In this era of molecular biology, protein crystallization is often considered to be a necessary first step in obtaining structural information through X-ray diffraction analysis. In a different light, protein crystals can also be thought of as materials, whose chemical and physical properties make them broadly attractive and useful across a larger spectrum of disciplines. The full potential of these protein crystalline materials has been severely restricted in practice, however, both by their inherent fragility, and by strongly held skepticism concerning their routine and predictable growth, formulation, and practical application. Fortunately, these problems have turned out to be solvable. A systematic exploration of the biophysics and biochemistry of protein crystallization has shown that one can dependably create new protein crystalline materials more or less at will. In turn, these crystals can be readily strengthened, both chemically and mechanically, to make them suitable for practical commercialization. Today, these novel materials are used as industrial catalysts on a commercial scale, in bioremediation and "green chemistry" applications, and in enantioselective chromatography of pharmaceuticals and fine chemicals. In the near future, their utility will expand, to include the purification of protein drugs, formulation of direct protein therapeutics, and development of adjuvant-less vaccines.
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