Courtesy of Fluidigm

Remember science class when you had to grow salt or sugar crystals? Remember how some people would end up with fabulous crystals, while others would end up with--well, not so fabulous crystals, all because the conditions in each glass of water were slightly different? Now imagine doing that with proteins.

Of course, no one uses strings and a glass of supersaturated water, but the concept is basically the same. In protein crystallization, however, the solute is often expensive or scarce. And protein crystals can form under a variety of conditions; finding the right one is often the challenge.

The two most popular methods for protein crystallization are microbatch and vapor diffusion. For both methods, the protein and reagent are combined in fixed ratios. In the microbatch method, the solution is incubated under a layer of immiscible oil, and in vapor diffusion, the solution is allowed to slowly...

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