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Protein structures at play

 

Foldit is an online game that enlists ordinary citizens in order to help molecular biologists solve some of their stubbornest challenges – the structure of proteins in space.
 
While decoding the sequence of aminoacids in a protein has become a fairly routine procedure by now, determining a protein’s spatial structure is still a huge problem:

Knowing the structure of a protein is key to understanding how it works and to targeting it with drugs. A small proteins can consist of 100 amino acids, while some human proteins can be huge (1000 amino acids). The number of different ways even a small protein can fold is astronomical because there are so many degrees of freedom. Figuring out which of the many, many possible structures is the best one is regarded as one of the hardest problems in biology today and current methods take a lot of money and time, even for computers. Foldit attempts to predict the structure of a protein by taking advantage of humans’ puzzle-solving intuitions and having people play competitively to fold the best proteins.

The latest success of the gamers is the decoding of an enzyme involved in the reproduction of HIV.
 
This is what the players say: