Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology aren’t only looking at the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, through a microscope, they are hearing it in musical form.
Markus Buehler, material scientist and professor of engineering at MIT, described to Business Insider how he and his lab translated the structure of the coronavirus protein into a musical composition.
Not only is it a new perspective into observing the virus, but Buehler said future applications of this data could help design antibodies that could counteract human infection with the coronavirus, which causes the respiratory illness COVID-19.
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Amid an unprecedented pandemic, researchers have been rushing to understand the novel coronavirus, which causes the respiratory illness known as COVID-19.
While some are taking the traditional route of visually looking at the virus, dubbed SARS-CoV-2, under a microscope, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are using another sense to study the coronavirus: hearing.
Markus Buehler, a material scientist and professor of engineering at MIT, told Business Insider that his lab, which specializes in the study of biological materials, had taken the approach of sonification — the process of conveying data in audio format — to protein materials, namely SARS-CoV-2.
“When we go to the nano scale, we’re actually looking at, basically, the atoms at the scale of individual molecules,” Buehler said. “We realized that matter is always moving and vibrating because every atom is continuously shaking, so because of that, we can make any chemical structure into a sound.”
His lab had previously applied sonification to materials like spiderweb silk and organ cells and soon became interested in creating a musical representation of the coronavirus protein.
Using machine learning and AI technology, Buehler said he and his team were able to “calculate the vibrational spectrum and make that audible,” thus creating overlapping “melodies” that would ultimately create a composition or audible representation of the protein.
“When we translate the protein into sound and music, we basically follow the sequence by which these proteins are constructed — you can imagine this being a piano with 20 keys,” Buehler said. “Each key has a unique sound, but this sound isn’t a sound that comes from a string or a drum membrane or a trumpet.”
“It’s a sound that actually comes from the real vibrations off of chemical building blocks,” he continued.
Apart from being a new approach to observing the virus, Buehler told Business Insider that he believes there is a scientific application that could bring us closer to a solution to the pandemic.
“It has a real scientific application because once we have a description of matter and sound, … these can be set into an artificial neural network,” he said. “We can listen to it as humans, and begin to understand how proteins sound like and how mutations sound like.”
Buehler added that it is easier to hear abnormalities in the structure of a protein rather than scrutinizing data and looking at it under a microscope at the nano-level.
“It’s … incredible to hear the kind of structures in there that you don’t …read more
Source:: Business Insider