David Dunn-Rankin

David Dunn-Rankin

Living to age 120 sounds great, but not if you have Alzheimer’s. Maybe there is a cure for Alzheimer’s on the horizon.

David G. was saying perhaps the most important scientific breakthrough in 2020 was Google’s DeepMind innovation in predicting protein folding. I’d never heard of protein folding and why it’s so important to our long-term health.

Join me in a quick layman’s perspective on how this breakthrough might allow you to live to be 120.

First, let’s start with software artificial intelligence that made this breakthrough. The simple explanation of artificial intelligence is to think of AI as looking at historical data and patterns, then making predictions. Will it rain tomorrow? Will Stephen Curry go to the right in the last minute of an NBA game to shoot his three-pointer?

The second level of artificial intelligence is not only to predict, but then to recommend. You bought his book on Amazon. You might also like these other books. You listened to this song and liked it; here are similar songs by other artists you might also like.

The highest level of artificial intelligence is to predict, skip the recommendation stage and take action directly without human involvement.

We’ve had artificial intelligence flying our planes for a long time. Have you noticed how few plane accidents there are? Trillions of dollars of stocks are bought and sold by artificial intelligence without any human involvement.

Artificial intelligence levels of predict and recommend are mostly acceptable to us. It is the acting without human involvement that concerns many of us.

Google has a huge investment in artificial intelligence, with a heavy emphasis on better predictions. Fortunately for us, they’ve focused their brilliant scientists and artificial intelligence on medical problems. One of the thorniest is protein folding.

Some well-known diseases that involve proteins misfolding are sickle cell, cystic fibrosis and Alzheimer’s. We are potentially now on the verge of huge medical breakthroughs.

Proteins are the building blocks of our cells. Proteins fold and twist in ways that seem to defy logic.

Proteins are made up of strings of amino acids. We can understand the amino acids from DNA, but we can’t fully understand each protein until we can predict the unique folding of the proteins themselves.

Understanding when and why the 200,000 different kinds of human proteins fold the way they do is the next-level medical breakthrough. You can’t easily build a drug with a molecule to bind to the protein and deliver a cure unless you can predict the folding of the protein.

Google’s artificial intelligence systems may have cracked the protein folding prediction problem. Great drug therapies, including potentially for Alzheimer’s, lie ahead.

If you are a Ph.D. molecular scientist, you will no doubt find some fault with my attempt to explain proteins and amino acids to readers who don’t want to go back to high school biology. Mea culpa.

All around us, brilliant scientists and medical professionals are hard at work, creating a better tomorrow. You may live to be 120.

Share your thoughts: David@D-R.Media.

 

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