Analytik NEWS
Online Laboratory Magazine


New method to unveil biological processes


Developing our understanding of biological processes can lead to better treatments for disease. Now, an international team involving the European X-ray Free Electron Laser (European XFEL) has developed a new method for tracking the reactions of proteins.

The method, multi-hit serial femtosecond crystallography (SFX), developed by La Trobe University researchers, could probe biological proteins in a different way, providing scientists with fresh insights into their behaviour.

An international team of over 50 researchers used the European XFEL to demonstrate multi-hit SFX. The European XFEL flashes on and off up to 27000 times a second meaning that a single biological sample can be hit by the X-ray beam twice in less than a microsecond.

The first 'hit' occurs in the 'tail' or weak edge of the beam, meaning that the sample remains intact for the second hit rather than being destroyed by the ultra-intense XFEL radiation. This allows scientists to monitor the reactions of proteins as they move, on sub-microsecond time scales. Multi-hit SFX is particularly useful for studying molecules undergoing irreversible processes, which cannot be measured using synchrotrons or lab-based X-ray sources.

"Multi-hit SFX potentially opens a novel and unique window into understanding molecular processes, perhaps also for the study of therapeutics," says Dr Adrian Mancuso, Leading Scientist at the SPB/SFX instrument at European XFEL. "This result highlights the unique advantages of the European XFEL's pulse structure, as well as the success of this collaboration."

» Original publication

Source: European XFEL GmbH