University of Bristol Uses VR For New Drug Discoveries

New techniques for folding molecules discovered using VR could lead to new medical applications.

The advantage of virtual reality (VR) technology has been seen in a number of areas and industries, with its ability to give users a new perspective of mathematical and scientific models. A team based out of the University of Bristol has utilised VR technology to seek out new innovations in the creation of drugs and materials.

Bristol-based start up Interactive Scientific have been working with the researchers to combine Oracle’s public cloud foundation along with VR technology as part of an effort to simulate new molecules.

The company have discovered that using this framework along with the immersiveness of VR allows specialists to touch and manipulate molecules in new ways, using actions such as folding, tying and changing the shapes to test how they behave in various different configurations.

Scientists designed a series of tasks involving these simulated molecules which could be performed on a standard keyboard and mouse, on touchscreens or in VR. The tasks involves threading a particle through a nanotube, and tying a string-like protein into a straightforward bunch.

The research found that VR offered a number of advantages, with participants using VR up to ten times more likely to succeed in accomplishing the tasks set than those using other interface methods.

University of Bristol Professor of Chemistry Adrian Mulholland said: “Chemists have always made models of molecules to understand their structure – from how atoms are bonded together to Watson and Crick’s famous double helix model of DNA. At one point in their education, most people have held a molecular model, probably made from plastic or metal. Models like these are particularly important for things we can’t see, such as the nanoscale world of molecules. Thanks to this research we can now apply virtual reality to study a variety of molecular problems which are inherently dynamic, including binding drugs to its target, protein folding, and chemical reactions. As simulations become faster we can now do this in real time which will change how drugs are designed and how chemical structures are taught.”

For further news on new uses for VR in research, keep checking back with VRFocus.

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