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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Should ‘sexism’ factor into a video game’s rating?:

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Wonderkarpyup11/20/2014 - 4:51pm
Andrew EisenOh for crying out loud. Wondercarp, I apologize for how rude this question is but seriously, did you actually read that article?11/20/2014 - 4:47pm
Wonderkarpits a stigma. people in power hear this crap and start getting on their legislative high horse. but I feel like we've already paid too much attention too a demo.11/20/2014 - 4:46pm
Andrew EisenHarm gaming how?11/20/2014 - 4:35pm
Wonderkarpcause it gets parroted around and is used by people to harm gaming like Jack Thompsons did with Violence. http://www.themarysue.com/pokemon-oras-sexism/ here's the article.11/20/2014 - 4:28pm
Andrew EisenNo idea why such an opinion would upset or irk you so I'd be interested in reading it. Got a link?11/20/2014 - 4:13pm
Wonderkarplook deep for it....reaching much. those kinds of people are what urk me.11/20/2014 - 4:07pm
WonderkarpI got upset the other day when a known feminist blog wrote a large article on how the demo to Pokemon Omega Ruby was Sexist cause you couldnt play as a girl. It was a Demo....who cares? but they went off on how Pokemon in general is sexist but you gotta11/20/2014 - 4:06pm
Andrew EisenHere's the panel that Sarkeesian quote from earlier comes from. Amazing what the proper context does, isn't it? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e0qxtKz2vZw11/20/2014 - 3:32pm
NeenekoSomething to keep in mind, we tend to look at physics as 'hard', but math and physics are trivial compared to soc/psych (I have worked in both), but FEELS like it should be simplier.11/20/2014 - 3:17pm
NeenekoI think what tends to make discussing sexism in games difficult is scale, the issues tend to be systemic in nature, but bite sized examples are not... and the systemic part ties into a lot of dry academic stuff requiring domain knowledge not everyone has.11/20/2014 - 3:16pm
Wonderkarpand I jumped for joy when the Cogs went multigendered in GOW. but I also like male protagonists like Kratos or Nathan Drake or Link.11/20/2014 - 2:58pm
Wonderkarp..it needs female options. thats why I prefer biowares games. My Shepard was female(Jennifer Hale <3) and my skyrim player was female. I prefer female characters. But I dont think its a sexism issue. More and more females are coming.11/20/2014 - 2:55pm
WonderkarpMonte, I would argue that with Tomb Raiders sales....remember me though....personally I like games with character customization. I was one of those people miffed at ACUnity over no female assassins. if you give us customization, unless its a sports game..11/20/2014 - 2:53pm
Matthew WilsonI argue it hass less to do with femalw lead, and more to do with marketing and game quality. remember me did not sell bad becouse of a female lead, it was a bad game.11/20/2014 - 2:48pm
MonteWonderKarp, Games with female protgonists have a much harder time. Many publishers shy away from them because they don't think they will sell and many games that do get greenlit wind up getting less marketting or downplay the females in their marketting.11/20/2014 - 2:44pm
Andrew EisenUnfortunately, Thompson is so intertwined with our beat that when he shows up in another story that's right in our wheelhouse, we kinda have to cover him, despite how over him a lot of our readership may be. Anything else you consider "tabloidish"?11/20/2014 - 2:40pm
Wonderkarpand they just did!11/20/2014 - 2:24pm
WonderkarpMy Amiibos Shipped!!! Now Amazon needs to mark my Smash Bros as Shipped11/20/2014 - 2:24pm
WonderkarpI do a lot of streaming and eventually I'll be doing some lets plays. (my cohost lives a while from me but hopefully I'll be moving soon). I will say I keep my lets plays and streams 100% free of any of my political views.11/20/2014 - 2:22pm
 

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