Researchers discover that amino acids have unique musical vibrations.
Researchers have found that proteins – building blocks for the human body found in everything from hair to muscle and tendons – make their very own music.
The unusual breakthrough, published in the journal APL Bioengineering, was prompted by something of a thorn in the side of the research team, engineers Markus Buehler from MIT in the US and Chi Hua Yu from the National Cheng Kung University in Taiwan.
Nature makes miraculous proteins in abundance, from silk to human cells, but scientists have no way to automatically decipher their design and use the information to make new proteins.
Intent on plugging the gap, Buehler and Yu came up with a workaround that started with a single, very left field observation: each of the twenty amino acids that make a protein has its own vibration frequency. Which is a necessity if you want to make musical notes of different pitches.
Then the pair came up with another insight – proteins and music share a hierarchical structure.
The basic structure for proteins is the varied ordering of the amino acids, such as leucine, alanine and cysteine, in a chain. As you climb the ladder of complexity there is a panoply of twists and folds, including helical arrangements and pleated structures called beta sheets, that are integral to the protein’s function, whether that be the strength of a tendon or the catalytic properties of an enzyme.
The hierarchy of music is surprisingly similar.
Read the full story in Cosmos magazine here