JUL 26, 2020 1:10 PM PDT

AI Creates Proteins that Rival Those in Nature

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

Proteins are crucial for the function of cells in living organisms. Now, researchers have developed a machine leaning-led process capable of designing proteins better that rival the functionality of those in nature. 

Proteins consist of hundreds or thousands of amino acids that specify both its structure and function. Although past methods have been able to design proper structure, function has been more difficult.

To address these issues, Rama Ranganathan, a professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Chicago, and his colleagues realized that in the last 15 years, genome bases have been growing exponentially and contain massive amounts of data about both protein structure and function. Creating mathematical models from the data, they were then able to use machine-learning methods to unlock new information about their design rules.

"We generally assume that to build something, you have to first deeply understand how it works," says Ranganathan. "But if you have enough data examples, you can use deep learning methods to learn the rules of design, even as you are understanding how it works or why it's built that way."

In the research, the team studied the chorismate mutase family of metabolic enzymes, a kind of protein essential for bacteria, fungi, and plants. With their machine-learning models, they were then able to decode the design rules behind the proteins. 

To see how they worked, the researchers then created synthetic genes to encode for proteins, cloned them into bacteria, and watched them proliferate. All in all, they saw that their artificial proteins had the same catalytic function as natural chorismate mutase proteins. 

The researchers will now work to understand how the models came to their conclusions. They also hope to use their new platform to develop proteins that may be able to address societal problems like climate change. Ranganathan and Associate Professor Andrew Ferguson have already created a company called Evozyne to commercialize their technology in domains spanning energy, environment, catalysis, and agriculture. 

"This system gives us a platform for rationally engineering protein molecules in a way that we always dreamed we could," says Ranganathan. "Not only can it teach us the physics of how proteins work and how they evolve, it can help us find solutions for issues like carbon capture and energy harvesting. Even more generally, the studies in proteins might even help teach us how the deep neural networks behind modern machine learning actually work."

 

Sources: PhysUniversity of Chicago 

About the Author
  • Science writer with a keen interest in behavioral biology, consciousness medicine and technology. Her current focus is how the interplay of these fields can create meaningful interactions, products and environments.
You May Also Like
APR 27, 2021
Drug Discovery & Development
Natural Remedy Better than Steroids For COVID-19 Smell Loss
APR 27, 2021
Natural Remedy Better than Steroids For COVID-19 Smell Loss
An international group of olfactory experts have recommended against the use of steroid treatments for loss of smell rel ...
MAY 04, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
A Potential Weakness in SARS-CoV-2 is Caught on Video
MAY 04, 2021
A Potential Weakness in SARS-CoV-2 is Caught on Video
You can see the spike protein of the virus in action in this video.
MAY 04, 2021
Health & Medicine
Micro-dosing Inhaler Breakthrough for Medical Cannabis
MAY 04, 2021
Micro-dosing Inhaler Breakthrough for Medical Cannabis
In a leap that will eliminate the risks of vaping or smoking, Canada has just approved an Israeli-made inhaler that is a ...
MAY 27, 2021
Neuroscience
Research Less Likely to Be True is Cited More
MAY 27, 2021
Research Less Likely to Be True is Cited More
Researchers from the University of California San Diego have found that non-replicable data is cited 153 times more ofte ...
JUN 01, 2021
Cannabis Sciences
Can Cannabis Help Manage Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis?
JUN 01, 2021
Can Cannabis Help Manage Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis?
As laws around cannabinoids continue to evolve, some people with chronic illnesses such as multiple sclerosis (MS), are ...
JUN 26, 2021
Cannabis Sciences
CBD Shows Promise for Lowering Blood Sugar
JUN 26, 2021
CBD Shows Promise for Lowering Blood Sugar
Whether or not cannabis can help manage symptoms of diabetes is unclear. While some studies support cannabis as a potent ...
Loading Comments...