Listen to the Music Proteins Make When They Unfold

December 18, 2016 5:00 am
Protein molecules (Getty Images)
Protein molecules (Getty Images)
A person's hands are shown in the midst of playing the piano (Getty Images)
Scientists set the sound of proteins unfolding to the melody of a piano (Getty Images)
Getty Images


Researchers recently came up with a new way to analyze proteins: by listening to the music they make. (We’re not talking about the steak or veal you just ate at your favorite fancy restaurant, by the way; these are the biomolecular type.)

To create this sonic data set, scientists took three types of proteins and assigned them a specific musical note and rhythm, based on characteristics like how they reacted to water or their overall structure, according to Science magazine. Then, using music-related software, they strung the protein-based data into “songs” that could be played on a piano.

Protein molecules (Getty Images)
Protein molecules (Getty Images)


(Note: Not to artificially raise your hopes, but what you’ll be hearing below pales in comparison to what supposedly happened when Pete Townshend of The Who fed the spirit of his yogi, Meher Baba, into his primitive synthesizer and came up with the brilliant intro to “Baba O’Reilly.” But it’s still cool to listen to.)

Then, the researchers had a bunch of students, who’d studied both music and science, try to match up these sonic renderings with images of the proteins that created them. Surprisingly, the students were able to match the two 70 percent of the time, which the scientists reported on in last month’s edition of the journal Heliyon.

The upshot? Scientists might soon be able to listen for patterns in proteins that cause issues like Alzheimer’s Disease.

To read the study, click here. You can listen to the sweet sounds of proteins in the links provided in the study listed under “supplementary content”—but first, sample this one below (it’s the second protein from the bottom in the study’s “supplementary content” section).

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