Proteins – Viruses – Cell membranes – Biological processes - Drug delivery and action - Environment

Neutron beams are particularly suitable for biological research. They can be generated with energies and wavelengths appropriate for probing a range of biological structures, from small molecules such as lipids or peptides, to larger molecules and molecular assemblies including viruses. Being electrically neutral, neutrons can travel deep into materials and are non-destructive.
One of their most important advantages is that they interact quite strongly with hydrogen nuclei, so can pick out all the hydrogen atoms in a structure, including those in water molecules. (This is in contrast to X-ray analysis, in which the X-rays are reflected only by the electrons in an atom, and thus do not easily see hydrogen.) Determining the precise location and orientation of the hydrogen atoms in a molecule is usually crucial to understanding its biological behaviour.

See also 2019 review of ILL research illustrating the application of neutron techniques in Biology and Health: Neutrons and Health (pdf - 5.45 Mi) 



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The PSB spotlight on “Neutrons in Biology” took place on 29 June 2024, gathering more than 50 participants from the four institutes of the EPN campus (European Photon and Neutron campus) in Grenoble.

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The goal of this study was to complete the mapping of the dynamics of the well-known protein Hsp90 by studying the 5-500 ns timescale using a combination of state-of-the-art complementary techniques, and to take the first steps towards understanding…

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An article recently published in Cell Reports reveals how researchers have for the first time directly visualized the position of protons within key functional elements of an enzyme that plays an important role in the metabolism of many…

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Understanding the interactions of biomolecules such as proteins or drugs with the membrane of cells is important in biomedical research and for the pharmaceutical industry. The sensitivity of neutrons to hydrogen atoms make neutron scattering a…

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Courtesy of Alison Oliver (STFC,RAL,ISIS)

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By Upward, the official magazine of the ISS National Lab

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