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Abstract

The X-ray laser European XFEL produces thousands of pulses of very brilliant light every second. The high-quality beam enables single particle imaging (SPI) of protein complexes, meaning the proteins do not need to be frozen in a crystal lattice for imaging. Using this method researchers aim to study transient states of proteins that are moving or changing shape. They will produce molecular movies that explain biological processes and functions. A bottleneck in this process is the amount of data required to reconstruct the individual structures that are the frames of these films. The project MS SPIDOC aims to simplify the structure calculations by improving sample delivery. The project is developing a native mass spectrometry (MS) system to deliver biological molecules to the X-ray laser for imaging. This system selects biomolecules by mass and conformation and orients them for imaging. Knowing the sample orientation makes the structure calculations simpler, reducing the size of datasets and speeding up analysis. Better analysis of biomolecules is useful in many fields including virus research, as described in the comic.

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