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Google presents AI to predict the behavior of human molecules| GuyWhoKnowsThings

Artificial intelligence is giving machines the power to generate videos, write computer code and even have a conversation.

It is also accelerating efforts to understand the human body and combat disease.

On Wednesday, Google DeepMind, the tech giant's core AI lab, and Isomorphic Labs, a sister company, unveiled a more powerful version of AlphaFold, an AI technology that helps scientists understand human behavior. Microscopic mechanisms that drive cells in the human body..

A first version of AlphaFold, released in 2020, solved a puzzle that had plagued scientists for more than 50 years. It was called “the protein folding problem.”

Proteins are the microscopic molecules that drive the behavior of all living things. These molecules begin as chains of chemical compounds before twisting and folding into three-dimensional shapes that define how they interact with other microscopic mechanisms in the body.

Biologists spent years or even decades trying to precisely determine the shape of individual proteins. Then AlphaFold appeared. When a scientist fed this technology to a chain of amino acids that form a protein, he was able to predict the three-dimensional shape in a matter of minutes.

When the deep mind AlphaFold publicly released a year later, biologists began using it to accelerate drug discovery. Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco used the technology as they worked to understand the coronavirus and prepare for similar pandemics. Others used it as they struggled to find remedies for malaria and Parkinson's disease.

The hope is that this type of technology will significantly speed up the creation of new drugs and vaccines.

“It tells us a lot more about how the machines in the cell interact,” said Google DeepMind researcher John Jumper. “It tells us how this should work and what happens when we get sick.”

The new version of AlphaFold, AlphaFold3, extends the technology beyond protein folding. In addition to predicting the shapes of proteins, it can predict the behavior of other microscopic biological mechanisms, including DNA, where the body stores genetic information, and RNA, which transfers information from DNA to proteins.

“Biology is a dynamic system. You need to understand the interactions between different molecules and structures,” said Demis Hassabis, CEO of Google DeepMind and founder of Isomorphic Labs, which is also owned by Google. “This is a step in that direction.”

The company offers a website where scientists can use AlphaFold3. Other laboratories, most notably one at the University of Washington, offer similar technology. In a paper published Tuesday in the scientific journal Nature, Dr. Jumper and his fellow researchers show that it achieves a level of precision far beyond the state of the art.

The technology could “save months of experimental work and enable research that was previously impossible,” said Deniz Kavi, co-founder and CEO of Tamarind Bio, a startup developing technology to accelerate drug discovery. “This represents tremendous promise.”

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