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 ")

Epigenetic Memory's On/Off Switch Found
'They tied the memory to the bloodline and that was their record!' - Barbara Hambly, 1982.

Rabbit's Brain Cryogenically Frozen Successfully
'Even in the case of the most perfect freezing there is still some activity...' - Edward Page Mitchell, 1879.

Denisovans, Neandertals... And Us?
'But in far realms, among strange hominids, you couldn't shun each other, either.' - Larry Niven, 1996.

Gene-Edited Muscle Dogs From China
'Its skull was improbably high-domed and its eyes, deep-set, were disturbingly uncanine.' - John Brunner, 1975.

 

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

Turing's Nose - Was That Scent Real Or Artificial?
'Rippling arpeggios of thyme and lavender...'

Xian'er Buddhist Monk Robot
'Getting to his feet he crossed the waiting room to the Padre booth...'

AnBot Security Robot WILL Tase You, Bro
Michael Crichton right again.

Hover Camera - Unfold Drone, Shoot Selfie
'He set his camera to follow him...'

A Baker's Dozen Of Autonomous Car-Related Revolutions
'Old people began to cross the continent in their own cars.'

Would You Date A Robot? 1 in 4 Say 'Yes'!
'My hands touched a great keyboard, whence, perfect through long practice, I could direct lifelike motion.'

Sophia, The Personable Robot From Hanson Robotics.
'The de luxe model... has fifty different facial expressions...'

Swimming, Slithering Snake Robot
John Connor, how do you feel about swimming snakes?

The First 'Drone Cafe' Started By Dutch Students
'It was a smooth ovoid floating a few inches from the floor...'

Astronaut Tim Peake Completes Space Marathon
'Joe got out the gravity-simulator harnesses...'

Aerojet Rocketdyne 'Ion Drive' To Reach The Asteroids? (Update!)
'It has its own ion drive...'

Beatie Wolfe's Album Is A Deck Of NFC Cards
'The greater trumps ready to step right out through those glistening surfaces.'

Is Social Media Saving Space Travel?
'Officially, they were delighted to share their experiences with the public.'

iBubble Scuba Drone Follower
'Hovered behind him like a large tame bee...'

Ironing Robot May Fulfill Russian Science Fiction Dreams
Sometimes, the old inventions are the best.

Organic Photonic Skin Display
'A strip of readout skin on my wrist...'

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.