FOLDING THE PROTEINS

September 7 → 5:15 pm6:15 pm
Peedie Kirk Hall, Kirkwall

They’re everywhere in our bodies, from the keratin in our hair and nails to the enzymes catalysing the wealth of processes in our cells, like thousands of little molecular machines. And although they’re often big molecules, they’re folded into complex three-dimensional shapes, and the precise details of such shapes have a critical impact on the way in which each protein operates. How to predict the shapes has till now seemed an impossible challenge – but as Prof. David Shortle of John Hopkins University explains, recent advances in the application of artificial intelligence have made it possible to calculate protein structures to astonishing levels of accuracy. “The practical value of knowing a protein’s structure has been demonstrated for the COVID-19 virus spike protein, a structure that led to the rapid development of both stable vaccines and new drug therapies,” he says. “Considering that biological evolution has tailored protein molecules to perform the vast array of functions necessary to support life, one can expect the design of man-made proteins with new, engineered structures will lead to major advances in pharmaceuticals, biotechnology and green chemistry.”

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