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New approach to modelling the dynamics of cellular processes

05 May 2023

Powerful Model

Nothing stays still. Even at the atomic level – especially at the atomic level – forces between particles keep them wriggling, even when locked in a relatively 'stable' structure. In these computer simulations, researchers mimic tiny proteins in the conical outer shell or capsid of the human immunodeficiency virus. Each pentamer (green) or hexamer (cream) structure is built from smaller building blocks called monomers – the model traces their jostling movements over nanoseconds. Simulating so many moving parts at once is a huge challenge for computer power, so the research team uses new methods to balance the ‘granularity’ of the model – how abstracted the molecular details are from real life – with how faithfully they mimic the overall biological behaviour. New algorithms using a 'coarser' granularity require less computer power (and energy), opening up the power similar simulations to more research groups worldwide.

Written by John Ankers

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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