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Artificial Intelligence wins over Human mind

 Imran Khan

What is 'blobology' and how is it transforming biology?

Spectacularly detailed videos from an advanced microscope are sparking a biology "revolution", scientists say.



The technique was once termed "blobology" because its images were so indistinct.

But now, it is being used to create videos of the body's inner-workings at a hitherto unseen level of detail.

This new view inside the body is likely to accelerate the development of more effective drugs for dementia and infection.

According to Dr Peter Rosenthal, of the Francis Crick Institute in London, there is a "growing buzz" about the potential of the technology.

“It is the hottest new approach in biological research at the moment," he told BBC News.

A new 3D view of Flu virus (Left)

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 "It's been described as a 'resolution revolution'. There is an exponential growth in the number of new images and 3D maps being produced and researchers are clamouring to be trained how to do it.

But it was not always so for the technique, called cryo-electron microscopy, or cryo-EM for short. It was seen as a wacky alternative to other techniques for decades. This was because the resulting images were little more than blobs - hence the rude description of "blobology" by its detractors.

But over time, scientists refined cryo-EM to the point that it earned a Nobel Prize for chemistry in 2017. But, crucially, there was a perfect storm of improvements in camera technology, image processing, reduced cost and increased computing power that has utterly transformed "blobology" into "ultra-high-definition-3D-video-ology".


These videos are showing researchers what is actually going on in cells and so paving the way for the development of better drugs for infectious disease. These include those that are challenging to treat, such as flu and HIV/AIDS and many of the diseases associated with dementia such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.

According to Dr Rosenthal, "it is like seeing how all the different parts of an orchestra play to create a piece of music. We'll be able to learn how processes in cells work in great detail and what goes wrong when something gets out of tune and causes disease".

August 23, 2019

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