Monday, 29 March 2010

X-ray Crystallography ...

Seriously .. I kinda wonder why I choose this topic for my UROPS (Undergraduate Research Opportunity Programme in Science). This topic sounds pretty fun when you think about it. For a life science students, a chance to use instruments that you will never have the chance to even touch it. It's really an honour.

But .. sadly the difficulty of the theories kinda demoralises me. Reading through all the books that I've managed to find through the NUS Library Portal, I'm happy that NUS stocks a huge collection of books on proteins and X-ray crystallography. They even have an electronic copy of it ! Love it..

Was talking to another senior, Stephen about UROPS and apparently as a life science student we really must be ready to face the unprepared. He's working on a couple of phenotypes on C.elegans worms and apparently after 10 months his works doesn't show up any nice progress. Only in the last few weeks that those worms start showing some essential signs...

This kind of experimental disaster is what worries me most. To perform X-ray crystallography, you would need to purify a protein up to a purity beyond the expectancy of even the most well trained biochemist. To biochemist, it's good enough that if you can get a protein solution that can show some significant enzymatic activities. BUT .. for a crystallographer, it's a different kind of game.

For every 100g of protein that you purified, 1mg is used to grow the protein crystal. Of the 1mg, only 1 microgram will become a crystal. Of 100 crystal that you managed to grow, only 5 to 10 shows acceptable electron density map after being bombarded with X-ray.

Looks tedious. Yes. It is. In fact, it should. After all, how many light bulbs has Thomas Edison build to come up with one that can last 1200 hours ? How many kilogrammes of pitchblende has Madame Curie purified that ultimately lead to her death, in search of radioactivity mechanism ? Science exploration is always a test of endurance, motivation and determination.

No comments: