1. What is Protein folding?
Protein folding is simply a process in which the amino acid chain of any particular protein gets folded to get its 3D structure. The protein in its particular 3D structure becomes functionally active and the open chain format is only suitable for the process of Translation of a protein. If by any chance this protein gets opened up in chain format, it usually termed as protein denaturation which also occurs while cooking. The protein folding required several physical forces like hydrophobic and hydrophilic forces, van der Waals forces, hydrogen bonds, etc and suitable pH. It also includes several levels like primary folding, secondary folding, tertiary folding and so on.
2. How does it help scientists and researchers?
The 3D structure of any protein is very important as it defines its functions in a biological cell. When a primary amino acid chain acquired its 3D structure successfully, it gets many particular structures like epitomes, channels, binding sites and receptors that help it pursuing its functions. So, if any miss-folding happens in its structure due to any reason, it will not be able to function properly and may lead to various diseases and even syndromes. Cancer can also be considered as an outcome of a biological protein miss-folding. So, as the protein plays a vital role in the body, it becomes really very important for scientists to study protein folding. It helps in discovering treatments for various diseases, in the research of vaccines, drugs and even in identifying the cause of diseases like AIDS and Alzheimer's.
3. How does this software understand the actual proteins in plants and animals?
Such software usually works on the basis of the data already acquired through sequencing. So, it unfolds the protein, read its sequence, analyses and then interpret the results. The whole process includes many mathematical equations, algorithms, statistical data and formulas to draw any conclusions regarding any particular protein. Nothing is accurate in the field of Bioinformatics or computational biology and it just assumes the structure as per the data already available in the database.
4. How can these run on home-based computers? What are the advantages and disadvantages of the same?
Yes, there are some software that can be run at home computers and Folding@Home is one such example. Although it can be run at home, there are some specific system requirements for the same. You may require graphics processing units (GPUs), multi-core processors, etc. Such software are useful for distributes research projects where the task is distributed among the participants and they can draw the data on their home systems and then can submit it.
5. What are the benefits of this software? Can anyone work and earn from home from this software?
Many such home software is part of gaming activities including Foldit. I am not sure about actual earning from this software and yes there are reports available giving credits to the players of such games who have submitted their data for research and scientists have used that in their interpretation.
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