A New Way to Control Protein Crystallization

Yeshiva College Research Team Publishes Findings on Protein Structure in Leading Crystallography Journal

A research team led by physics professors Dr. Neer Asherie and Dr. Sergey Buldyrev discovered a new way to control the crystallization of proteins so that researchers can more easily determine a protein’s 3D structure. These findings were published in Acta Crystallographica D, a leading crystallography journal. The paper was co-authored by five former and current Yeshiva College students.

Dr. Neer Asherie

The team, which includes Dr. Bruce Hrnjez at Collegiate School and Dr. Jean Jakoncic at Brookhaven National Laboratory, discovered that adding a specific class of small molecules to water solutions of proteins not only induces the proteins to crystallize, but can also control the type of crystal formed.

“Protein crystals are used to figure out the structure and function of proteins, which is important for understanding certain diseases and for drug development,” said Asherie. “However, proteins are difficult to crystallize. Our research suggests a new way to control protein crystallization and – we hope – increase the success rate of making crystals. The results are new and lay a fertile ground for future studies. ”

The article describes several years of work, to which both past and current YU students contributed by carrying out experiments, simulations and data analysis. The student co-authors are: Ariel Axelbaum ’14YC, a recent graduate who is applying to medical school; Jacob Berger ’11YC, who is enrolled in a PhD program in materials science and engineering at University of Pennsylvania; Jerome Karp ’11YC, who is pursuing an MD/PhD at Albert Einstein College of Medicine; Dahniel Sastow, a Yeshiva College biology major; and Mark Stauber ’12YC, who is now pursuing a PhD in mechanical engineering at Stanford University.

“This is a thorough paper and its publication is remarkable, both scientifically and in the participation of students,” said Dr. Fredy Zypman, professor and co-chair of the physics department. “One of our core departmental missions at Yeshiva College is to prepare students to excel at top science and engineering institutions. Products of this type promote professionally the profile of our students.”

Sastow, an aspiring doctor from Scarsdale, New York, feels privileged to have had the opportunity to learn and work in the lab under Asherie’s guidance for the last two years.

“I think what makes Professor Asherie such a great mentor is his ability to trust his students and allow for mistakes,” he said. “He gives his students a lot of freedom in designing their own experiments and enacting them. He is always there for guidance, but really enjoys letting his students ask the questions and trying to figure out the solution on their own.