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A 50-year-old science problem has been solved and could allow for dramatic changes in the fight against diseases, researchers say.

For years, scientists have been struggling with the problem of “protein folding” – mapping the three-dimensional shapes of the proteins that are responsible for diseases from cancer to Covid-19.

Google’s Deepmind claims to have created an artificially intelligent program called “AlphaFold” that is able to solve those problems in a matter of days.

If it works, the solution has come “decades” before it was expected, according to experts, and could have transformative effects in the way diseases are treated.

DeepMind worked on the AI project with the 14th Community Wide Experiment on the Critical Assessment of Techniques.

“Proteins are extremely complicated molecules, and their precise three-dimensional structure is key to the many roles.

For example the insulin that regulates sugar levels in our blood and the antibodies that help us fight infections. “There are tens of thousands of human proteins and many billions in other species, including bacteria and viruses. But working out the shape of just one requires expensive equipment and can take years.”

“It has occurred decades before many people in the field would have predicted.

“It will be exciting to see the many ways in which it will fundamentally change biological research.”