Saturday, October 21, 2006

Science Sentence Structure

Scientists have discovered a way to synthesize a bunch of new antibacterial agents by treating the compounds as if they were sentences and rearranging the components according to basic rules of grammar.

When researchers look at these kinds of molecules - which are basically strings of amino acids - they write them down on paper (or, OK, probably on a computer screen) using a letter to represent each individual amino acid.

When they started looking at compounds that were naturally antibacterial they realized that there were patterns in the order of the letters - just like there are with words and sentence structures in spoken or written language.

So THEN, they used a bunch of real grammar rules to reorder the letters - thereby designing new compounds, which they then synthesized in the lab. And they found that lots of those compounds had antibacterial activity too.

Oh, I think I've died and gone to heaven. The disciplines of Science and Language have merged.

1 comment:

Jordan said...

This work got a lot of press last week... people are saying that the "grammar" bit is way overblown, and that what they've done is mostly pattern recognition -- with the patterns being well-known already.

Someone on a blog mentioned that they really want to make the peptide "ELVISLIVES" and see if it's antibacterial. (Probably not, because it's pretty hydrophobic.)

A good friend of mine did a post-doc in antimicrobial peptides, I'll ask him what he thinks.