© 2022 WNIJ and WNIU
Northern Public Radio
801 N 1st St.
DeKalb, IL 60115
815-753-9000
Northern Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Classical WNIU is Northern Illinois' home for the best in Classical Music and the Arts. Listen at 90.5fm in Northern Illinois, and also 105.7fm in Rockford, IL.

COVID's genetic code was loaded into a computer and interpreted as music

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

This is the sound of the coronavirus.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

FADEL: COVID's genetic code has been fed into a computer and interpreted as music.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

The person behind this is Mark Temple, a microbiologist in Sydney, Australia.

MARK TEMPLE: I'm both a musician and a scientist. So I thought, I'm well-placed here to actually approach this from a different angle. No one's really done this.

MARTINEZ: He developed a computer algorithm that assigns musical notes to DNA sequences. And he says it could help save lives.

TEMPLE: I heard about this thing called sonification. It's a way of using audio to analyze or to represent data. So I thought, well, could I get some DNA data and make audio from that?

FADEL: Generally, computers display DNA as lines and lines of letters.

TEMPLE: Each letter represents a module in the DNA sequence.

FADEL: But there are hundreds of thousands of letters in a sequence.

TEMPLE: It's like trying to read a book that has no punctuation.

MARTINEZ: So Dr. Temple created a way to listen to the DNA while the letters scroll across the screen.

TEMPLE: Down at the bottom here is a DNA sequence. So let me just play this and you'll see what I mean.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

TEMPLE: So what you just heard then, those other little blips - like, I'll play one.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

TEMPLE: Like that one, blip. It's a stop codon, a little bit of sequence that's important to the cell. So because it's important, I put a blip on it.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

FADEL: Temple has updated DNA sonification, which has been around for about 40 years. This music you're hearing now is based on the DNA of insulin.

MARTINEZ: Which was turned into an album and released in the '90s for entertainment. Temple says music and science have a lot to offer each other.

(SOUNDBITE OF DR DAVID DREAMER AND RILEY MCLAUGHLIN'S "INSULIN A & B CHAINS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.