Saturday, May 10, 2008

fold it good

Long-term, I'm hoping that we can get a significant fraction of the world's population engaged in solving critical problems in world health, and doing it collaboratively and successfully through the game.

We're trying to use the brain power of people all around the world to advance biomedical research.

David Baker, a UW professor of biochemistry, commenting in the University of Washington News on the beta release of FoldIt -- which puts gamers to work folding proteins.

According to the UW News FoldIt is “a new game [that] turns protein folding into a competitive sport. Introductory levels teach the rules, which are the same laws of physics by which protein strands curl and twist into three-dimensional shapes -- key for biological mysteries ranging from Alzheimer's to vaccines.”

Or more to the point, from
What big problems is this game tackling?
Knowing the structure of a protein is key to understanding how it works and to targeting it with drugs. A small proteins can consist of 100 amino acids, while some human proteins can be huge (1000 amino acids). The number of different ways even a small protein can fold is astronomical because there are so many degrees of freedom.

Figuring out which of the many, many possible structures is the best one is regarded as one of the hardest problems in biology today and current methods take a lot of money and time, even for computers. Foldit attempts to predict the structure of a protein by taking advantage of humans' puzzle-solving intuitions and having people play competitively to fold the best proteins.

(+ I love that registered an Italian domain so that they could get the .it extension...)

Game on »

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