Is There A "Simple" Way To Explain Protein Folding?

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Is There A "Simple" Way To Explain Protein Folding?

Postby Alan C. Lawhon » Sun Aug 03, 2014 7:01 am

I would guess that the majority of us who are donating our unused computer cycles to FAH are not molecular biologists or researchers dedicated to studying this problem. I suppose it's also possible that few of us have taken a course in basic chemistry and/or organic chemistry. Even if those two assumptions are correct, it doesn't mean that we aren't interested and curious as to exactly what is going on with FAH, computational molecular biology, the various FAH simulation projects and how all of this ties together.

I am studying to become a medical biller and coder. (Billers and coders handle the "business side" of health care. We are the interface between doctors, hospitals, insurance companies and patients. We try to make sure claims are paid as efficiently and as promptly as possible with a minimum of hassle to doctors, patients, and insurance companies.) My studies have brought me in contact with quite a number of medical books - books such as Stedman's Medical Dictionary as well as several books on anatomy & physiology - in addition to the various books (such as ICD-9-CM and the CPT Manual) which are devoted exclusively to coding.

I originally became interested in protein folding (and medical science in general) due to my foster sister's Parkinson's disease. It was in the course of researching Parkinson's on Wikipedia's web site that I discovered the alpha synuclein protein and how the misfolding of this protein is suspected as a causative factor in the development of Parkinson's disease. As I have attempted to recruit other volunteers to join FAH and donate their unused computer cycles, I am finding it somewhat of a challenge to explain (in simple not-too-technical terms) exactly what protein folding is and why it is important. (Actually, this is an understatement as I'm finding it quite a challenge to explain a subject on which I am not that well educated. I'm trying to figure out a "simple" way of explaining a topic that is complex.)

I'm not sure if there is a simple way to explain amino acids, polypeptide chains, ligands, chaperones, DNA, RNA, helix structure, mutations, alleles, protein folding/misfolding, native conformations, long trajectories, short trajectories, computational molecular biology, et cetera - without causing peoples' eyes to glaze over. (I've actually had this happen a few times. I start trying to explain why protein folding is important - and why they should consider joining FAH - and I can tell that I'm losing them ...) The more terms and definitions I look up in Stedman's Medical Dictionary, (there are literally thousands of terms and definitions related to these subjects), the more overwhelmed I feel.

It occurs to me that a not-too-overly-technical (greatly simplified) book on protein folding, molecular computational biology, and how all this relates to FAH could be very helpful for those of us who are not molecular biologists. I was thinking a book like "Protein Folding For Dummies" could be a big help, but I don't think the "Dummies" people have created such a book. I did a search for "Protein Folding" on a major book site and got hundreds of hits, but nearly all of the books appeared to be highly technical books written by (and for) highly skilled and knowledgeable researchers. I didn't find a book which dumbs all this down to the point where I can explain it in about five minutes and (hopefully) recruit new volunteers.

So I have two questions. First, are there any books you folks are aware of which fall into the general area of what I'm discussing, (i.e. is there a "Protein Folding For Dummies" book that I've overlooked?) Second, if there currently is no such book, could a group of us, (in close cooperation with the Pande Group), band together and write a free "Wikibooks" on protein folding and molecular biology - or just a Wikibook on protein folding and FAH? (There is currently a "Proteomics" title on the Wikibooks site - - but I haven't read it so I'm not sure what - if anything - is included about computational biology and FAH.)

I suppose I can boil all this down to a simple question: Is there a (greatly simplified) way that we can explain the importance of protein folding (and protein misfolding) to people in a way that will get them interested in joining FAH?
Alan C. Lawhon
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Re: Is There A "Simple" Way To Explain Protein Folding?

Postby Napoleon » Sun Aug 03, 2014 7:32 am

Just in case you aren't familiar with the Wikipedia article yet:

Do you consider it to be overly technical, overly simplified or just about right? Too long / too short?
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Re: Is There A "Simple" Way To Explain Protein Folding?

Postby ChristianVirtual » Sun Aug 03, 2014 7:35 am

I like this video:

It keep it simple but still using some needed terminology. It is for sure only a starter but might be helpful to explain the structure of protein. It not go too deep into the consequences of mis-folding though.

Just found another one: a bit deeper
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Re: Is There A "Simple" Way To Explain Protein Folding?

Postby bollix47 » Sun Aug 03, 2014 9:46 am

There is also an executive summary handout that you may find useful: ... ingFAQ.pdf
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