Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

BPoD is 5

In 2017 we celebrate five years of bringing you beautiful imagery from biomedical science

Born on this Day Structural Insights
19 May 2013

Structural Insights

Form follows function. The way something works is intrinsically linked to the shape it takes. Haemoglobin – the molecular messenger bags used by red blood cells to courier oxygen around the body – is no exception. Max Perutz – born on this day in 1914 – developed a technique to reveal haemoglobin’s structure, and in the process became a founding figure of the emerging field of molecular biology. The X-ray crystallography techniques of the early 1950s, based on firing X-rays at a molecule and observing how they reflect off, couldn’t handle a molecule as complex as haemoglobin. But by adding a heavy metal atom to the protein Perutz solved the problem: the resulting change in X-ray behaviour could be interpreted to explain the molecule’s 3D structure. This revelation on how to determine the structure of proteins won him a share of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1962.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences 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.

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