Protein is the basic organism that constitutes cells. It is the main bearer of life activities. It has been the constant focus for scientists in the development of new drugs. In particular, the complex and mysterious mechanisms of action on the cell membrane that control the ability of the molecule to enter the cell and act "killing power", which continue to stimulate scientists' desire to explore.
In previous studies, scientists developed several different methods of protein imaging, but none of them completely solved the problem of studying single membrane proteins in the natural environment. A recent study published in Small magazine brought new breakthroughs. Professor Martin Andersson and his team at the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at Chalmers University of Technology have successfully used Atom Probe Tomography for imaging and research of membrane proteins.
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Although this technology has existed for many years, it has only been used in the study of metals or other hard materials and has not been involved in the field of biology. Professor Martin Andersson also explained this discovery: "This is an accidental inspiration. When we studied the contact surface between the bone and the implant, we found that using this technique can effectively distinguish the organic matter in the bone, which gives further motivation to explore."
It is key to clearly study the imaging of a single membrane protein and extract protein intact.
Researchers encapsulate the protein into a glass capsule with a wall thickness of only about 50 nanometers (one nanometer is equal to one millionth of a millimeter). After taking it out, the outermost layer of the glass capsule is cut by an electric field, and the protein is released one by one in atomic order. In the end, the structure of the protein is completely showed in 3D on the computer, and the existing protein three-dimensional model is complemented and improved, which provides an important tool for the research accuracy and reliability of researchers in the future.
This breakthrough study not only shows the complete imaging of membrane proteins, but also brings renewal of the three-dimensional structure of protein simulation, and reveals the chemical composition of proteins at the atomic level, which provides research value for the establishment of experiments on the binding of drug molecules and different isotopes, and provides assistance for accelerating testing and production of new drugs.
Of course, the research method also has limitations. Gustav Sundell, a researcher at the Martin Andersson team, said: "With atomic probe tomography, we are currently only able to perform a successful structural analysis of approximately 1% of membrane proteins. It is hard to conduct all proteins study."
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