What if the brainpower used playing video games could be channeled toward something more productive, such as helping scientists solve complex biological problems?
A team of biochemists and computer scientists from the University of Washington (U.W.) in Seattle now reports that they have successfully tapped into this human problem-solving potential. Their competitive online game “Foldit,” released in 2008, enlists the help of online puzzle-solvers to help crack one of science’s most intractable mysteries—how proteins fold into their complex three-dimensional forms. The “puzzles” gamers solve are 3-D representations of partially folded proteins, which players manipulate and reshape to achieve the greatest number of points. The scores are based on biochemical measures of how well the players’ final structure matches the way the protein appears in nature.
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