ground. Other advantages of such a facility include crystal characterization so that iterations in the crystal growth conditions can be made, thereby optimizing the final crystals produced in a three month interval on the ISS.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Biotechnology
  • Communicable Diseases / drug therapy
  • Crystallization
  • Crystallography, X-Ray
  • Drug Design*
  • Macromolecular Substances
  • Proteins / chemistry*
  • Space Flight / instrumentation*
  • Spacecraft / instrumentation*
  • Volatilization
  • Weightlessness*

Substances

  • Macromolecular Substances
  • Proteins