DESY and its campus partners have joined the global fight against the current coronavirus pandemic with a number of research projects initiated at short notice. DESY's X-ray light sources are ideal tools for exploring the weapons of the virus at the molecular level. For example, X-rays from PETRA III allow to determine the atomic structure of key proteins of the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 and investigate whether they are suitable targets for potential drugs. In addition to the DESY measuring stations, the measuring stations of the Hamburg branch of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory EMBL and so-called cryo-electron microscopes at the Centre for Structural Systems Biology CSSB on the DESY campus are also used for these purposes.

 
Eine Infografik, auf der von links nach rechts ein Undulator, ein Kristall, ein Röntgendetektor und ein Computer zu sehen sind.

Structural analysis of biomolecules with X-ray radiation: Fast electrons (blue) from a particle accelerator are sent into an undulator (left) equipped with powerful magnets (green and violet). The electrons race past the magnets in a slalom pattern. In the process, the particles emit high-energy X-ray radiation (orange), which is directed through X-ray optics at a crystal (centre) made up of biomolecules. The crystal diffracts the X-ray radiation, thus generating a characteristic diffraction pattern on the detector (right). On the basis of this diffraction pattern, the structure of the biomolecules under investigation can be calculated down to the last atom (far right). Illustration: DESY, Cyprian Lothringer

Face shields manufactured at DESY workshops. Credit: DESY

Numerous partners are involved in the research activities. Various teams search for new active substances, investigate the molecular biological processes of the infection or X-ray damaged tissue in 3D. The research topics also include possible rapid tests, innovative ways of accurately dosing possible corona drugs and the evaluation of data from a corona app using big-data methods from particle physics. In addition, the DESY workshops have started the production of face shields, which are made available free of charge to physicians and nursing homes.

 

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