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Tuesday, February 07, 2006


Music of the Strings

There were a great many fascinating things presented at the neuroscience meeting, but one quirky thing caught my attention. You can convert protein sequences to music. Using some commercially available software (a bargain at $500), or some freeware (Java for all OS's or Windows only) you transpose the amino acids in the protein to musical notes and then play them. Complicated algorithms are used to determine what notes, their pitch and duration and so on, but with a little fiddling you can produce haunting themes from the proteins of our bodies. We were treated to the jazz like sounds of a small protein hormone called Vasoactive Intestinal Peptide.

While quirky, there is a serious side to this. The genome projects are producing vast reams of protein structure, finding patters in the plethora of variants of particular proteins is rather difficult, but when you convert them into music, altered structural patterns are immediately noticeable. Perhaps in the future we will search protein databases by sound, computer workstations resounding to the music of the strings, rather than the dry tapping of keyboards.

Here's a small MIDI file I have made from the sequence of beta-amyloid, the protein that causes Alzheimer's disease. It is quite discordant, as befits such a rogue protein.

As a musician I found this quite interesting. Although your MIDI file is sort of a triplet feel over 4/4 time, I found after listening to it a few times that it would much rather be a waltz. I thought it might be novel to see it as well so scored it. You can find it here:

Waltz of the Beta-Amyloid


PS - have any other interesting proteins lying around?
Rob, that's fantastic. I'm going to share this with the otehr amyloid workers here at the lab if I may.

Yes, I have LOTS of interesting proteins around. The muical differnce netween amyloid and its precursor would be interesting, and there are all these frog peptides ...
problem solving. what a great way to alter the way one approaches data. it's amazing how people come up with these ideas.

I've got another post on weird but useful ideas from the conference. In the meantime I'm hunting up protein sequences :-)
God lord what if some of these things work together :O musically to form a message? See that Star Trek episode? lol
Actually... the song of Alzheimer's is not so discordant after all.


Some say I have too much time on my hands. I'm excited to get my hands on some other proteins. Let's make an album! :)
You're on! It will have to take a back seat for the rest of this week while I get coursework stuff finalized though.
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