Contact: Mona S.Rowe,(516) 282-2345
Diane Greenberg, (516) 282-2347
"BNL Spotlights" is issued quarterly to bring you up to date on some of the latest newsworthy developments at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory. Periodically, we focus on Brookhaven's user facilities, and, in 1993, we reported on a few promising research projects at the National Synchrotron Light Source. In the future, we plan to issue an update on the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, now under construction at Brookhaven. In this report, we are focusing on research conducted at Brookhaven's High Flux Beam Reactor (HFBR), one of the world's major research facilities. Each year, the HFBR attracts approximately 250 scientists from industry, universities and other laboratories to conduct forefront research using neutrons as probes for experiments in physics, chemistry and biology.
For more information on any of these items, call Diane Greenberg or Mona S. Rowe at BNL's Public Affairs Office.
At the High Flux Beam Reactor, scientists from BNL, Exxon and the State University of New York at Stony Brook are currently testing a material that may make potholes obsolete. They are adding sulfur and a polymer to the gravel and asphaltine mixture to create a compound that will not fall apart when exposed to moisture. By reflecting neutrons from the surface of a composite of these materials, the scientists can measure its ability to stick together when it is placed in water.
The scientists are now trying to grow plasminogen crystals. If successful, the crystals can be bombarded with x-rays at the NSLS to determine the placement of atoms in plasminogen and to understand how the atoms in plasminogen change when bound to a blood clot. This structural information would be very useful in the design of new drugs to prevent heart attack and stroke.
Scientists from BNL and the State University of New York at Stony Brook are developing a technology to speed up and automate the process of determining the sequence of these three billion base pairs. A critical step in the process is separating DNA fragments. The current technology uses an electrochemical process called electrophoresis, which requires that DNA fragments move through a gel. The gel is very laborious to make and to use. Substituting a clear, synthetic polymer solution in electrophoresis is a much faster way to separate the DNA fragments and is much easier to automate. The polymer solutions we are investigating for this purpose are composed of entangled networks of molecules in water that act like a sieve, separating DNA fragments in tiny capillary tubes. The challenge is to find polymer solutions that provide adequate separation and also are able to flow into the tiny capillary tubes.
Scientists at the High Flux Beam Reactor are using a technique called neutron scattering to study the physical properties of polymer solutions. Understanding how these properties relate to the ability to separate DNA fragments should lead to the development of improved polymer solutions for DNA sequencing.