If coronavirus were a song

Image courtesy of Markus Buehler.

Scientists and researchers are turning the coronavirus into a tune.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers have used artificial intelligence (AI) to transform the novel coronavirus into a classic melody, which will hopefully enable scientists to better understand the functions of COVID 19 which killed more than 141,000 people across the globe.

Using a new technique called sonification, scientists from the MIT assigned each amino acid a unique note in a musical scale, converting the entire protein into a preliminary musical score.

According to MIT’s website, the new format can help them find sites on the protein where antibodies or drugs might be able to bind—simply by searching for specific musical sequences that correspond to these sites. 

Researchers also claimed that this is faster and more intuitive than conventional methods used to study proteins, such as molecular modeling.

“Through sonification, we can also compare the biochemical processes of its spike protein with previous coronaviruses, like SARS or MERS,” says Markus Buehler, the musician, and MIT professor who develops artificial intelligence models to design new proteins, sometimes by translating them into sound.

“In the music we created, we analyzed the vibrational structure of the spike protein that infects the host. Understanding these vibrational patterns is critical for drug design and much more. Vibrations may change as temperatures warm, for example, and they may also tell us why the SARS-CoV-2 spike gravitates toward human cells more than other viruses. We’re exploring these questions in current, ongoing research with my graduate students,” he added.

“You can think of music as an algorithmic reflection of structure. Bach’s Goldberg Variations, for example, are a brilliant realization of counterpoint, a principle we’ve also found in proteins. We can now hear this concept as nature composed it, and compare it to ideas in our imagination, or use AI to speak the language of protein design and let it imagine new structures. We believe that the analysis of sound and music can help us understand the material world better. Artistic expression is, after all, just a model of the world within us and around us,” award-winning scientist Buehler explains.

Now, listen to the song:

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