Solving Puzzles for Science – FoldIt
Do you play puzzles? Want to help contribute to science research? Foldit is a free online puzzle video game about protein folding which is part of an experimental research project developed by the University of Washington’s Center for Game Science and the Department of Biochemistry. The developers felt that human game-players could figure out the combinations of proteins faster than a computer and created FoldIt which launched in 2008.
To play Foldit, players work to fold the structure of selected proteins, which has been described as a “biochemical game of Twister.” The highest scoring solutions are analyzed by researchers, who determine whether or not there is a structure that can be applied to real world proteins. The game allows scientists to get more solutions to real issues which includes targeting and eradicating diseases, as well as creating biological innovations.
Since the game started, it has over 240,000 registered players. The work that players are doing in examining models of proteins can be used to various diseases including HIV/AIDS, Cancer and Alzheimer’s. This information can also be used to find new proteins in plants that could be converted to biofuel more efficiently.
The latest puzzle on the site is a Flu Puzzle, in which players do what is called “hot spot hashing” which translates to gameplay similar to trying to find a good hold on a wall by finding the good holes to put your fingers into. Players are working to examine proteins, and find the best spots.
If you are in the mood to play a game and help science – checkout foldit on fold.it.