ARTIFICIAL intelligence has helped to solve a 50-year-old riddle that could lead to faster virus treatments and medicinal discoveries.
The ‘protein folding problem’ has baffled scientists for decades because there are so many different types of proteins and they can be found in all living organisms.
Coronavirus is related to the way proteins function as well as other diseases like dementia and cancer.
A big problem with proteins is the fact its very difficult to map out their 2D structures.
Google-owned artificial lab DeepMind is now claiming its AlphaFold program has solved the issue and can predict many protein shapes.
This is a very impressive achievement considering there is around 200 million known proteins in the world.
The London-based AI company says its system can identify a protein shape in a matter of days.
Scientists from the 14th Community Wide Experiment on the Critical Assessment of Techniques for Protein Structure Prediction (CASP14) also worked on the project.
They've been trying to solve the protein riddle since 1994.
Chair of CASP14 Dr John Moult said: "Proteins are extremely complicated molecules, and their precise three-dimensional structure is key to the many roles they perform, for example the insulin that regulates sugar levels in our blood and the antibodies that help us fight infections
"Even tiny rearrangements of these vital molecules can have catastrophic effects on our health, so one of the most efficient ways to understand disease and find new treatments is to study the proteins involved.
"There are tens of thousands of human proteins and many billions in other species, including bacteria and viruses, but working out the shape of just one requires expensive equipment and can take years."
The scientists have said there is still more work to be done and will be submitting a paper containing their current research for review.
Their findings could go on to change scientific research as we know it.
What is artificial intelligence?
Here’s what you need to know…
- Artificial intelligence, also known as AI, is a type of computer software
- Typically, a computer will do what you tell it to do
- But artificial intelligence simulates the human mind, and can make its own deductions, inferences or decisions
- A simple computer might let you set an alarm to wake you up
- But an AI system might scan your emails, work out that you’ve got a meeting tomorrow, and then set an alarm and plan a journey for you
- AI tech is often “trained” – which means it observes something (potentially even a human) then learns about a task over time
- For instance, an AI system can be fed thousands of photos of human faces, then generate photos of human faces all on its own
- Some experts have raised concerns that humans will eventually lose control of super-intelligent AI
- But the tech world is still divided over whether or not AI tech will eventually kill us all in a Terminator-style apocalypse
In other news, the US Army is said to be spending millions on neuroscience that could lead to 'telepathic' soldiers.
Scientists have suggested permanently dimming the Sun to save South Africa from deadly dry spells.
And, the human ageing process has been reversed in a ground-breaking study, scientists have claimed.
What do you think of Google's problem solving AI? Let us know in the comments…
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