Figure: Gaetano Montelione and Yuanpeng Huang of Rutgers University

X-ray crystal structure of human basic fibroblast growth factor.
With a bit of luck and sometimes decades of dedication, scientists have in recent years revealed fascinating vistas of biological structures at the atomic level using X-ray crystallography and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy. In 1997, Timothy Richmond, a professor of X-ray crystallography at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, completed an 18-year undertaking that produced one of the largest structures yet, that of the nucleosome.1 In 1998, after several years of painstaking work, Rockefeller University investigator Roderick MacKinnon, a 1999 Lasker Award winner, pulled off the incredibly tricky--some might say unlikely--feat of using X-ray crystallography to obtain a "snapshot" of a potassium channel, one of those purported "Holy Grails" of neuroscience.2 But in the wake of the Human Genome Project (HGP), structural genomics has become...

Interested in reading more?

Become a Member of

Receive full access to digital editions of The Scientist, as well as TS Digest, feature stories, more than 35 years of archives, and much more!
Already a member?