By Tony Winterburn • 30 November 2020 • 23:33
Artificial Intelligence Has Cracked a Biological Mystery that Offers a “holy grail” For The Treatment of Diseases – Including COVID.
There are hundreds of millions of proteins known to scientists, who have long struggled to work out their complex structures, however, in a breakthrough study, scientists at Deepmind may have come up with a solution.
Scientists at Deepmind, a Google-owned AI company based in London, believe they have solved the so-called “protein folding problem”. There are 200 million known proteins and many drugs – such as those designed for Covid-19 – act on them when processes go wrong inside the body. Scientists have only been to identify the structure of a handful, with their 3D shapes difficult to map out.
A better understanding of protein shapes could play a pivotal role in the development of novel drugs to treat disease. The advance by DeepMind Artificial Intelligence is expected to accelerate research into a host of illnesses, including Covid-19. Their program determined the shape of proteins at a level of accuracy comparable to expensive and time-consuming lab methods, they say.
But Deepmind has offered a solution, saying its system is able to determine highly accurate structures in a matter of days. Ewan Birney, deputy director-general of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory, told The Times: “I nearly fell off my chair when I saw these results.
“It’s hard to know what the impact will be because it’s been such a holy grail.”
Dr John Moult, chair of CASP14, explained: “Proteins are extremely complicated molecules, and their precise three-dimensional structure is key to the many roles they perform, for example, the insulin that regulates sugar levels in our blood and the antibodies that help us fight infections.”
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