Video gamers unravel drug discovery riddles

Foldit, the online video game in which players puzzle out protein structures, is now challenging them to work on tasks related to the design of protein drugs. And the game's chief designer plans to update the game to let players tackle small-molecule drug design, Nature Medicine's blog reported.

Developed at the University of Washington, Foldit has generated buzz in the scientific community for its success in using crowdsourcing via the online game to make key discoveries. For example, last year the game's players--many of whom have no formal scientific training--came up with the basic structure of an enzyme used to study AIDS after researchers had fallen short in doing so for more than a decade. Now players are decoding synthetic proteins and working on molecules that could treat influenza, according to Nature.  

"We've moved beyond just determining structures in nature," Seth Cooper, of the University of Washington's Center for Game Science, said, as quoted by Nature Medicine. "We're able to use the game to design brand new therapeutic enzymes."

Cooper aims to expand the building blocks available to players of Foldit beyond amino acids and enable gamers to design new small-molecule drugs within the next year.

- here's the Nature Medicine blog post

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