Microscopy Masters asks one thing of citizen scientists: Find proteins in electron microscope images. The task will probably give participants new appreciation for biologists who decipher the structures of teeny, tiny molecules. It’s not easy.
The goal of the online project, created by researchers at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif., is to improve biologists’ ability to construct detailed, three-dimensional models of proteins.
Using cryo-electron microscopy — which involves freezing, then imaging a sample — the researchers have taken thousands of photos of their current target, a protein complex involved in breaking down other, unwanted proteins. Each image contains 10 to 100 copies of the complex. It takes that many images to capture a protein from every angle. Once the 2-D images are stitched together, researchers can reconstruct the protein’s globular, 3-D shape at near-atomic resolution.
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