• Listen to the strange Corona virus melody

    • Listen to the strange coronavirus melody thanks to the MIT researcher who transcribed it to music

      Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Markus Buehler has transcribed into sound the structure of the proteins that make up the virus so that he can better study it and discover how to fight it.

      A musical approach for scientific progress. Markus Buehler is a musician and professor at the Massachussets Intitute of Technology (MIT). His job is to develop artificial intelligence models to design new proteins, sometimes translating them into sound. On April 2, for an article from MIT in the form of questions and answers, he revealed that he had succeeded in transforming the coronavirus into a melody, allowing him to learn more.

    • The method is simple. Sound is produced by vibrating a material. This can be for example a guitar string, a percussion between two objects but also, on a microscopic scale, a molecule. By arranging the sounds, it is possible to create music.

      It is all the art of composition.

      Markus Buehler then uses artificial intelligence to combine these concepts and use molecular vibrations to build new musical forms. "We have worked on methods to transform protein structures into audible representations and translate these representations into new materials," he adds.

    • "We think that analyzing sound and music can help us better understand the material world. Artistic expression is, after all, just a model of the world in and around us, ”says the MIT professor. The brain, excellent in sound processing, will be able to identify all the characteristics of a sound: pitch, timbre, volume, melody, rhythm and chords. "We would need a high-powered microscope to see equivalent details in an image, and we could never see everything at the same time," he adds. Sound is such an elegant way to access information stored in a protein. ”

      In the case of the coronavirus, this method made it possible to learn more about the “spike” protein of the virus, that is to say the advanced protein allowing it to enter and cling to cells. It is therefore composed of three protein chains, too small to be seen but not to be heard. "We have represented the physical structure of proteins, with their tangled chains, as intertwined melodies that form a multilayer composition," says Markus Buehler. The resulting piece is a form of counterpoint music, in which the notes are played against notes, like Bach's Goldberg Variations for example. ” The symphony, through its musical motifs, reflects the interlocking geometry of the protein produced by materializing its DNA code.

    • "Listening, you might be surprised by the pleasant, even relaxing, tone of the music," he analyzes. But it deceives our ears in the same way that the virus deceives our cells. He's an invader disguised as a friendly visitor. ” Besides the musical performance, this scientific prowess made it possible to understand that the virus deceives and exploits the host to multiply. Its genome, namely its genetic material, allows it to divert the production of proteins from a cell in order to manufacture viral proteins instead.

      “From the music we created, we analyzed the vibrational structure of the spike protein that infects the host. Understanding these vibrational patterns is essential for drug design and much more, ”says the professor. Translating proteins into sounds gives scientists another tool to understand and design proteins. It also constitutes a so-called compositional approach in order to create new drugs to attack the virus. "We could be looking for a new protein that matches the melody and rhythm of an antibody capable of binding to the peak protein, interfering with its ability to infect," concludes Markus Buelher.