Amino acids make beautiful music to design novel protein structures

Amino acids make beautiful music to design novel protein structures

There’s an app for that: Android users can now create their own bio-based musical compositions.

Nearly seven years ago, MIT scientists mapped the molecular structure of proteins in spider silk threads onto musical theory to produce the “sound” of silk in hopes of establishing a radical new way to create designer proteins. That work even inspired a sonification art exhibit, “Spider’s Canvas,” in Tokyo last fall. Artist Tomas Saraceno created an interactive instrument inspired by the web of a Cyrotophora citricola spider, with each strand in the “web” tuned to a different note.

Now MIT materials engineer Markus Buehler and his colleagues are back with an even more advanced system of making music out of a protein structure—and then converting it back to create novel proteins never before seen in nature. The team also developed a free app for the Android smartphone, called the Amino Acid Synthesizer, so users

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X-rays reveal the colors of a 3 million-year-old fossil mouse

X-rays reveal the colors of a 3 million-year-old fossil mouse

Enlarge / A false color synchrotron X-ray image of the fossil chemistry. Blue represents calcium in the bones, green is the element zinc, which has been shown to be important in the biochemistry of red pigment, and red is a particular type of organic sulfur that cannot be imaged by traditional methods. This type of sulfur is enriched in red pigment. When combined, regions rich in both zinc and sulfur appear yellow on this image, showing that the fur on this animal was rich in the chemical compounds that are most probably derived from the original red pigments produced by the mouse. (credit: Wogelius et al. 2019)

Here’s something you don’t hear often: the dead field mouse looks incredible for its age. It lived and died three million years ago in what is now Germany, but layers of rock preserved nearly its whole skeleton, along with most of the fur

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