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How improved protein imaging and the understanding of protein folding is helping us develop better drugs

How improved protein imaging and the understanding of protein folding is helping us develop better drugs

While this is rather technical, just looking at the image above will tell you most of what you need to know. This image shows how we've improved our ability to use electron microscope imaging of molecules over time (with protein β-galactosidase used above as an example), from the blobby outline on the left to almost being able to image actual atoms on the right. Determining the 3 dimensional structure of proteins is literally the key to understanding how they function. Knowing a protein's shape is a critical part of the process by which we can custom design molecules that will interact with them to change cellular processes and hence cure diseases including cancer:

On a somewhat related matter, Folding@home has been using the unused computing capacity of home computers for 15 years now, working out how proteins fold. Folding is the critical process by which proteins reach their final three-dimensional structure which determines how they function. Several diseases are caused by misfolding of proteins and examining the causes of protein misfolding should help with the development of better drugs for these diseases as well as some cancers. While the technology involved is rather hard to understand, that's not necessary for you to join the project, which you can simply do by downloading some software and running it on your computer.

Note the section on cancer and in particular the research into the mutations of p53, a tumour suppressor protein, which is behind more than half of all cancers. p53 may be familiar to you as mutations in p53 (17p del) are a very unfavourable prognostic marker in CLL:

More Folding@home references:


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Would recommend folding to everyone. I have had folding running in the background on different computers for nearly 5 year along with other family members.

Simple to install and can be configured to run only specified cpus when computer is idle.

We have a family team doing folding

Team Id 199689

Grand Score 26545974

Work Unit Count 14929

Team Ranking 858 of 222289

Give it a try as an individual or feel free to join the above team or start a class team

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Wow, 858 team ranking! That's excellent!

Myrddin's team page is:

I've been folding for a couple of years. I use my computer and its graphics card. They used to allow PS3 game consoles to work with it, but it was too much software maintenance keeping up with Sony's changes.

My team is called Leuk Ska Lyker.

Team Id220963

Grand Score3082408

Work Unit Count1454

Team Ranking 3160 of 222290

Anyone is welcome to join my team as well.

There's also a nice molecule visualizer that you can have it display as it works on it. They describe the current project your computer has been assigned.

I like to think of these molecules as being a bunch of sticky and magnetic grapes of various sizes, with some grapes missing in places. They like to stick to other bunches by either the juice or magnetism, but magnestism can also repel grapes. In a real molecule, this happens with electric forces (like static electricity), and not magnetism or syrup.

If the shape of both bunches is just right, they won't fall apart, and can go on to connect to other bunches to build things. The stickiness and magnetism can pull a grape off, or repel a grape, and so shapes get made as they get closer to each other. They can even pull a grape through a hole, or surround a cluster of grapes - that's how macrophages and some B-Cells defend the body.

There's many good animations, such as The Inner Life of a Cell


Some people like just the music:

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My son had a lot of cpus and gpus running which greatly helped the numbers.

Some fascinating molecule models to view in 3d