Sergey Korolev, Ph.D. and Enrico Di Cera, M.D. recently sent protein crystallization samples into space aboard the Space X Dragon capsule. The samples will spend several months at the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory before returning to Earth for analysis.
The microgravity environment may help improve the resolution of the crystal structures both researchers are trying to grow and purify. Their research is the result of a grant obtained from the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), which was chosen by NASA to manage the laboratory on the ISS.
Dr. Korolev, an Associate Professor in the Department of Biochemistry, is attempting to crystalize calcium-independent phospholipase A2, an enzyme which is involved in many reactions in the body, including inflammation, heart metabolism and signaling. Because it is a part of so many processes, it has been difficult to purify and determine how it interacts with other molecules. He hopes that obtaining high resolution crystals will help answer these questions.
Dr. Di Cera, Alice A. Doisy Professor and Chairman in the Department of Biochemistry, is studying the structure of prothrombin, the precursor to thrombin and a key factor in the clotting cascade. Obtaining high resolution crystals of this important molecule will allow him to better understand how prothrombin is activated and how it can be utilized for blood-related diseases.