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The protein, captured in an extremely thin piece of glass -- around 50 nanometres in diameter, is sliced up, atom by atom, with the help of an electrical field. It is then analysed through Atom Probe Tomography, and the 3D structure is recreated on a computer. Credit: Small: Volume 15, Issue 24, Atom Probe Tomography for 3D Structural and Chemical Analysis of Individual Proteins Gustav Sundell, Mats Hulander, Astrid Pihl, Martin Andersson Copyright Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA. Reproduced with permission.
Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, have developed a unique method for studying proteins which could open new doors for medicinal research. Through capturing proteins in a nano-capsule made of glass, the researchers have been able to create a unique model of proteins in natural environments. The results are published in the scientific journal, Small.
Proteins - Tasks - Cells - Survival - Functions
Proteins are target-seeking and carry out many different tasks necessary to cells' survival and functions. This makes them interesting for development of new medicines—particularly those proteins which sit in the cellular membrane, and govern which molecules are allowed to enter the cell and which are not. This means that understanding how such proteins work is an important challenge in order to develop more advanced medicines. But this is no easy feat—such proteins are highly complex. Today several different methods are used for imaging proteins, but no method offers a full solution to the challenge of studying individual membrane proteins in their natural environment.
A research group at Chalmers University of Technology, under the leadership of Martin Andersson at the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, has now successfully used Atom Probe Tomography to image and study proteins. Atom Probe Tomography has existed for a while, but has not previously been used in this way—but instead for investigating metals and other hard materials.
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