In 1992, UAB's Larry DeLucas, O.D., Ph.D., went into space aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia to conduct protein crystal growth experiments in orbit. Imaging protein crystals has great potential for drug discovery efforts; a good picture of a protein's structure can provide invaluable information to scientists looking for new ways to alter that protein in order to treat disease. The problem is, Earth's gravity interferes with protein formation. The gravity-free environment of space is much more conducive to crystal formation.
Today, DeLucas is director of the UAB Center for Biophysical Sciences and Engineering and principal investigator on a $6 million project to demonstrate the scientific and commercial potential of protein crystallization. (Learn more in this story from UAB News.)
Nearly 100 difficult-to-image proteins will soar into orbit on the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft.
In the meantime, check out the Dragon in this SpaceX video: