Plant protein crystals. Light micrographs of crystals of the plant protein canavalin grown in microgravity conditions in space (top) and on Earth (bottom). Crystals grown in microgravity tend to have less flaws than those grown on Earth, making them better suited to X-ray diffraction studies. This is a technique in which X-rays are shone through a crystal in order to determine its atomic structure. Canavalin is a major storage protein in leguminous plants (such as beans), and is an important dietary protein for humans and animals. It is being studied in efforts to enhance its nutritional value through protein engineering.
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