• Question: why is crystallography important on an everyday basis

    Asked by Rebekahxxx<3 to William, Rebecca, Martyna, Callum, Alice, Adam on 13 Nov 2018.
    • Photo: Rebecca Roddan

      Rebecca Roddan answered on 13 Nov 2018:


      Crystallography is really important to understand the structures of materials.

      One particularly useful example: Lots of drugs are developed with the aim to bind to or inhibit a protein. The best help for us to design a drug that binds to a protein is to know what the protein looks like. We do this using crystallography. We can also screen different drug molecules using crystallography. We try and crystallise the protein and try crystallising in the presence of a drug molecule. If the drug molecule binds to the protein, we will see it bound in the crystal structure 🙂

    • Photo: Callum McHugh

      Callum McHugh answered on 13 Nov 2018:


      Rebecca’s answer is really good. Basically, crystallography can allow us to understand the properties and behaviour of solids which is really important when it comes to making them good in whatever application we use them in.
      This can include, as Rebecca pointed out pharmaceuticals but can also include electronics, TV displays, cosmetics, inks, paints, agrochemicals and food (to name only a few!!)

    • Photo: Adam Berlie

      Adam Berlie answered on 13 Nov 2018:


      Crystalography is the study of crystals but at the heart of this are some extremely facinating questions and applications. Both Rebecca and Callum have given examples of why it is important. I’d just like to add that crystalography had contributed to most of the things we take for granted in todays world. By studying the atomic structure and how the crystals are made up we can begin to udnerstand why they have the properties they do. Think of the silicon in your phone, people at first crystallography to understand the structure and this led to scientists understanding why it is semiconducting. Now think of the stuff in your hard drive, a lot of this was developed using crystalography as a tool. In fact you can even look at how the magentism deep inside materials works using crystalography. I think what I am trying to say is that crystalography is extremely important!

    • Photo: Martyna Pastok

      Martyna Pastok answered on 14 Nov 2018:


      I agree with Rebecca, Callum and Adam. They gave great answers. Nowadays some pharmaceutical companies and people in academia are crystallising some proteins of interest which may be a potential drug target – medicine target, for instance a molecule which is important in a particular disease like cancer. Some molecules need to be stopped from being active in order to stop a biological process to continue, like a molecule which is important in some cancers development. Crystallisation allows visualisation of this molecule with an inhibitor – potential medicine. This way you can build better inhibitors by modifying their chemistry and this way you can build a better drug – inhibitor. Crystallography allows visuallisation of this process of chemically changing molecules of inhibitors and allows more efficient drug design which would be specific just to this molecule binding pocket where a drug should bind.

    • Photo: William Glass

      William Glass answered on 14 Nov 2018:


      I think the others have covered a lot of really good points, in my work I use the crystals of proteins. Proteins are important for a vast number of processes in your body so I use these structures to build models. From these models I can simulate them on computers and find out how they may function in the body. If we understand that then we may be able to design better drugs to help when they go wrong!

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