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article imageComputer language can analyze on its own to study complex protein molecules

By Chris V. Thangham     Jul 27, 2008 in Technology
The computer language “Little b“ is unlike other software program, it can create its own code on the fly and analyze data with new codes.
Harvard medical researcher Dr. Aneil Mallavarapu created and wrote this program called “Little b”. This program is currently being used by the Harvard Medical School’s Department of Systems Biology to analyze the complex protein molecules and their association with other proteins.
If analyzing DNA codes are complex, analyzing the proteins codes are even more complex. according to Jeremy Gunawardena, director of the Virtual Cell Program in Harvard.
The protein does much of the work in the human body and carries a massive wealth of genomic information compared to the simpler DNA.
To analyze the complex protein information a simple language wouldn’t be sufficient, hence the need for innovative language like the “Little b”.
Dr. Gunawardena told Eureka Alert:
Through incorporating principles of engineering, we've developed a language that can describe biology in the same way a biologist would…The potential here is enormous. This opens the door to actually performing discovery science, to look at things like drug interactions, right on the computer.
“Little b” is a computer program based on the LISP program, a language commonly used in artificial intelligence research. Unlike other computer programs, “Little b” can create its own code based on the environment and write its own code to study it.
Gunawardena added:
LISP isn't like typical programs, it's more like a conversation…When we input data into Little b, Little b responds to it and reasons over the data.
Gunawardena hopes to use “Little b” to analyze “kinases”, also known as phosphotransferase, an enzyme that transfers phosphate groups from molecules to molecules:
Your whole relationship with the computer becomes a different one. You've ceded some control to the machine. The machine is drawing inferences on your behalf and constructing things for you.
The Harvard Medical Researchers are planning to make this “Little b” more user friendly so others can use the system without having to learn the complex computer program.
More about Computer, Lisp, Artificial intelligence
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