A half-century-old science problem has been solved and could lead to dramatic advances in combating diseases, researchers say, The Independent reported on Monday.
Google’s DeepMind claims to have created a program that can map the three-dimensional shapes of the proteins that are responsible for diseases, called “protein folding,” which, if correct, could completely change the way diseases are treated.
Until now, only a very small number of the 200 million known proteins have been unfolded to fully understand what they do and how they work.
“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,” said Dr John Moult, chair of CASP14, a group of scientists who have been researching the subject for more than a quarter century.
“Even tiny rearrangements of these vital molecules can have catastrophic effects on our health, so one of the most efficient ways to understand disease and find new treatments is to study the proteins involved.
“There are tens of thousands of human proteins and many billions in other species, including bacteria and viruses, but working out the shape of just one requires expensive equipment and can take years.”
During the latest test, DeepMind said its program determined the shape of around two-thirds of the proteins with accuracy comparable to laboratory experiments and will soon be published and checked by external scientists.
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