Report by Lisa Zyga
The study, “Finding low-energy conformations of lattice protein models by quantum annealing,” is published in a recent issue of Nature’s Scientific Reports. The computer used quantum annealing to find the lowest-energy protein configuration by solving for the configuration as an optimization problem, where the optimal state was the lowest-energy state. Proteins can be folded in a large number of ways because they’re made up of many chains of amino acids. Yet somehow, proteins almost always manage to fold themselves in the correct configuration (when they don’t fold correctly, they can cause misfolded-protein diseases such as Alzheimer's, Huntington's, and Parkinson's). Scientists think that proteins fold themselves correctly because the correct configuration is also the state of lowest energy, the state at which the protein becomes stable.