Fighting Sleeping Sickness

Fighting sleeping sickness


This kaleidoscopic pattern of dots is a slice through a 3D visualisation of data gathered by firing an X-ray laser into crystals of the enzyme Trypanosoma brucei cathepsin B. Because the laser is so powerful, each crystal it hits is vaporised. Therefore researchers suspended thousands of crystals in water, and fired repeated pulses of laser energy as this water was forced out of a fine jet in a thin stream. Each time the X-rays hit a crystal they were diffracted by the atomic structure and formed complex projected patterns. About 200,000 such patterns are combined into the data set represented here. By analysing each constituent pattern, researchers can reconstruct the shape of the enzyme molecule. It is hoped this will allow the design of new drugs to prevent the reproduction of Trypanosoma brucei, a protozoan that causes sleeping sickness in humans.

Image © Karol Nass and Thomas White, Center for Free-Electron Laser Science


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