Researchers have teased out how proteins get their shape and now can design proteins to take on certain formations, the New York Times reports.
"We can now build proteins from scratch from first principles to do what we want," the University of Washington's David Baker tells the Times.
To answer the question of why proteins fold they way they do, Baker and his colleagues in 2005 launched Rosetta@home, a distributed computing project in which users give up some of the processing time on their home computers or other devices to work on this folding problem. According to the Times, 1,266,542 users joined the project since 2005. It adds that Rosetta's protein folding predictions have now become quite accurate.
The Times says Baker and his colleagues have now left natural proteins behind to create unnatural ones that would be able to perform particular tasks. For instance, working with Scripps Research Institute's Ian Wilson, they have concocted a protein that fits into a pocket on the surface of the flu virus and, in mice, that protein could prevent them from dying from a severe flu infection. Additionally, they are working on creating protein shells to protect and deliver genes throughout the body.