Monday, May 12, 2008

Foldit Beta now available!

Those of you who like me have been running grid computing apps like Boinc would be aware of certain projects involving Protein Folds.

Well here's a cool new 3d puzzle game based on this whole Protein Fold science... but here you get to figure out the shapes of proteins.

What are Proteins? whats with the folds?
"Proteins are the workhorses in every cell of every living thing. Your body is made up of trillions of cells, of all different kinds: muscle cells, brain cells, blood cells, and more. Inside those cells, proteins are allowing your body to do what it does: break down food to power your muscles, send signals through your brain that control the body, and transport nutrients though your blood. Proteins come in thousands of different varieties, but they all have a lot in common. For instance, they're made of the same stuff: every protein consists of a long chain of joined-together amino acids."
"Even though proteins are just a long chain of amino acids, they don't like to stay stretched out in a straight line. The protein folds up to make a compact blob, but as it does, it keeps some amino acids near the center of the blob, and others outside; and it keeps some pairs of amino acids close together and others far apart. Every kind of protein folds up into a very specific shape -- the same shape every time. Most proteins do this all by themselves, although some need extra help to fold into the right shape. The unique shape of a particular protein is the most stable state it can adopt. Picture a ball in a funnel - the ball will always roll down to the bottom of the funnel because that is the most stable state."

-source: the foldit site

long story short, Proteins are present in all living organisms, including bacteria and viruses. Hence in order to fully understand how certain diseases work its important to figure out the shapes of the proteins present in them.knowing the structure of a protein is key to understanding how it works and to targetting it with drugs.

So whats the point of this game?
Apparently figuring out how best these proteins fold, is one of the toughest problems in biology today. The game Foldit attempts to predict the structure of a protein by taking advantage of humans' puzzle-solving intuituions and having people play competitively to fold the best proteins.
heres what the game looks like:

Other conventional methods for figuring out these shapes even with computers, grid computing etc... is really time consuming and could go on for years.
This game is a product of a collaboration between the University of Washington Departments of Computer Science & Engineeering and Biochemistry.

So go ahead, download this game(@ 50mb) and start folding. Help speed up someones research.
You never know, you might just help find a way to kill HIV or Cancer!

And its fun too! :)
visit the official site and read more about it there

UPDATE: 15 OCT 2013
Gamers solve decade old HIV puzzle in ten days
"As a long-shot Washington University biologist sent the virtual 3D model of the M-PMV(an enzyme which might hold a critical role in building a cure for the disease) to the online game Foldit, where gamers folded and turned it into a myriad of combinations. Eventually, and remarkably enough, the gamers obtained the optimum one – the state that needed the lowest energy to maintain. Now unlocked, scientists have a concrete means of understanding how the enzyme works, and consequently how to attack it."
full story here -

note: this is not "the cure" , but still a significant step in the development of one.

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