Understanding proteins

Tuesday, March 22, 2011 - 03:31 in Biology & Nature

All living tissue is made from proteins, and all proteins are made from a combination of the same 20 chemical building blocks, called amino acids. The difference between the proteins that make up bone, blood, hair and eyeballs is largely one of shape. Genes are the recipes for stringing together amino acids into proteins, but the way in which those strings fold back on themselves determines their shape. So understanding genes’ roles in disease requires understanding how proteins fold. In a series of recent papers, researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory have demonstrated a promising new technique for modeling such protein folding. While not as accurate as some existing techniques, it is much more computationally efficient. Sophisticated, atom-by-atom simulations that run on hundreds of thousands of computers might take months to model a few milliseconds of protein folding. The researchers’ new technique can model...

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