Last week Shelter Island School students “fished” for crystals of Methylene tetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR), an enzyme in normal human metabolism that has been implicated in many human diseases.
To understand how it works and to help design medicines to cure diseases associated with MTHFR, an understanding of the structure of the enzyme and how it works is needed. To do so, students used protein x-ray crystallography. This involves students crystallizing the proteins in various chemical reactions, then they “fish” the proteins out to freeze in liquid nitrogen.
On Tuesday, November 27, they will go to the National Synchrotron Light Source 2 at Brookhaven National Laboratory to hit the crystals with high powered x-rays. From the diffraction pattern of the x-rays and a lot of scientific computing they will be able to uncover the structure of MTHFR.