Pandemics test humanity in many ways. Although living in a society with a false sense of value it is almost an oxymoron to see the best nations sweating in the battle against a pandemic. Many powerful people have never felt helpless like we see today. This war is not played by dominance but by awareness and precautions. Many people ask today how can I be helpful but they are told that they should STAY AT HOME and that’s the best you can do, but actually you can do better.
Here is how:
High-performance computing(HPC) is used in molecular research for quite some time due to the rising computing power every year. Crowd computing is nothing new and there are a lot of researches that were already in the process before we end up in this pandemic for various purposes such as determination of proteins and designing novel enzymes. Viruses such as measles, HIV, influenza, hepatitis, and of course Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) is made up of proteins.
Proteins are made up of amino acids and they are so small that we cannot see them with a microscope. You can see the artist rendering of Zika Virus here. This gives us an idea about how small proteins really are.
Proteins not just make nasty viruses but they are molecules that carry many functions that are fundamental to human life. The structure of a protein determines its functions and the way the protein folds determines what they will do to your body. Insulin has a very different shape than hemoglobin because they perform different tasks in our bodies. The structure that a protein folds up into is completely determined by its protein sequence(Native protein Structure). We get that from DNA.
Determining the native structure using experimental methods takes years to solve a single structure and are very expensive. Sequences solved for the corresponding structure is very low. Further research is going on in developing different techniques and algorithms(such as Rosetta Algorithm) to predict protein structure in less time and feasible resources. These calculations run on computers and it requires a ton lot of computational powers and that’s where distributed computing comes into play. There are many different distributed computing projects like SETI@home, Folding@Home from Stanford to give you examples.
The approaches are varied in fighting against Coronavirus and it includes designing small molecules that can inhibit protein in the virus, Plasma therapy, and repurposing antivirals to fight other diseases.
Research is going full throttle at various universities and there are a lot of universities in the US that have the cutting edge technology to do so.
At Harvard university Scientists have mapped human protein interactions.The human genome project(1990-2003) has provided us with a “parts list” for the cell, but only if we can understand how these parts go together or interact, can we really begin to understand how the cell works and what goes wrong in disease. This can be helpful in cancer and various other infectious diseases.
Joining a crowdsource computing platform
There are a lot of teams sharing their personal computing power for research. By virtue of coming to this page, you can join this proposed team. Temple University, Philadelphia manages this project.
You can contribute your personal computer’s computation power to help them unravel the mysteries of proteins.
The process is simple
- Open ElevateByrayyan
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Rayyan Zahid is Computational Systems Thinker and writes about diverse topics in his Elevate newsletter.
Asher Junaid is autodidact having a deep interest in technology, politics and business. He prefers podcast over books and finds muse through the lost art of conversation.
He is currently completing his Bachelors at GIKI Pakistan.