Foldit - Design Proteins With Online Game

Foldit is an amazing effort to extend our knowledge of proteins, and possibly engineer novel protein sequences for research purposes. It is an online game that lets players design new vaccines and make enzymes for repairing DNA in diseased tissues.

Foldit is the result of a collaboration between David Baker, a leading protein researcher at the University of Washington, and Zoran Popovic, a game designer also at UW. As you can see in the video below, Foldit allows players to manipulate the long strings of amino acids that make up a protein, and design their three-dimensional structure.


(Foldit protein design game video)

Although the video of Foldit seen above has a game-like interface, the task set for the gamer is unlike that in practically any video game. "The ultimate protein configuration, and how best to get there, are not known," Popović says of Foldit.

The first levels of the game teach the game player about proteins; what does a good protein look like, and how can you manipulate your protein using the game tools. In nature, proteins are large organic compounds that serve many functions in living organisms. They are arranged in chains (as you can see in the Foldit video) joined together by peptide bonds. They spread chemical reactions, copy DNA and enable blood cells to recognize intruder viruses. Except for certain types of DNA, most other biological molecules are relatively inert elements upon which proteins act.

Scientists are just starting to be able to engineer proteins from the ground up; Baker himself recently demonstrated the first algorithm for building functional enzymes from scratch. Baker wants help in deciding what to build; Foldit generates unique designs.

Foldit game players can play alone against opponents, or as part of a team. One of the most interesting aspects of this game to me is that it pits human beings, one of nature's products, against nature itself: who (or what) can design the best proteins for specific tasks? Nature has its own way of trying millions of combinations, over long stretches of deep time. Will humans be able to do better?

The game itself won't be standing still, either; it will evolve as players use it.

Popović says that the designers will continue to improve Foldit by logging and analyzing what good and mediocre players do. "Through analyzing how people play, we're learning what the best players are doing and improving the game play with that information," he says.

Via Biologists enlist online gamers; thanks to Moira for tipping me off on this story.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 6/18/2008)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 0 )

Related News Stories - (" Biology ")

Amazing 'Hybrid' Solar-Powered Sea Slug Does Photosynthesis
Thank goodness for Star Trek.

Should You Submit Your DNA To A Database?
Consumer DNA services are often inaccurate.

Humans Evolve Deep Diving Abilities
Sounds like '60s sci-fi to me.

Researchers Create Bowls, Coils, Ripples Of Living Tissue
'... biological robots were not living creatures.' - Arthur C. Clarke, 1972.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

PAL-V Liberty Flying Helicopter Car
'...lifted themselves to skimming flight upon whirling helicopters."

Space Drones - UK's Effective Space To Launch Rocket Tugs
'Twenty rocket tugs towed it from its Earth hangar out into space.'

DIY Autonomous Robot Detects Trash
'The search-bug detached itself and rolled forward.'

Ancient Russian Walking Excavator Would Be Perfect RV
I don't need it to go fast, it just needs to amble along.

ELROI Satellite 'License Plate'
Robert Heinlein was thinking about this in 1941.

When Robots Beg For Their Lives
"Just what do you think you're doing... Dave.'

Do You Still Want A Folding Screen Phone?
'A paper thin polycarbon screen unfurled...'

'Snapchat Dysmorphia' Now A Thing, Say Plastic Surgeons
'The program raced up the screen one scan line at a time, subtly smoothing, deleting and coloring.'

Quiet Electric Cars Law Finalized By US Transportation Department
'... a sound tape to supply the noise'

Drone Assassin Fails To Kill Venezuelan President
'The spotter descends, and we think it searches the vicinity, looking for the victim's face...'

Stick-On Tape Speakers, As Predicted By Bruce Sterling
Flexible tape speakers, someday.

Bezos Invites You To New Life In Off-World Colonies
'A new life awaits you!'

Amazon's Rekognition System Sees Criminals In Congress
'... the imprint of her image on the telephoto cell.'

Build Your Own Space Suit For Cheap
'I'm going to pump the air from this room... so that the interior will be like airless and pressure-less space.'

CIMON Space Sidekick For Weary Astronauts
I welcome our floating robotic assistants.

SRI MicroFactory Of Microrobots Recalls Dick's Autofac
'Microscopic machinery, smaller than ants... constructing something...'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.