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13th September, 2011

Foldit: puzzle game and a step in the AIDS research




Foldit, a puzzle game available on Linux, Mac and Windows has contributed to understanding the behavior of an enzyme inhibitor protein linked to a virus similar to AIDS in rhesus monkeys, a type of Asian macaques. It is an enzyme that helps the virus to reproduce itself and infect the animal's sick. This project has succeeded in obtaining exact molecular structure, which is achieved through the distribution of work online.

 

 

Foldit system means that, while the user plays with this puzzle title, part of the processing power of your machine is intended to work with data from scientific research. Distributed work helps thousands of user's process massive amounts of data that would otherwise require a long time.

The Foldit program was created by Firas Khatib (chemical) and Seth Cooper (software engineer) from the University of Washington. However, it is based only on the machine to perform processes: the role of the player is essential. And the fact is that the puzzles presented are based on predicting the three-dimensional structure of proteins and its folding from the sequence of amino acids. Therefore, the results are the result of combining crowdsourcing (voluntary and collaborative outsourcing) and distributed computing.

In this way, officials also stress that this is a great step for science because it has been possible through the active collaboration of the players: "People have great spatial reasoning skills, something that computers are malign. The games offer a work environment that unites the strengths of computers and humans".
 
Foldit has 236,000 subscribers since its launch in 2008 and has a system of scores to promote his playful concept. The next project will be aimed at studying the genetic structures of the influenza virus, including the design of a new protein that is able to inhibit the virus. "We want players to design a new protein that may inhibit the influenza virus," said Khatib. "This is just the beginning".

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