In a medical revolution, artificial intelligence has been developed that will accurately predict the structure of all the proteins that make up the human body. This discovery is likely to have several potential benefits, including developing new drugs for different diseases.
Scientists and researchers used a program called AlphaFold to predict the structure of about 350,000 proteins from humans and other organisms. Dr. Demis Hassabis, chief executive and co-founder of artificial intelligence company Deep Mind, said:
“We believe it’s the most complete and accurate picture of the human proteome to date.” He further went on to add “…and I think it’s a great illustration and example of the kind of benefits AI can bring to society. We’re just so excited to see what the community is going to do with this.”
Prof McGeehan commented on the predictions of AlphaFold: “It’s just the speed – the fact that it was taking us six months per structure and now it takes a couple of minutes. We couldn’t really have predicted that would happen so fast.” This technology is a leap for humanity that will have several positive impacts.
Prof Edith Heard, from European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), said: “This will be transformative for our understanding of how life works. That’s because proteins represent the fundamental building blocks from which living organisms are made.”
This technology helped in making a prediction about the structural position for 58% of the amino acids in the human proteome. Of these 35.7% were confident predictions, double the number confirmed by other experiments. DeepMind collaborated with EMBL to make the code for AlphaFold. The protein structure predictions obtained through the use of this technology will be globally available to the scientific community.
Essentially, proteins are the building blocks of every living organism. Every human cell consists of proteins. Understanding the shapes of these numerous proteins can help in advancing medical science. These proteins are stored in the human genomes. Around 20000 of these are expressed by the genomes which are collectively termed as the “proteome” by biologists. Traditionally other techniques had been used to study proteins like X-ray, crystallography, cryogenic electron microscopy (Cryo-EM) amongst others but these processes are time consuming, expensive and require a large amount of resources.
This medical revolution can help humanity achieve unprecedented results in treating diseases. The applications of this technique envisage developing new drugs, treating diseases, developing crops that are climate change resistant and producing enzymes that can be used to break down plastics that pervade throughout the environment.
This technology will have infinite benefits for humanity in the time to come. It promises a new dawn in the world of medical science and comes with endless opportunities to be discovered yet.