AI designs bacteria-killing proteins from scratch, paves way for new drug creation

A look into a eukaryote cell to see how proteins are made. [Photo: Wikimedia]

Artificial intelligence designed antimicrobial proteins that were later tested in real life and shown to work.

As per scientists, this can be used to create new drugs.

Proteins are made of chains of amino acids. The sequence of those acids determine the protein’s shape and function, New Scientist reported.

AI was used by a biotechnology start-up in California, Ali Madani at Profluent, and his colleagues to design millions of new proteins, then created a small sample of those to test whether they worked.

The report said the AI, called ProGen, works in a similar way to AIs that can generate text. ProGen learned how to generate new proteins by learning the grammar of how amino acids combine to form 280 million existing proteins.

Instead of the researchers choosing a topic for the AI to write about, they could specify a group of similar proteins for it to focus on.

In this case, they chose a group of proteins with antimicrobial activity.

The researchers programmed checks into the AI’s process so it wouldn’t produce amino acid “gibberish”, but they also tested a sample of the AI-proposed molecules in real cells, the News Scientist report said.

Of the 100 molecules they physically created, 66 participated in chemical reactions similar to those of natural proteins that destroy bacteria in egg whites and saliva.

This suggested that these new proteins could also kill bacteria.

The researchers selected the five proteins with the most intense reactions and added them to a sample of Escherichia coli bacteria. Two of the proteins destroyed the bacteria.

The researchers then imaged them with X-rays. Even though their amino acid sequences were up to 30 per cent different from any existing proteins, their shapes almost matched naturally occurring proteins, it added.

Click to comment
To Top