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Computational biology: Protein Folding
Proteins are fantastically complicated molecules. Built of long chains of amino acids – typically several hundred residues long – proteins assume shapes (and thus functions) based on the complex interactions between and within its amino acids and the environment. For many years, the mathematics of those relationships were so complicated as to be effectively impossible: Given an amino acid sequence, researchers were unable to predict what shape the protein ultimately would assume. Today, however, researchers are doing just that. Powered by new algorithms and a deeper understanding of protein biology, scientists are getting steadily better at designing proteins from scratch (i.e., ‘de novo’) that take on desired shapes and chemistries – and increasingly, to carry out desired work.
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