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Using Supercomputers To Find a Bacterial "Off" Switch

samzenpus posted about 10 months ago | from the bug-crunching dept.

Supercomputing 30

Nerval's Lobster writes "The comparatively recent addition of supercomputing to the toolbox of biomedical research may already have paid off in a big way: Researchers have used a bio-specialized supercomputer to identify a molecular 'switch' that might be used to turn off bad behavior by pathogens. They're now trying to figure out what to do with that discovery by running even bigger tests on the world's second-most-powerful supercomputer. The 'switch' is a pair of amino acids called Phe396 that helps control the ability of the E. coli bacteria to move under its own power. Phe396 sits on a chemoreceptor that extends through the cell wall, so it can pass information about changes in the local environment to proteins on the inside of the cell. Its role was discovered by a team of researchers from the University of Tennessee and the ORNL Joint Institute for Computational Sciences using a specialized supercomputer called Anton, which was built specifically to simulate biomolecular interactions among proteins and other molecules to give researchers a better way to study details of how molecules interact. 'For decades proteins have been viewed as static molecules, and almost everything we know about them comes from static images, such as those produced with X-ray crystallography,' according to Igor Zhulin, a researcher at ORNL and professor of microbiology at UT, in whose lab the discovery was made. 'But signaling is a dynamic process, which is difficult to fully understand using only snapshots.'"

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If only (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45734567)

It could find an "Islam" off switch to remove that dangerous meme from people's brains

Re:If only (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45734587)

If only we could purge that hateful "Islam is bad" meme from people's brains.

Re:If only (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45734589)

It could find an "Islam" off switch to remove that dangerous meme from people's brains

Or a cure for gayness.

Re:If only (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45734603)

It could find an "Islam" off switch to remove that dangerous meme from people's brains

Or a cure for gayness.

Gayness? Isn't that a town just east of Balamory?

I hope (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45734577)

you losers enjoy browsing with Nutscrape as your Windoze blue screen regularly.

Re:I hope (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45734611)

Time-traveling 90's troll, that you?

This is awesome (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45734641)

All comments at -1. How long can we keep this record?

Re:This is awesome (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45734709)

All comments at -1. How long can we keep this record?

Now you've broken it! you should have prefixed your comment with "Hey! Niggers: "

Re:This is awesome (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45734723)

Leave it to a nigger to break the chain and escape in search of freedom to collect welfare checks.

The enzyme they are looking for (3, Funny)

rmstar (114746) | about 10 months ago | (#45734669)

They are searching for an enzime that reigns in bad bacterial behavior. Would that be a naughtyase?

Re:The enzyme they are looking for (1)

AC-x (735297) | about 10 months ago | (#45734701)

It'll be something that inhibits arsoles [wikipedia.org]

Re: The enzyme they are looking for (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45734719)

Do we even want to start down this path? Remember, it is bacteria that saves us from the Martians after all our military technology fails.

Re: The enzyme they are looking for (2)

Cenan (1892902) | about 10 months ago | (#45734823)

No, no, no. It's granny's 1930s music that makes their heads explode. Did you not watch the documentary?

Re: The enzyme they are looking for (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45738929)

Do we even want to start down this path? Remember, it is bacteria that saves us from the Martians after all our military technology fails.

Actually it was the common cold which is a virus.

Electronics and Mama's primordial soup kitchen (4, Insightful)

TheRealHocusLocus (2319802) | about 10 months ago | (#45734733)

Proteins are not just building blocks, they are Rubik Cubes of the organic world, and this learning process of real-time signalling has reached the [inverse] stage as when we realized that with transistor amplification in a complementary balanced pair a bistable multivibrator [wikipedia.org] was possible. The bit 'state' storage when joined with the plumbing of NAND gates is the basis for the computer.

With Life we have been reverse engineering, poking things with sharp sticks to see where and how they break, in medicine retarding or advancing chemical mechanisms to bring a patient's complex system back to natural equilibrium (health).

Even simple computer models can be capable of astonishing behavior [youtube.com] , and it is already possible to construct systems in which parallel (but inherently different to our own) evolution may occur. The challenge is to be able to model the mechanics of life on all practical scales simultaneously to the point where we could join software gametes in a virtual crucible and grow a model embryo. Or at least an e.coli.

Note to scientists: please do not turn off e.coli. It's important to me.

