Protein crystallization is one of the most direct ways to probe about the structure of proteins. With higher requirements on the accuracy, more information is needed from crystallization to ensure the result. Microgravity condition can helps to crystallize some proteins that are hard to be done in normal gravity environment, which is especially significant in making large crystals.
Doing life science experiments in space can be thought as the next generation breakthrough for disease studies and drug design as it provides an ideal environment for zero gravity condition where some of the diseases progression will be accelerated and proteins are much easier to be crystallized into a state that scientists can do observation with ease.
Besides, it's proved that the crystallization formed in microgravity can keep their forms for longer period of time, extending the researching time for scientists. And it's especially beneficial to the protein crystals that involve neutron diffraction. Early studies results showed that, microgravity can lead to crystallization with better both external perfection and internal order.
It's no doubt that better protein crystallization process will facilitate better drug design result. With the faster progression of disease, the microgravity condition also helps to shorten the time applied for a success of drug discovery. With this character, scientists developed HQL-79 for the treatment of Duchenne's muscular dystrophy saving about three to five years than scheduled time on earth with normal gravity.
The study on the merits of microgravity on protein crystallization has been studied by scientists for over two decades, and the good performance carried out was accepted by many scientists. But here comes a problem that there are a huge number of protein crystallization can't be done on earth with normal gravity or can't be easily handled and it's impossible for all of such needs to be met in space shuttle. Equipments that imitate microgravity condition may be the method that helps to address the problem. Thus microgravity related technology will be one of the hot developing trends on improving protein crystallization.
1. Protein crystallization in microgravity protein crystallization, doi:10.1038/npjmgrav.2015.10, published on 03 September 2015
2. Protein crystal growth in microgravity, published in October 1994
3. Protein crystallization in space, published in July, 1994
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