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November 1, 2016

Disease May Soon Be Diagnosed With Music

proteins as musicIf you’ve ever had something physically wrong with you yet the doctor wasn’t able to diagnose exactly what it is, you know how frustrating and time-consuming that can be. Soon there may be a new tool in the doctor’s bag that could make that situation a thing of the past – music. A new technology that transforms proteins into musical melodies might one day be used to help doctors diagnose disease more easily.

The researchers from the University of Tampere in Finland, Eastern Washington University and the Francis Crick Institute in London discovered that both music and genes contain both repetition and have a finite number of options –  four base pairs in genes and twelve notes in music. If the proteins are changed into music, the melody could actually help tell a doctor just how physically well or unwell that you’re doing. The idea is that the ears might be able to detect more than the eyes.

The technique that the researchers came up with is called “sonification,” and the study was based around 3 main questions: what will data sounds like? Are there any benefits? And can we hear particular anomalies in the data?

The melodies were created using a combination of Dr Jonathan Middleton’s composing skills and algorithms, and when they were played to people, most were able to recognize the melodies then link them to visuals such as graphs and table, showing that hearing proteins was easier than expected.

Keep in mind that proteins are usually studied under a microscope, so this was a completely new way of looking at them, although work has been going on in this area since the 90s.

My big question is, will dissonance mean that a disease is present? Will this open up a new area of employment for musicians, who just study the sounds of the body? Either way, it’s a new and exciting use for music and audio.

Read the full paper of the study on Hellyon. Have a listen to what proteins sound like below.

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