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 ")

Researchers Say 'Biohybrid Robot' - Clarke Said 'Biot'
'... The biological robots were not living creatures.' - Arthur C. Clarke, 1972.

Unique DNA To Foil Parts Counterfeiters
'... the only molecule, a unique protein amino acid, which could not be duplicated.' - Philip K. Dick, 1965.

Steerable Locusts Detect Explosives
Science fiction writers again provide a blueprint for the future.

Real Leather Without Cows Modern Meadow Biofabrication
'Plastissue, as any fool can see...' - WF Wallace, 1952,

 

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

Keith Laumer's Bolo Autonomous Tanks Right On Schedule
'I cannot lie idle under attack.'

When Computers Develop Their Own Language, Will They Talk To Us?
'The curious absent look of a robot talking on the TBR circuits - the Talk Between Robots radio...'

LipNet Reads Lips - Until Disconnected, That Is
'We'd have to cut his higher brain functions... I'm not sure what [HAL} would think about that.'

Eterni.me - To Skype With The Dead
'Nothing... left of Jeserac but a galaxy of electrons frozen in the heart of a crystal.'

Wearable MRI Is Former Occulus/Facebook Exec's New Project
'Your cephalochromoscope... that you always turn on and play when you get home...'

Ford Stratasys Infinte Build 3D Printer
'He proudly indicated his Buick... Almost as good as the original it was printed from...'

The Space Suit As Personal Spaceship
'Darn clever, these suits...'

Dune Fans! Your God Emperor Is Ready
'If one held a sandtrout in the hand, smoothing it over your skin, it formed a living glove.'

Robot Strolls Field, Examines EVERY Plant
'The great machines that did the work ... required but a few dozen men to cultivate an entire county.'

Sweden Outlaws Drones
'An eye that could not only see, but fly, roam, travel at speeds and in directions to suit its operator...'

Wear Your Self-Powered Generator
'It's basically a micro-sandwich...'

TITAN-III Spider Robot Is WAY Too Quick (Video)
'My little friends can find you wherever you go!'

Bill Gates Suggests Tax On Robots
'A worker replaced by a nubot that 'appears or pretends to be human' had to be compensated...'

Handle, New Wheeled Hopping Robot
'the hopper sprang thirty feet into the air...'

Matrix Sentinel Ancestor, The Pipe Inspector Robot From Krakow
Watch out, Keanu!

Auto-Focus Smart Glasses Have Liquid Lenses
'Hufhuf oil held in static tension by an enclosing force field within a viewing tube...'

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.