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A Crystallographer's Little Helper

Creating a protein crystal structure diagram from raw X-ray diffraction data is a labor-intensive task that can take weeks to months. A new program called ELVES http://ucxray.berkeley.edu/~jamesh/elves from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California automates the process and can churn out the diagram in only a few hours."When humans deal with a complex system with hundreds of things to keep track of, they make mistakes," says James Holton, the creator of the UNIX-compatible program

By | March 15, 2004

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Creating a protein crystal structure diagram from raw X-ray diffraction data is a labor-intensive task that can take weeks to months. A new program called ELVES http://ucxray.berkeley.edu/~jamesh/elves from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California automates the process and can churn out the diagram in only a few hours.

"When humans deal with a complex system with hundreds of things to keep track of, they make mistakes," says James Holton, the creator of the UNIX-compatible program and a beamline scientist at the LBNL. "ELVES goes from the raw data to a finished image."

Implemented as a text script, ELVES uses a "conversational user interface" to create, modify, and process configuration scripts for such commonly used protein crystallography programs as MOSFLM and CCP[4]. The user need not master any arcane programming language or special lexicon, and there are no files to convert.

Users can provide plain language instructions such as 'data in /data/semet/ is from the protein in ~/orf.seq' and 'the beam center is really 93.1 95.0 and there are only 8 sites.' Says Holton: "The real beauty of the program is that it means a biochemist can buy a crystal kit and download this program and do his own structure without needing to get a PhD in crystallography. It democratizes the field."

- Sam Jaffe

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Mettler Toledo
BD Biosciences
BD Biosciences