Artificial intelligence has been used to predict the structures of almost every protein made by the human body.
Proteins are essential building blocks of living organisms; every cell we have in us is packed with them.
Understanding protein structures is critical for advancing medicine, but until now, only a fraction of these have been worked out.
Researchers used a program to predict 350,000 protein structures belonging to humans and other organisms.
The instructions for making human proteins are contained in our genomes – the DNA contained in the nuclei of human cells.
There are around 20,000 of these proteins expressed by the human genome. Collectively, biologists refer to this full complement as the “proteome”.
The AI program used for the work is called AlphaFold. It was able to make a confident prediction of the structural positions for 58% of the amino acids (the constituents of proteins) in the human proteome.
Of this, the positions of 35.7% were predicted with a very high degree of confidence, which is double the number of structures confirmed by experiment.
“We believe it’s the most complete and accurate picture of the human proteome to date,” said Demis Hassabis, chief executive and co-founder of Deep Mind.
“We believe this work represents the most significant contribution AI has made to advancing the state of scientific knowledge to date.
“And I think it’s a great illustration and example of the kind of benefits AI can bring to society.”
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