Monday, September 19, 2011

Advancing Science with a Game: Foldit

In May 2008, I blogged briefly about a game called Foldit which came to mind today when I read a short article in The-Scientist which described how Foldit was used to solve a real life, ten year old, protein structure puzzle for an AIDS-like retroviral protease. This protein structure that defeated scientists was finally solved by the game playing public who played the game. Yay gamers!

The game was designed by a scientist who progressively incorporated computational tweaks advised by loyal gamers.

A group of scientists who were stymied by the structure problem of aforementioned retroviral protease, submitted their protein puzzle to the game.
About 600 players from 41 teams submitted more than 1.25 million solutions. Narrowing those down to 5,000, Jaskolski and colleagues subjected them to a computational technique called molecular replacement (MR), which tests the models against X-ray crystallography data. ...
And the puzzle was solved.
The final breakthrough came from Foldit user mimi, a member of The Contenders and a science technician at a high school near Manchester, UK, who has been playing Foldit for about 3 years. She “tucked in a flap” of the protein that was sticking out, she explains, to make the protein more “globular.” But she emphasizes that “the achievement was very much a group effort,” noting that it wasn’t possible for her to tuck in the flap until others in the group had made their key adjustments to the protein’s structure.

Details for the story and how the solution was picked out are here at The Scientist, and a copy of the resulting paper that was published in Nature, is here.

Pretty amazing story considering all the teamwork in input from such a diverse population of individuals.

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Semavi Lady woofed at @ 9/19/2011 02:17:00 PM | Permanent link | (0) Comments