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[email protected]: What It Does (Jargon Free)

So after seeing this article on the front page it dawned on me that a lot of people probably know ABOUT [email protected] But how many people know what it actually DOES? You know, besides displaying a bunch of bars, numbers and colored balls attached together with sticks.

Don't worry, like the title says, this will be jargon free.

Many diseases are caused by proteins that are malfunctioning and most drugs work by interacting with said proteins to inhibit their activity. The way most drugs do this is by being designed to fit onto a protein and so the question becomes: what shape is that protein? If we know the shape then we can make a drug that fits onto that shape and hopefully we get a cure. Now with our technology today, and this is part of what I do, can be used to determine what the amino acid sequence of a protein is. Amino acids are the basic building blocks of proteins, there are twenty of them, and they link together in a straight chain. Kind of like a bunch of sausage links. Once we have that sequence we need to figure out how that chain is going to fold in on itself to become a functional protein. And here's where we have a problem. There are almost a limitless number of possibilities and there are a whole bunch of variables to consider depending on what the amino acid sequence is. So this is where [email protected] comes in. In order to go through all of those possible folds, and figure out which ones may be correct, a whole ass-load of processing power is needed. Power that costs a lot of money and is too expensive most labs. So instead those clever scientists decided to use you! All those linked processors working together are a cheap, and very effective, alternative to buying a whole bunch of computers to do the work.

So the bottom line is that [email protected] allows us to find out protein structures that can then be used by pharmacologists to develop new drugs far cheaper and faster than could be done otherwise. So keep those consoles and PCs running guys and gals. You may be working on the protein that saves some lives.

I would really appreciate any comments on how accessible this was. Since I work in the field I'm not always aware of when I'm drowning people in concepts and jargon instead of useful information.

Random quote.... EXECUTE!

"Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing."
~Wernher Von Braun
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About The GHostone of us since 1:55 AM on 01.25.2008

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