Medical Research Council - Clinical Services Centre

Modelling Molecules
20 October 2012

Modelling Molecules

To see molecules in 3D, scientists use X-ray crystallography – a technique in which an electron beam is fired at a crystallised sample. The patterns the electrons make as they scatter are processed to create 3D models. These help drug designers to identify novel ways to disrupt viruses or manipulate proteins . But some molecules defy this method. The mimivirus, for example, has fibres coating its shell that prevent crystallisation. Now, scientists can get a closer look using a device with lasers so intense and fast that they work even with non-crystalline samples. Like high-speed strobe lights, they fire an ultra-bright beam in super-fast pulses, so images can be collected before samples are obliterated. Here we see the pattern from a mimivirus particle, which allows scientists to glean unprecedented information about its structure. With the X-ray free-electron laser, previously hidden aspects of life can now be revealed.

Written by Daniel Cossins

Search The Archive

Submit An Image

What is BPoD?

BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Clinical Sciences Centre the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

Read More

Advertise with BPoD

We are currently offering no-fee advertising opportunities for scientific journals, which provide biomedical images for publication. If you are a journal editor, and would like to be considered for inclusion on our website, please get in touch with the Editor.

More Information