Imaging :: New X-Ray Resources for Studying Molecules

Soon scientists at Argonne National Laboratory near Chicago, Ill., will test-drive what many call the -Ferrari- of synchrotron beamlines – high-tech research facilities for imaging molecules. During a dedication ceremony on Monday, June 27, researchers will tour the facilities and watch experimental demonstrations on one of three new beamlines that promise to speed medical research.

Several novel design features that allow for automation, additional research stations, and more refined data will enable researchers to study molecules in greater detail and translate those findings into new medicines, ultimately benefiting basic research and human health. The project is supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in collaboration with Argonne National Laboratory, part of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

“The results of this interagency teamwork will be a great boon to the structural biology community,” said NIH Director Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D. “We expect the effects to be cumulative, with one important scientific advance following another.”

Synchrotrons generate intense X-ray beams that researchers use to picture the three-dimensional shapes of molecules. However, just a handful of these large-scale facilities exist worldwide. Biologists, biochemists, and other researchers apply for access to about 45 experimental stations in the United States. Many want time at the Advanced Photon Source (APS), a DOE user facility at Argonne offering the most powerful X-ray beams in the Western Hemisphere.

To help meet the needs of structural biologists, who make up nearly half of all synchrotron users, NIH?s National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) and National Cancer Institute partnered with the DOE to commission the development of the additional beamlines at APS.

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