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Structural biology is going through a revolution as a result of transformational advances in the field of cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) driven by the development of direct electron detectors and ultrastable electron microscopes. High-resolution cryo-EM images of isolated biomolecules (single particles) suspended in a thin layer of vitrified buffer are subjected to powerful image-processing algorithms, enabling near-atomic resolution structures to be determined in unprecedented numbers. Prior to these advances, electron crystallography of two-dimensional crystals and helical assemblies of proteins had established the feasibility of atomic resolution structure determination using cryo-EM. Atomic resolution single-particle analysis, without the need for crystals, now promises to resolve problems in structural biology that were intractable just a few years ago.

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