“Cure, revolution and hope”, three words absolutely forbidden when the theme is Health or Science, taught me the journalist and professor António Granado, who I was lucky to have as a mentor. A little respected lesson out there, as is easily proven. How many times has the cure for cancer, a revolutionary medicine, and the hope of eliminating great ills not been announced? I do the mea culpa here and admit that maybe half a dozen times, in 20 years of journalism, I also ended up getting a title with one of these infallible crutches – although the voice of Granado weighs heavily on my conscience.
But like all rules, this one also has its exceptions. It was a revolution what Einstein did to Physics, what Watson and Crick did with the publication, on a simple A4 sheet, of the scientific article in which they described the double helix structure of the DNA molecule, and it is quite possible that the Intelligence system Google’s Artificial, Deep Learning, will cause a real ‘revolution’ in the way proteins are studied, produced medicines and cured diseases.
According to the dogma of Biology, it happens like this: DNA molecule, or DNA, RNA, or RNA, protein. A chain of life, followed by the simplest organisms to the most complex ones. With the decoding of the genome, a monumental undertaking that brought public and private entities together, gigantic doors were opened for the understanding of genetic diseases, unprecedented population studies were carried out, and medicines that were very effective in correcting mutations were developed. DNA has become a common word.
Little was known about RNAm, until scientists like Craig Mello, the Nobel Prize winner of Azorean origin, and others began to realize that this role as a mere executor of the ‘master’ DNA did not correspond to the reality of what was happening in the cells. Today RNA is in the mouths of the world, all because of a vaccine that will save us all and free us from masks and other constraints. It lacks protein. Producing proteins is the end, the goal, of this chain. Everything that really matters in living things is related to proteins. They are the enzymes that control digestion, the blood sugar levels, the blocks with which a body is ‘assembled’, the catalysts of the infinite chemical reactions that occur every moment within each one of us. This has been known for some time. And several groups of researchers have been dedicated to studying the synthesis of proteins, which are formed by the junction of 22 amino acids. And what has already been realized is that not only the amount and type of amino acids determine their function, but also the way they are organized in three-dimensional space. Only by knowing the 3D structure of the protein is it possible to anticipate its function.
Until now, the study of a single protein, carried out by complex and very expensive microscopic methods, could take more than a year. What Google’s algorithm can do in just a few minutes and with high reliability, became public at the beginning of the month. If this is not a revolution, oh Granado!