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Harnessing the power of the grid for structural biology

A beginner's guide to SAXS. Video courtesy WeNMR/Spronk 3D.

Grid resources are not just for high-energy physicists, you know. Meet the WeNMR project, which constitutes the European Grid Infrastructure’s largest virtual research community (VRC) in the field of life sciences. WeNMR seeks to provide researchers within this community with a platform integrating and streamlining the computational approaches necessary for various modeling techniques used to determine the structure of biological molecules.

As the name of the project suggests, one of these techniques is Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (often referred to simply as NMR), but another is Small Angle X-ray Scattering, or SAXS. The video above shows how SAXS can be used to help researchers understand the formation of harmful protein fibres, which play a major role in the development of diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Some SAXS applications, however, are very computationally expensive. This is where the WeNMR grid portals come in: by allowing researchers to harness the power of grid computing for their data analysis, the project is ensuring that vital research in this area, as well as in other related fields, continues apace.

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