The main purpose of the Handheld HDPCG (High Density Protein Crystal Growth) experiment is to grow large, well ordered protein crystals in microgravity for highly medically relevant proteins that are difficult to crystallize in 1-g. From these crystals, molecular structures will be obtained and new drugs can be developed.

Science Objectives

Proteins are important macromolecules without which our bodies would be unable to repair, regulate, or protect themselves. The use of X-ray crystallography to determine protein structure requires the production of well-ordered protein crystals that are of sufficient quality. Without high quality crystals of a protein, it is impossible to carry out crystallographic structural studies. Using three-dimensional structure information, researchers can determine how proteins function and in cases where these proteins are involved in disease processes, the structure is often used to design new drugs that specifically interact with the protein. Many leading drugs today are the product of structure-based drug design. While enormous strides have been made in the last decade, there remain a large number of important proteins where the difficulty of obtaining high-quality crystals is the chief barrier to their structural analysis.

Hardware Overview

Handheld Blocks           Handheld HDPCG Hardware AssemblyThe Handheld High Density Protein Crystal Growth hardware is a container that holds five Level III Growth Cell Assemblies, which are used to hold individual vapor diffusion experiments. Each Level III Growth Cell Assembly contains six sample wells, for a total of 30 experiment samples per Handheld HDPCG unit.

The Level III Growth Cell Assemblies provide triple-level containment for the experiment solutions and weigh less than 1.0 lbs when filled.

The hardware was designed for commonality with typical laboratory vapor diffusion systems. The HDPCG hardware has been successfully used by numerous commercial, government and academic customers on the Space Shuttle and ISS.
HDPCG Blocks              Level III Growth Cell Assemblies

Operations

The Handheld HDPCG hardware units can launch in various Cold Stowage facilities. Once on orbit, the units are transferred from these cold stowage locations to an appropriate temperature controlled facility or ambient stowage.