How Gaming Helped AIDS Researchers

September 19, 2011 -

A research paper published Sunday by the journal Nature Structural & Molecular Biology details how the online game Foldit successfully mapped a protein-cutting enzyme from a particular AIDS-like virus found in rhesus monkeys. This enzyme apparently helps the virus spread and to counteract it, its exact molecular structure had to be mapped. This task had been impossible until crowd sourcing came along.

University of Washington chemist Firas Khatib and computer scientist Seth Cooper handled the Foldit program's design and implementation. In a statement issued to the press, Cooper said that people are what truly made the difference in solving this monumental problem.

"People have spatial reasoning skills, something computers are not yet good at. Games provide a framework for bringing together the strengths of computers and humans."

Khatib spoke with Seattle Weekly about the project last night, saying that this breakthrough was "huge" for science more than for aids because it could prove to be helpful to researchers throughout the world who could use the extra help with complex problems.

"This is the first case that were aware of where online gamers solved a scientific problem that hadn't been able to be cracked by all scientific methods developed," Khatib says. "My big hope is that other scientists with challenging problems they can't solve and have been banging their heads over for years will come to us and say 'can you help?'"

Khatib says that Foldit's success comes mostly from being an online competitive game. The game has around 236,000 registered players since it launched in 2008. By putting real-time scores and rankings that change based on how well-designed players make their molecular structures, the program takes advantage of the competitive nature of gaming to accomplish something real.

"If we had just posted it as 'hey, can you help us?' I think we would have gotten a few volunteers and some would have stuck around," Khatib says. "But the fact that there is this competitive aspect, that unleashes a lot more motivation."

The next step, says researchers, is for Foldit players to create new genetic structures related to the Flu virus.

"We want to have players design a protein that will inhibit the flu virus," Khatib says. "This is just the start."

Source: Seattle Weekly


 
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Matthew Wilsonhttps://www.reddit.com/r/OutOfTheLoop/comments/3bxduw/why_was_riama_along_with_a_number_of_other_large/ here is a more complete acount of whats going on.07/03/2015 - 1:32am
Matthew Wilsonredit is on fire right now. most subreddits have been set to private.07/03/2015 - 1:24am
MattsworknameYou know andrew, those are actualy rock solid ideas, I woudl like those features a bunch ,especially with games that a cut scene heavly. looking at you kojima!07/03/2015 - 1:18am
Andrew EisenActually, "things I'd like to see become standard in video games" ain't a bad idea for one of my future YouTube videos.07/03/2015 - 1:05am
Andrew EisenYou know what I'd really like to see become standard? The ability to pause cutscenes. Rewind and skip (with "Are you sure?") would be nice too. Oh, and maybe display the duration of the cutscene when it's paused.07/03/2015 - 1:03am
Mattsworknameonly reason to do region locking now is to be dicks your consumer base. Granted, we see that ALOT these days07/03/2015 - 12:48am
MattsworknameI understand the concerns about the region locking thing, I just thing that if you buy a game legitimately, no matter where it's from or what langauge it's in, you should be allowed to play it. the argument about piracy was proven false years ago, the07/03/2015 - 12:47am
Matthew Wilsonhttp://www.theverge.com/culture/2015/7/2/8888243/reddit-subreddits-private-after-ama-victoria-taylor-fired bad optics by Reddit.07/03/2015 - 12:33am
Goth_SkunkI'm in full agreement on the subtitles issue. I also believe that every game should come with a single-player component, and be playable without an internet connection. Except MMOs.07/02/2015 - 10:51pm
TechnogeekRegion locking bans seem like something that'll be very difficult to pass into law. I'm fully on board with the subtitle requirement, though.07/02/2015 - 10:00pm
MattsworknameFor example, all games with any for form of spoken dialoge should be i subtitled, and region locking in any form should be illegal07/02/2015 - 9:03pm
MattsworknameDoes anyone feel that there should be a set standard for all games in terms of certain basic features. Ie subtitles, region lock, etc07/02/2015 - 9:01pm
MattsworknameSo, now that the Article stuff is over, I want to bring up another subject07/02/2015 - 9:01pm
PHX Corphttps://trustygem.wordpress.com/2015/07/02/windows-10-insider-preview-phase-3/ My Thoughts on Windows 10 Insider Preview07/02/2015 - 6:17pm
Matthew Wilsonhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?t=18&v=CbGmrySQLIg looks like Inafune is giving capcom the middle finger.07/02/2015 - 5:05pm
TechnogeekUnfortunately, the shoutbox moves fast enough that I can't find why I got that impression, so if was indeed erroneous I do apologize.07/02/2015 - 4:34pm
TechnogeekBut yeah, as far as my earlier comment re: you and the article, I did get the impression at some point that you felt there should have been some sort of reprecussions for the article's existence.07/02/2015 - 4:34pm
TechnogeekI got expletive-censored for posting something a few weeks back wherein I expressed my shock that I agreed with you about something, Skunk; so you're not the only one being hit with that stick.07/02/2015 - 4:31pm
Andrew EisenI know you don't. And you haven't recently so all's well.07/02/2015 - 4:25pm
Goth_SkunkI don't think I misrepresented anything.07/02/2015 - 4:24pm
 

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