Categories: CoronavirusScience

The sound of SARS-CoV-2: MIT professor turn virus into music


A team of researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has innovatively translated the virus causing the COVID-19 disease into music in an attempt to create an antibody.

As the whole world scurries to find a cure against COVID-19, a group of researchers at MIT has discovered a new way to understand the disease: through the sound of SARS-CoV-2.

The sonification of SARS-CoV-2

MIT Professor Markus Buehler, together with his team, has successfully translated the structure of SARS-CoV-2 into a musical composition, thanks to artificial intelligence (AI) technology and machine learning (ML).

The composition was uploaded to SoundCloud, and anyone can listen to it for free. It runs for about two hours.

In his talks with Business Insider, the material scientist explained how they were able to convert the virus’ protein spikes into interwoven melodies.

He said that, by “calculating the vibrational spectrum” of the virus, they were able to assign a unique sound to each amino acid. Thus, the creation of overlapping notes or the sound of SARS-CoV-2.

“When we translate the protein into sound and music, we basically follow the sequence by which these proteins are constructed—you can imagine this being a piano with 20 keys,” Buehler said.

He also added:

“When we go to the nano scale, we are actually looking at, basically, the atoms at the scale of individual molecules. We realized that matter is always moving and vibrating because every atom is continuously shaking, so because of that, we can make any chemical structure into a sound.”

However, he clarified that the “unique sound” is not just an ordinary melody but an actual sound created by the “real vibrations” of chemical building blocks.

The sonification of coronavirus is not the first time for Professor Buehler. He and his team have also converted various subjects already, including organ cells and spiderweb silk.

Antibiotics for coronavirus

The material scientist also believes that the sonification of SARS-CoV-2 has a scientific application. He also mentioned that he and his team are interested in developing antibiotic candidates.

According to him, the data obtained from the virus’ sounds could help in designing a protein that will thwart coronavirus from infecting the human cell.

He explained:

“So we are feeding the information about how the spike protein is created, and we are trying to ask the artificial neural network to design a protein that fits like a lock-and-key into the spike protein, so the spike protein can no longer meet or match the human cell during the infection, but we would rather bind into the antibody.”

The deviation from the traditional under-the-microscope approach is an odd yet not-so foreign move for many scientists. It may or may not lead to positive results, but its principal researcher believes it could yield new insights.

“You would need many different images, many different magnifications to see with your eyes, what your ears can pick up with just a couple of seconds of music,” Buehler concluded.

With the structure of SARS-CoV-2 translated to music, it is with great hope that this innovative yet odd “breakthrough” can pave the way in finding a cure.

Image courtesy of Geralt/Pixabay

Kari Astillero

Kari Astillero is a freelance digital content writer by profession and a poet by heart. She works at home trying to guard her solitude from the city's noise.

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Kari Astillero

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