Music and Protein Synthesis:
Updated: Oct 26, 2021
Can music be used to code proteins and influence gene expression?
For the longest time, I have wanted to write this article and answer the question it poses. But each time I start on it, a rush of excitement gets in the way, and I end up simply admiring the possibilities that a YES answer portends. So, I will consider it a major feat if I make it beyond two paragraphs.
To start, we shall define the two terms at the crux of our subject matter - Music and Proteins. That will give context and clarity to our present endeavor.
What is Music?
According to Oxford Languages,
Music is vocal or instrumental sounds (or both) combined in such a way as to produce beauty of form, harmony, and expression of emotion
This definition aptly captures the essence of music from an artistic perspective. But music is not only arts. It is science too. And it is the scientific definition of music that will give more meaning to this article.
For a physicist, music is a sequence of quantized sound frequencies or pitches.
Remove the word quantized if it is startling, and you would still have a scientific definition of music.
Now, what are Proteins?
I am sure Medlineplus.gov would not mind me lifting their content. So, here is what they say about proteins:
“Proteins are large, complex molecules that play many critical roles in the body. They do most of the work in cells and are required for the structure, function, and regulation of the body’s tissues and organs.
Proteins are made up of hundreds or thousands of smaller units called amino acids, which are attached to one another in long chains. There are 20 different types of amino acids that can be combined to make a protein. The sequence of amino acids determines each protein’s unique 3-dimensional structure and its specific function.”
Can you already notice something in the definitions? While music is a sequence of sound frequencies, a protein is a sequence of amino acids. We shall avoid contrived deductions here. At the same time, the congruence in meaning is worth recognition.
And, how are Proteins made?
Let us briefly consider the protein-making process. That will put us at a vantage position for answering the big question: Can music be used to code proteins and influence gene expression in human cells? Once again, we shall permissibly adopt content from Medlineplus.gov.
"The journey from gene to protein is complex and tightly controlled within each cell. It consists of two major steps: #transcription and #translation. Together, transcription and translation are known as gene expression.
During the process of transcription, the information stored in a gene's DNA is passed to a similar molecule called RNA (ribonucleic acid) in the cell nucleus. Both RNA and DNA are made up of a chain of building blocks called nucleotides, but they have slightly different chemical properties. The type of RNA that contains the information for making a protein is called messenger RNA (mRNA) because it carries the information, or message, from the DNA out of the nucleus into the cytoplasm.
Translation, the second step in getting from a gene to a protein, takes place in the cytoplasm. The mRNA interacts with a specialized complex called a ribosome, which "reads" the sequence of mRNA nucleotides. Each sequence of three nucleotides, called a codon, usually codes for one particular amino acid. (Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins.) A type of RNA called transfer RNA (tRNA) assembles the protein, one amino acid at a time. Protein assembly continues until the ribosome encounters a “stop” codon (a sequence of three nucleotides that does not code for an amino acid)."
The mRNA carries the code for making proteins in the form of a nucleotide sequence. Ribosomes read and translate the code into a sequence of amino acids, and we have a Protein.
Shall we get to the big question now?
We are almost ready to answer the big question - Can music be used to code proteins and influence gene expression? In light of the protein-making process described above, such #ProteinMusic or #GeneMusic would function as mRNA in the protein production chain. It must code the sequence of amino acids within its melodic pattern. And this code must be readable by the Ribosomes. These conditions raise two questions that need immediate consideration. So, let us tackle these questions before moving to the big one.
Off the top of my head, music can code a sequence of amino acids, and here is my logic. Amino acids fit within the range of quantum entities. That confers on them the quality of wave-particle duality. Therefore, the energy of an amino acid can either be expressed by Einstein's mass-energy equivalence, E = mc^2, or by the Planck-Einstein relation, E = hf.
In the Planck-Einstein relation, "f" represents the vibrational frequency of the amino acid. And since music is a sequence of vibrational frequencies, we have a quantity that connects music and amino acids. All that is needed will be to compute the vibrational frequency of each amino acid in a protein's sequence, transpose them into the audible range, and quantize to a musical scale. In this process, you would find that a common factor or pattern remains unchanged. The frequency ratios of the music's melodic intervals correspond to the molecular weight ratios of the amino acid sequence. This corresponding pattern of ratios forms the backbone of the musical code. The Ribosomes read and translate this code to the amino acid sequence of a protein.
The next immediate question is whether Ribosomes can read the sequence coded into music. C. Kanduri, et-al answered this with their 2015 research entry (https://peerj.com/articles/830/). Their study showed that listening to a piece of classical music modulated gene expression in participants.
Gene expression is usually measured by quantifying levels of the gene product, which is often a protein. Several scenarios are possible. It could be that a musical sequence in Kanduri's experiment triggered or hindered transcription and translation along the DNA-RNA-Protein pathway. Or the Ribosomes directly read the coded sequence in the music.
A third possibility is that the musical sequence introduced some resonance interference that influenced the thermodynamics of the protein-making system. Following the second law of Thermodynamics, if the resonance interference introduced entropy, energy is dissipated outside the system and unavailable for protein synthesis. Thereby down-regulating the production of proteins. On the other hand, if the resonance interference induced negative entropy, the system's energy will be available for work. In this case, the system will produce more of the target protein. We elucidated more on this here.
Whichever option we consider, we are sure to conclude that the musical piece in Kanduri's experiment up-regulated or down-regulated the production of proteins. That puts our answer to the big question in the affirmative. So,
YES! We can use music to code the amino acids sequence of a protein. It is also possible to deploy a piece of music to modulate gene expression and influence the protein-making process in any desired direction.
What does this YES answer imply, and why should anyone care?
As we already mentioned earlier, proteins perform most of the tasks in a cell and regulate the functions of tissues and organs. By implication, cell malfunction, being the cause of most diseases, can be attributed to genes and proteins. Therefore, any process that affects the function of genes and proteins can influence disease conditions, for better or worse.
If music can code proteins and regulate gene functions, it can also be deployed to correct disease conditions attributable to gene/protein malfunction.
Making this type of therapeutic Gene Music or Protein Music is our foremost mission at #GENOSONICS.
At #Genosonics, we engineer the musical sounds of genes and proteins to produce therapeutic effects.
Some call it Music Medicine, and others say it is Gene Music Therapy or Protein Music Therapy. They are all correct, and we believe it is the future of medicine predicted by Edgar Cayce and Albert Einstein.
We have released several Genosonics albums, and we invite you to explore and try them here. Especially the COVID-19 Genosonics, which you can access using our free membership.
Author: Ikwan Onkha
Physicist, researcher, musician, sound designer, audio engineer, sound therapist, and inventor of Genosonics