Gamers Solve Protein Puzzles

by Larry Emmott on August 12, 2010

in Diagnostics,Internet,Theraputics

This interests me for two reasons. First it is a real world example of a concept I have been trying to describe for a while. That is that large numbers of people working through a distributed network in the cloud can produce  complex results that far exceed what any one person or research lab could do on its own. Imagine this kind of knowledge being harnessed to diagnose a disease.

Second it is a step toward exact medicine based on specific proteins and human biomes so that a drug, for example, could be fabricated that exactly fits an individual and the disease that afflicts them.

No more; this drug works 65% of the time and produces XYZ side effects. Our current understanding is that a drug or therapy only works sometimes because of differences, often at the molecular level, between individuals and their pathogens. Once exact descriptions are possible exact remedies can follow.

And third it is just cool that gamers, who are so often depicted as slacker losers, are really doing something worthwhile.

Researchers have developed a video game that rewards players for solving the scientifically substantial puzzles surrounding protein folding. The game, called Foldit, is the latest twist in the move toward the use of distributed computing and crowd-sourcing to solve huge scientific challenges.

Figuring out how complex molecules are bent and twisted could be key to developing new medicines and even nano-machines.

via Cosmic Log – Gamers solve protein puzzles.

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