By PTI July 10, 2019 15:36 IST
Scientists have developed an artificial intelligence (AI) enabled system for translating protein structures into music and converting it back to create new proteins never seen before in nature.
The method developed by researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US provides a systematic way of translating a protein's sequence of amino acids into a musical sequence, using the physical properties of the molecules to determine the sounds.
Although the sounds are transposed in order to bring them within the audible range for humans, the tones and their relationships are based on the actual vibrational frequencies of each amino acid molecule itself, computed using theories from quantum chemistry.
The system, described in the journal ACS Nano, translates the 20 types of amino acids, the building blocks that join together in chains to form all proteins, into a 20-tone scale.
Any protein's long sequence of amino acids then becomes a sequence of notes.
Markus Buehler, a professor at MIT, said that after listening to the resulting melodies, he is now able to differentiate certain amino acid sequences that are in tune with proteins with specific structural functions.
The entire concept is to get better insights into proteins and their vast array of variations, Buehler said.
Proteins make up the structural material of skin, bone, and muscle, but are also enzymes, signalling chemicals, molecular switches, and a host of other functional materials that make up the machinery of all living things.
Their structures, however, including the way they fold themselves into the shapes that often establish their functions, are exceedingly complicated.
"They have their own language, and we don't know how it works. We don't know what makes a silk protein a silk protein or what patterns reflect the functions found in an enzyme. We don't know the code," he said.