Friday, September 23, 2011

Very small games.

Foldit has been going for a while now, it's a game that uses gamers spatial reasoning skills to figure out the shape of proteins - something computers are still a little ... slow at. And it appears to be working quite well. Ars sums up a paper recently published with both scientists and gamers listed as the paper's authors - they solved the structure of a protein involved in the life cycle of HIV that was thought to be a protease. The started off with a bunch of incorrect models and let the players tweak them. It took them 16 days apparently, though I'd be interested to know how many gamers there were doing the tweaking and how they got their initial models, just to compare to how long it traditionally takes to solve the structure of a protein.
Why is this sort of thing important? If we know the structure of a protein, we've got a better chance of finding a drug that targets it, which in turn may mean new treatments.

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