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 | | 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 ")

Korean Lab Ready To Clone Your Dog
Man's best friend. Man's best friend. Man's best friend.

Synthetic Coral To Clean The Seas?
'Numberless capillaries arranged in a belt around the smart coral reef...'- Neal Stephenson, 1995.

'Cortical Modem' Latest On DARPA's Wishlist
'...inside his skull... is a little cylinder, that neuronic receptor-transmitter.'- Raymond Z. Gallun, 1938.

Sea Slug Feeds On Sunlight With Genes From Its Food
'You've surely noticed the green skin tone of your new body.'- John Scalzi, 2005.



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

Tesla Promises Fully Autonomous Cars By 2018
'It's been a criminal offense for at least a hundred years to drive manually on a public highway.'

Light Molecules (And Maybe Light Sabers, Someday)
'It will be matter, matter made of light...'

Telepresence In The Office
'That led to his development of robot probes; small devices with cameras and sound equipment which could move freely... under direct control.'

Piper, Google's 2 Billion Line Code Repository, Needs A Cool Display
'The student pointed a finger and as he did so, the line of equations marched down the wall...'

WEpod Driverless Vehicle On The Netherlands Roads
'The car moved smoothly away. Mirelly-Lyra half relaxed; she was not steering.'

Computer Predicts Psychosis Better Than Psychiatrists
'The mechanism which was the portable extension of Dr. Smile...'

Robot Evolution Needs Mass Extinction Events
'It was small, one of the baby ones.'

Lab-Grown Kidneys Implanted Successfully - In Animals
'For a while your colonists will have to come up to the Hospital to get treatment with the ramrobot symbiots...'

Korean Lab Ready To Clone Your Dog
Man's best friend, cloned.

DARPA NeuroTech Hand With Natural Sensation
'Take care, sir.'

Nuke Mars To Terraform It, Says Elon Musk
'... Mars could not be made habitable without first being stocked with air and water...'

Texas-Sized Ice Slab Found On Mars
'That's okay, still ice in The Rock and a miner expects to sound for it...'

Invisible Drones Will (Not) Appear Over Your Town
'Light-waves are bent around it without loss or distortion.'

Transwheel Drone Robotic Delivery Vehicle
One good single-wheel delivery concept deserves another.

Cool Chaac Ha Dew Collector Video
'The surface condenses moisture out of the air...'

NASA Turns To Museum Space Shuttles For Parts
Tropes true to life.

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

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

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.