Sunday, April 1, 2012

Science of the 10 Plagues

See also:
Outsmarting HIV with X-Ray Crystallography 
Passover 2012 Message from Technion President Prof. Peretz Lavie.

A tradition of the Jewish holiday of Passover is to examine where we are enslaved in our lives and to open the possibility of freedom. As humanity, disease remains one of the limitations of our freedom - the modern plagues where we as yet have no cure such as cancer and AIDS. 

With the opening of the most advanced center in the region of X-Ray crystallography at the Technion's Lokey Center for Life Science and Engineering, scientists will now be able to observe and unravel the precise mechanisms of disease, parting the waters for future cures and treatments.

Crystal structure of the interface between the LDL-Receptor
and autosomal recessive hypercholesterolemia.
Recently solved by Dr. Dvir. (see Dvir et al, PNAS in press)

“Seeing is Believing”

In its centennial year, 21st century milestone in science will be applied at the Technion with the opening of the new Technion Center for Structural Biology (TCSB) within the Lorry I. Lokey Center for Life Sciences and Engineering. The center, headed by Dr. Hay Dvir, will offer world-class facility for macromolecular crystallography unrivalled anywhere in the Middle East - making Technion a magnet for life sciences worldwide. “You can understand molecules better when you know what they look like...” says Dvir, and this facility will allow Technion scientists to visualize molecules.

Structural Biology is a branch in Biology that focuses on the relationship between the 3D structures of biological macromolecules, such as proteins and DNA, and their biochemical or physiological function. “Since biological macromolecules are too small to diffract visible light they are ‘invisible’ even by the largest light microscope, and thus other indirect techniques to ‘see’ them are required. X-ray crystallography is the most powerful methodology for resolving objects at atomic resolution. The chemical properties of biological molecules, as revealed by their x-ray structure, help us learn about their interaction with other biological partners and/or with drugs,” says Dvir.

This is the methodology used by Nobel Laureate Ada Yonath to elucidate the structure of the Ribosome. Now Technion scientists will have 21st century equipment to support their research in-house rather than remotely as done before. When it comes to revolutionizing life sciences through the latest tools of X-ray crystallography, “Seeing is believing”, says Dvir.

The job done by a new state-of-the-art X-ray diffractometer to be housed in the Emerson Family Building for Life Sciences once would have needed a Synchrotron - a giant facility that would demand half the space of Technion City to fulfill its job. “Nowadays, a revolution in brightness allow home-source beams to provide quality comparable to 2nd generation synchrotrons,” says Dr. Alian Akram,  “This is a huge advancement in what we can do and in the quality of data we can obtain. With the investment of Mr. Lokey, Technion is now taking life sciences in Israel to a whole new league.”
"Structural Biology has not existed as a discipline at the Technion. Thanks to Mr. Lokey we are now laying its foundation.”

Dr. Hay Dvir.
The power behind the new center originates with two new recruits at the Lorry I. Lokey Center for Life Science and Engineering (LSE): Dr. Akram Alian and Dr. Hay Dvir.

Alian began his career in Agricultural Engineering in the University of Jordan. Driven by a vocation to unveil the mysteries of living cells, his career moved through prize winning medical research at the Medical School of the Hebrew University and groundbreaking research into protein chemistry and biophysics at the University of California in San Francisco, CA. It was the existence of the multidisciplinary LSE institute and the promising new TCSB which tempted him back to the Technion, he says.

Dvir –  a senior crystallographer, began his career as a ‘Summa cum laude’ student of the Hebrew University. From his groundbreaking structural studies on two important enzymes for the treatment of Alzheimer’s and Gaucher disease, as Weizmann PhD student, he moved to the Salk Institute (California) for his postdoctoral studies on integral membrane proteins. Later on as a La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology Research Scientist his research focused on molecular dysfunctions leading to elevated levels of cholesterol in the blood; a hallmark of cardiovascular diseases, which he continues to investigate here. It was the opportunity of promoting and establishing rigorous Structural Biology research which attracted him to head the TCSB. “Being part of the viable life sciences environment at the Technion, conducting cutting-edge structural research, educating Technion students with Structural Biology and doing all of this in Israel is about all that I could have wished for career wise” says Hay.

“We know we are part of something really big. We are at the front line of science thanks to Mr. Lokey.”
Dr. Alian Akram.

TCSB Mission

• To conduct basic biological research using X-ray Crystallography and complementary biophysical and biochemical tools.
• To educate and provide biomedical scientists with state-of-the-art infrastructure to study biological macromolecules at high resolution.
• To partner with investigators at the Technion with complementary research efforts to promote broader interdisciplinary scientific programs.


  1. " on it's way"?????

    No. "It's" is a confusing formulation. It is the possessive of "it," not a contraction for "it is." There is no such contraction. You meant "its," no apostrophe.

    Stick to structural biology.

    Best wishes.

  2. Correction made! Thanks for the input!