AI Firm DeepMind Puts Database of the Building Blocks of Life Online
Last year the artificial intelligence group DeepMind cracked a mystery that has flummoxed scientists for decades: stripping bare the structure of proteins, the building blocks of life. Now, having amassed a database of nearly all human protein structures, the company is making the resource available online free for researchers to use. From a report: The key to understanding our basic biological machinery is its architecture. The chains of amino acids that comprise proteins twist and turn to make the most confounding of 3D shapes. It is this elaborate form that explains protein function; from enzymes that are crucial to metabolism to antibodies that fight infectious attacks. Despite years of onerous and expensive lab work that began in the 1950s, scientists have only decoded the structure of a fraction of human proteins.

DeepMind’s AI program, AlphaFold, has predicted the structure of nearly all 20,000 proteins expressed by humans. In an independent benchmark test that compared predictions to known structures, the system was able to predict the shape of a protein to a good standard 95% of time. DeepMind, which has partnered with the European Molecular Biology Laboratory’s European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI), hopes the database will help researchers to analyse how life works at an atomic scale by unpacking the apparatus that drives some diseases, make strides in the field of personalised medicine, create more nutritious crops and develop “green enzymes” that can break down plastic.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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