Helping science from home is as simple as folding in your living room. But you won’t be doing any laundry; instead you’ll be folding proteins on your laptop. University of Washington’s computer science and engineering department developed a free downloadable game called Fold.It. Each time you play you contribute to science research.
Proteins are chains of amino acids. They carry out a lot of essential processes in your body to keep it running. Every protein folds differently, but they each have a very specific shape. Understanding how they fold is important to understand how they work and interact. The exact shape helps cells and other proteins and amino acids recognize, bind to and use the correct protein.
Fold.It challenges players to solve puzzles. Disguised as a chain of shapes and colors, users twist, move, shake, and wiggle parts into place and essentially create a folded protein. Users can work on problems alone or join chat rooms to work together. Members can also save process to work on later or for someone else to work on when they get stuck. Since there are many ways proteins can be folded, the game taps into people’s competitive nature to find better, more efficient ways to fold each protein.
The game ultimately leads to better understanding of protein folding which could lead to development of proteins that can solve diseases and help us understand why some proteins bind to another and nothing else. The site explains ways in which game play can help researchers understand and potentially help cure AIDS, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease. All of these diseases deal with protein interaction. The more people play the more researchers understand. The game is potentially more efficient than computer programs. Computers are programmed and only follow that program, but people think differently offering many ways to solve the same problem.
So what are you waiting for? Get folding!
To play just type in fold.it into your browser and download!
Written by: Jessica Murphy