Finally, proteins

In our Dominican Republic when a new political party comes to power, the friends of the militants of that party – between malicious smiles – tell each other, “finally, so and so will eat with fat.”

It’s our bad school and lousy education, of course. They should say, “finally you will eat proteins”, because it is these that constitute the structure of our body, our tissues, our cells and even our mind.

Two giants of twentieth-century Biology, such as James Watson, the co-discoverer of the structure of DNA and co-winner of the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1962, and Edward O. Wilson, the great myrmecologist. (zoologist specializing in ants), with two Pulitzer prizes and a world-renowned ecologist and ecologist (up to here in the DR the President gave him an Order of something) it would seem from what they say about each other-Wilson: “Watson is the Caligula of Biology “and Watson:” Systematists (and naturalists) are nothing more than stamp collectors “- who are enemies to the death. But they are not: the work of both, gigantic works, it should be said, complement each other like ring and finger. Today a new species of living being is not recognized until it is verified that its DNA is different from all the others!

And although the one who has visited our country and has been decorated by our government is EO Wilson, we will speak in this writing, and if you have continued reading me up to here, about J. Watson.

The great James Watson, a colorful and controversial character, but the Nobel Prize is not removed. He insists that yes, there are different human races, biologically different and of course they have expelled him from all jobs and have withdrawn several Honoris Causa Doctorates and they never tire of telling him that the United Nations declared in 1947 (I think it was that year) that races are a cultural and not biological ideation and he never tires of answering, that it is he who knows genetics and not the United Nations. Well, but he was one of the discoverers of DNA and today almost everyone knows what that is, because of the tests we do to know if we have COVID – the deadly pandemic for many – that has the world today on its head and that today worries us all, because nobody knows if it is one of the people who would die if caught by COVID!

But if we ask what does DNA do? Perhaps not so many people can answer that question.

In a general way, we could say that DNA is the code so that all the cells on this planet (and bacteria as well) can synthesize proteins. That, proteins that in turn are the active sites of all cell and intercellular membranes, the “building blocks” of everything living, and are also enzymes and many hormones and neurotransmitters – those that carry information from a nerve cell to another – in our brains and in the brains and nervous systems of all known animals. Proteins are built of molecules called amino acids, of which there are 20 and 10 of them are called essential, because we cannot build them, we must look for them in our diet.

Humans, and many other animals, are omnivores, that is, we eat meat and plants and this is reduced to three large groups of compounds: sugars, from which we produce instantaneous energy, fats, which are saved for when energy is needed. and proteins, which we break down into their amino acids so that our cells can make the proteins that make up each of us, each animal, each individual, following the instructions of our DNA.

We already believe we have a lot of knowledge about the sugars and fats in our body. And we know a lot about DNA, especially after a Spanish microbiologist, Francisco Juan Martínez Mojica – they tell Francis Mojica -, a researcher of bacteria in the salty lagoons that form on the shores of many seas, discovered the mechanism of bacteria to cut and eliminate pieces of DNA from viruses or other bacteria that invaded them, which he called with the acronym CRISPR, and from here came the technique of manipulating DNA with precision in any organism, the now famous “genetic scissors” that cut and paste pieces of DNA as we are interested. And he awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry to two researchers, one American and the other French, who made the final scissors, the CRISPR-Cas9, in 2020. Many thought it was unfair, or a slip, that the Swedish Academy left the Spanish out of the prize , since it was this one who for years investigated the bacteria of marshes and who found the mechanism. Nothing, it seems that Spain continues considered the tail of Europe; Although the English, ah the usual Anglo-Saxons, with so much accumulated experience in diplomacy, made it known to the Swedish Academy, because after never placing a Spanish scientific article on the cover of their magazine Nature, the main and oldest scientific journal in the world, in this 2021 it has placed no less than three and if that is not a fine and polite protest of its error, I cannot think of a better one.

And so we return to proteins, which are the products of DNA functions, the headache for years of biology, since it was very difficult to know their final form or, as biochemists say, their tertiary structure; The most used method was x-ray diffraction (a technique with which the exact shape of DNA itself was discovered), only x-rays are used in proteins crystallized by freezing and various shapes were obtained as it crystallized and there was no certainty of which one of them was the functional one.

And Artificial Intelligence appeared, and with its “Deep Learning” or Deep Learning program, and especially the AlfaFold code, which had already defeated the world champion of the GO game, a Chinese board game with two participants (and incidentally, doing famous this game of strategies), a Google company, and solved the enigma achieving fast and surprising results, with almost an efficiency of 90%, dissolving a problem that since the 50s of the last century had not found a solution.

It is already being used in multiple areas of science, including COVID virus spike proteins, weather problems, mathematics, and multiple pathways in medicine. We finally know exactly how to make a chemical compound or a drug to activate or deactivate a protein, we know what proteins are like. Considered by the magazine Science one of the 10 great discoveries of the present year 2021, and without a doubt the most important since the structure of DNA was discovered in 1953 for the biological sciences, one wonders … and now, will they give a company a Nobel by actions of social networks?

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Finally, proteins