Researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory have finally succeeded in creating the largest simulation of an entire gene of human DNA.
A billion atoms were required to model the simulation. According to scientists, the simulation can help them to further understand common diseases such as cancer. In doing so, they can develop cures and much effective medicine.
Level Of Detail
"It is important to understand DNA at this level of detail because we want to understand precisely how genes turn on and off," said Karissa Sanbonmatsu, a structural biologist at Los Alamos. "Knowing how this happens could unlock the secrets to how many diseases occur."
DNA is the blueprint of every human being and all living things. It consists of all the genetic codes found in every structure and activity inside a human body.
Understanding how DNA turn on and off requires scientists to figure out how DNA strands expand and contract. Genes turn on when DNA expands, and it turns off when the DNA contracts.
At least, that's what scientists believe, as the whole process is still not properly studied due to lack of equipment.
The study of gene expression is known as epigenetics, a new, growing field of science that studies how bodies develop inside the womb and how diseases form.
According to scientists, the human body has enough DNA strands to cover the entire world 2.5 million times when stretched. This means human DNA is compacted in an organized and precise way.
They have already succeeded in studying how 2 meters of DNA strands fold up to fit in the nucleus of a cell. The researchers, however, are still working to resolve how the DNA moves and untangles itself in order to express and replicate.
Atomistic models are the key to unlocking the mysteries of epigenetics. The simulation of an entire human gene was made possible through the use of the Trinity Supercomputer at Los Alamos University.
The Trinity Supercomputer is the sixth fastest computer in the whole world. The capabilities of Trinity primarily support the National Nuclear Security Administration stockpile stewardship program that ensures effectiveness, safety, and security of the nation's nuclear stockpile.
According to Anna Lappala, a polymer physicist at Los Alamos, they're still waiting for the computer technology to improve, so they could utilize an exascale supercomputer for the next wave of DNA simulations.
Exascale computers are the next generation of supercomputers. They can harness data and solve computation much faster than supercomputers today. With that kind of power, scientists will be able to model the entire human genome, providing even more insight into how genes turn on and off.
The entire study was published in the Journal of Computational Chemistry on Wednesday, April 17.
The entire research was collaborated by the Los Alamos Team and researchers from New York University, the RIKEN Center for Computational Science in Japan, and the New Mexico Consortium to collect a large number of different kinds of experimental data and put them together to create an all-atom model that is consistent with that data.