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10/01/2022

08/31/2022

New method to unveil biological processes

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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