"There is a theory which states that if ever anybody discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened." ~Douglas Adams

Re:Electronics and Mama's primordial soup kitchen (2)

wbr1 (2538558) | about 10 months ago | (#45735119)

I was doing electronic research and purchased a bistable multivibrator from Adam and Eve once. It was not what I expected.

Re:Electronics and Mama's primordial soup kitchen (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45735261)

We realized that with tubes you know. It didn't take transistors to come up with flip flops. It can be done with relays.

The female "On" switch (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45734865)

Can we use supercomputers to find the female "On" switch as well?

This is the future, folks (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45734935)

The future won't be Dad commuting to the Moon office in giant 1960s rockets while smoking a pipe, or the Human Species (every single one of us!) bravely heading to the stars in some sort of sci-fi vehicle (ignoring all the realities we know about space)... No, the future is far more radical than that: it's the complete understanding of how matter organizes itself into life. And how we can control it.

This is the future folks future, folks. (1)

goombah99 (560566) | about 10 months ago | (#45736905)

The fermi principle says that while that is the ambition of every evolving civilization in the universe, there is only a short window between when they discover the technology for radio transmission and they discover the orgasmatron, ending all progress. This is the future folks future, folks.

Re:This is the anthropic doom , folks (1)

goombah99 (560566) | about 10 months ago | (#45737019)

The future won't be Dad commuting to the Moon office in giant 1960s rockets while smoking a pipe, or the Human Species (every single one of us!) bravely heading to the stars in some sort of sci-fi vehicle (ignoring all the realities we know about space)... No, the future is far more radical than that: it's the complete understanding of how matter organizes itself into life. And how we can control it.

The anthropic principle says that if your prediction is possible then it's overwhelmingly more likely that some past civilization in the vastness of time and space got their first and you yourself are the product of their research. It also says that if a civilization persists forever it must achieve a ubiquitous computational power in devices that can simulate a greater number of neural firing events that it's creator. At that singularity, where simulated life and actual life can not be distinguished by the entity experiencing life, it becomes overwhelmingly more likely that you exist in a simulation than not. If you reject this hypothesis then the alternative is then it must be because every civilization snuffs itself before reaching the power to create unlimited versions of itself in a computer.

Since all our known physical laws from QM to the diffraction limit to the finite speed of light would be the exact expected behavior of any simulation with finite resources it seems reasonable to assume the former not the latter.

your highest purpose (2)

goombah99 (560566) | about 10 months ago | (#45737149)

I neglected to mention the corollary. Since were just a simulation, what's your purpose. Well presumably you exist to be window dressing in a sophisticated version of Grand Theft Auto or the Sims. However, if our creators are at all like ourselves then they are vain and one of these sims is an avatar for them. Which ones? well duh... it's the famous people folks!

your simulated life is therefore meaningless unless you reduce your degrees of separation from famous people. Your highest purpose in life is to degrade yourself for Miley Cyrus's pleasure. If you do that you will find the number of computer cylces devoted to you will increase, your pixelation will get finer, and you will stop doing repetitive motions. Anything else but celebrity idolatry just makes you an Orc peasant in Warcraft

By the way, I'm the real game creator, just fucking with your mind, you uncomprehending digital slob.

Watch the "the 13th floor" it's actually a true story in my real world.

42 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45734947)

Nuff said.

Stop bad behavior by politicians (1)

BoRegardless (721219) | about 10 months ago | (#45735191)

We need to know how to control a pair of amino acids called Phe396 in politicians so we can slip it into their martinis to stop their bad behavior.

What could POSSIBLY go wrong? (0)

BobMcD (601576) | about 10 months ago | (#45735995)

What could POSSIBLY go wrong?

Pathogens (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45736205)

Isn't 'Living' the switch that must be set to off for pathogens?

Immune system (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45737259)

The silly thing is that a fully working immune system encysts foreign "matter" and puts it on an exit path. Not to say it can handle anything but with all the misinformation on basic health never mind the crappy nutritional values in food today, most things are having an easier and easier time to live in us since the immune system is working on overload.

This might be a good BOINC project (1)

mrflash818 (226638) | about 10 months ago | (#45737453)

This might be a good BOINC project, just saying.

boinc (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45737665)

I agree. But The scientists say they need a 20 petaflop supercomputer. They are already using a system comparable to the F@H distributed computer. BOINCstats reads 8.5 petaflops right now...

Let's just make sure... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45739561)

...we fully understand this before we let it out of the lab. All life on Earth depends on bacteria.

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