Fold It: The Protein Folding Game

Fold It Protein Folding Game image

Fold It is a game developed by the Rosetta@Home team (learn more about distributed computing) under the direction of Dr. David Baker at the University of Washington.

It features a new approach to protein prediction. Instead of using a more or less brute-force approach, with a CPU trying lots and lots of possibilities and calculating which ones give the best results, the game uses the human brain’s pattern recognition abilities (with help from a few automated tools) to try to find the lowest-energy folded state of a protein.

It has the potential to be on the cutting edge of a new generation of scientific games that are fun to play, teach you things, and can actually help researchers.

Words are inadequate to describe it, so please watch the two videos below to get an idea.

If that has piqued your curiosity, please go to the official Fold It website and try the game.

And don’t worry about it being too hard; the game starts very slowly, with step-by-step tutorials showing you how to use all the tools and the interface. It’s really well-done and intuitive, especially for a beta.

I also encourage you to sign up for Rosetta@home and donate your idle CPU cycle to help bio-medical science (you can join my Rosetta team here).

Update: See also my ‘Fold It’ Media Coverage Clearinghouse.

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21 Responses to “Fold It: The Protein Folding Game”

  1. Morten Says:

    Cool idea. Add in some prize money for the high score(s), and you will have hordes of teenage boys cracking protein foldings in their spare time (of which they have lots). :-D

  2. cody Says:

    I would’ve liked a little info on why folding proteins helps science and how that will be used to in the real world some day.

    Thanks for posting this. :)

  3. Helen Says:

    What about having high school kids do this as part of their curriculum? They could have challenges with other schools or between classes in the same school. I suppose some prize other than a good grade would add incentive.

  4. Michael Graham Richard Says:

    Cody,

    In short: the human body uses about 100,000 proteins (encoded in about 20,000 genes, iirc). Proteins are the building blocks of life. Pretty much everything biological is done with them.

    Protein function is determined by its 3D shape. The better we get at predicting protein 3D shapes from amino acid sequences, the better we get at predicting function from 3D shape, and the better we get at designing proteins from scratch, the easier it will be for us to understand how metabolism works and to find cures for diseases.

  5. Michael Graham Richard Says:

    “Add in some prize money for the high score(s), and you will have hordes of teenage boys cracking protein foldings in their spare time (of which they have lots).”

    I’ve read that the people who get the highest scores and help design proteins or solve problems will have their names included in any scientific papers published.

    And if some discovery went to win a Nobel prize, they would be named as co-recipients.

    Not 100% sure about the Nobel part, but that certainly would be a nice incentive :)

  6. Fold It: juega y colabora en la investigación plegando proteínas « Mare Magnum Says:

    […] Visto en el blog de Michael Graham Richard. […]

  7. Eluem Says:

    Money, give them the money!

  8. Eluem Says:

    There was a software program some years ago called Sculpt. The start-up that wrote it eventually was bought out by Acelrys and I believe sculpt is now a function in their software somewhere. Glad to see it here though — think this is a much more iteresting way of using the interactivity.

  9. moss Says:

    When I follow the instructions to go to the site it asks for a new person to register.
    When I click on that link it says I am not premitted to use the site.

    PROBLEM?

  10. Michael Graham Richard Says:

    moss,

    That’s strange. I had no problems registering (took 15 seconds).

    The site has been very slow lately, though. I bet they have more traffic than they expected. If I were you, I’d wait a few days and try again – it might be server issue.

  11. GamesAjare » EL PLEGAMIENTO DE LA PROTEÍNA Says:

    […] (momento en el que el que suscribe no sabe que poner). Se lo vamos a explicar no se preocupen. Existe un juego muy instructivo sobre este tema que nos concierne a todos, porque todos estamos formados por millones y millones de […]

  12. gizelle Says:

    It kind of creeps me out that DARPA is sponsoring this…I mean I am thankful that they brought me the internet, but I really don’t think we all need to help them create the next bio-weapon!

  13. Michael Graham Richard Says:

    gizelle,

    Sadly, that’s the case with many technologies. They are tool, so they can be used as weapons. But the other side of the coin is that it could be used to develop vaccines rapidly against bio-weapons.

  14. crazyasuka Says:

    This is gorgeous. Looks so hot, with the alpha helixes and the beta sheets, and I’m going ot try that!

  15. dr jay Says:

    >And if some discovery went to win a Nobel prize, they would be >named as co-recipients.
    >
    >Not 100% sure about the Nobel part, but that certainly would be a
    >nice incentive :)

    If you mean “named as co-recipients” literally, I’m 100% sure that it’s *not* the case, as the Nobel rules are quite explicit that a given prize can be split at most three ways, and if there are more than three contributors, it sure ain’t the “head honchos” who get left out.

    “Named in the Nobel citation” is barely possible, but still highly unlikely, as there are a lot of people ahead of you in line for that too, unless you really did something that no “formal” (i.e. academic, government, or corporate) member of the “team” thought of.

    And even “names included in any scientific papers published” most likely means an acknowledgment, not a co-authorship. (Again, barring something truly original that’s genuinely your contribution and yours alone.) Which is nice I suppose, but add four bucks and it’ll get you a gallon of gas (this week, in relatively “cheap” places).

  16. Benj Says:

    To clarify; if you do find something new and amazing while playing the game, the Bakerlab will cite you in its scientific papers. If you happen to earn the Nobel Prize, and if you were working alone, I am sure you would be credited. If you are working in a team however, they would probably just say the team’s name, as they could not say everyone on the team.

  17. Fold It: juega y colabora en la investigación plegando proteínas | Mare Magnum Says:

    […] Visto en el blog de Michael Graham Richard. […]

  18. Renton Innes Says:

    hi, I am Aotearoa.

    I invite you to come and join us folding protein, you dont have to know anything about protein, but just learn how to use the tools that can manipulate them, and join in on the puzzles.

    See you there,

    Respectfully,

    Aotearoa
    Team – Richard Dawkins Foundation

  19. Warren Says:

    If the rules of protein folding can be discovered, then maybe what makes prions either harmless or deadly can be determined. Like a cure for mad-cow disease or not.

  20. Sarah Says:

    Greetings! We would like to use the screenshot of the protein folding game FoldIt that you posted last year. Could you email me when you have a chance?

    Thanks!

    Cheers,
    Sarah

  21. Marielena Says:

    HOLITAS!

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