14:54 GMT23 February 2020
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    Astronauts are using the microgravity environment on the International Space Station to prepare pure samples of human enzyme that is needed to develop new antidotes for nerve gases such as Sarin, the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) said in a press release on Monday.

    WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — Nerve agents kill by binding and rendering ineffective an enzyme known as cholinesterase, which allows stimulated muscles to relax, the release explained.

    "Astronauts are currently growing large crystals of pure enzyme of a size that cannot be formed on Earth due to interference from gravity," the release stated.

    The crystals will be returned to Earth and analyzed by a sophisticated imaging method called neutron diffraction that can provide an atomic-level view of the enzyme, the release noted.

    "Using this technique, we will be able to get a closer look at how the enzyme interacts with pesticides and nerve agents and learn about how the bond between the two can be chemically reversed," University of California scientist Zoran Radić said in the release.

    This project is being funded in part by a NIH unit that focuses on brain and nervous system research.


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