Using Structural Biology, we can study the composition (down to the atomic level!) and behaviour of small and large molecules, particularly proteins, nucleic acids (i.e. DNA) and other chemicals.
This science incorporates several disciplines, such as Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Physics and Math.
By studying the structure and shape of a protein, it is possible to predict its function within an organism, for example a certain mutation in a viral protein can make it more or less infectious!
Why should YOU be interested?
Follow a scientist's journey to learn more about some fascinating applications of Structural Biology
Imagine someone close to you has a rare disease that is yet to be characterized. You are a scientist that can observe and document the symptoms, but no one is sure what is causing them.
A good first step would be to look closely at their DNA, which contains all the information that makes you up. You find a small section of the genetic material that contains a mutation (error in the DNA code) that is not supposed to be there. This damaged section results in a protein that harms the human body.
Fortunately, using Structural Biology, you can look at the shape and behaviour of the faulty protein. Using a technique known as X-ray Crystallography, you can shoot tiny protein crystals and after a series of calculations and computational analyses you obtain a 3-D structure of the protein.
With this information, you can design small molecules (i.e. drugs or vaccines) that change the shape of the protein and inactivate it so that it stops harming the body. This is essentially, how drug discovery works.
Now, think about the thousands of diseases waiting for a well-trained Structural Biologist (and their scientist friends!), to discover their causes and design medicines that can prevent people from suffering. This is, in fact, the reality we live in today.
This is just one example of what Structural Biology can be used for; nowadays, scientists use it to solve problems in agriculture, biotechnology, food production, and more!
COVID-19 is a disease caused by the virus SARS-CoV-2. This virus is so infectious that it is able to spread and infect at alarming rates. The most common symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, dry cough, tiredness, and loss of taste or smell.
Using diverse Structural Biology techniques, researchers around the world have been able to solve the structure of over 1400 proteins. By understanding these proteins, it is possible to design specific drugs and vaccines to try to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Analyzing this data is often an exhaustive task that requires very specialized scientists. With SciForAll, we want to showcase that hard work and explain the science and relevance of the COVID-19 structures to non-specialized audiences.
We need more support from the government and industry, better resources, and more scientists willing to train on this specialized technique.
But all this starts with
Spread the word about the importance of Structural Biology. Advancements can be made not only in drug discovery and medicine, but in agriculture, evolution, biotechnology, and more!
Send us a message!
Comments? Suggestions? Want to chat about science?
We are located at the University of Toronto,
Department of Cell and Systems Biology
25 Willcocks St, Toronto, ON. Canada.