AUSTIN, Texas -- It’s not quite the cure for COVID-19, but Harmony Public Schools seventh-grader Umar Mohammad gained a better understanding of the coronavirus with the help of music.
“It sounds like music but it’s not like something you’d actually enjoy to hear,” he laughed. “I was just researching the coronavirus genome and I came across this concept called 'DNA Music,' which is basically making those nucleotides and turning them into music.”
Umar is only 12 years old and he's passionate about genetics.
“So, it’s made of four nucleotides," he explained. "The RNA of the coronavirus is made of four nucleotides called adenine, uracil, cytosine and guanine.”
Those nucleotides - the building blocks of RNA, or ribonucleic acid - are labeled as A, U, C and G. It's quite similar to how core musical notes C,D,E,F,G,A, and B are identified. So, Umar matched them.
“Adenine became a G sound, uracil became C, cytosine became E, and guanine became A," he said. “I tuned it and changed the tempo, so there was a bunch of settings that I could’ve changed. If I changed the settings a little bit, it would’ve sounded more ominous but I decided to keep it cheerful.”
It's a process called "sonification," in which a cell or, in this case a virus's genetic code is matched to a musical note. Scientists have used this method to help them recognize patterns and mutations.
“It was just interesting that it created rhythm and that’s the interesting part,” Umar said.