Addicting pattern-solving games are a dime a dozen. But how many of them can boast that they can help with researching cures for diseases?
Foldit is More Than Just a Game
Foldit is a pattern-solving computer game that utilizes peoples’ natural interest in puzzles to further scientific research, specifically in the field of illnesses, by folding proteins.
What is protein folding? Inside of every one of our cells, proteins perform the tasks that make it possible for us to be a living being. They break down the food that we eat, carry nutrients through our blood and conduct messages through our brains to control our bodies and so on.
These protein structures are made up of amino acids that can bend into countless shapes. Only one shape, however, is stable enough for them to carry out their unique task.
A protein that is not “folded,” or in its natural state, can cause disease in the body or contribute to a disease taking control of the body. Scientists predict that successful protein folding can help untangle illnesses such as HIV, cancer and Alzheimer’s.
The problem is that protein folding takes an exorbitant amount of time, because they can be folded in so many different ways. Small proteins are made up of 100 amino acids and the sheer number of potential protein structures these could make is astronomical—not even computers can provide an efficient solution. Funding such a project is both time consuming and expensive.
Foldit uses peoples’ gaming abilities to solve diseases that have frustrated researches for years. Its makers have changed the problem into an opportunity for someone else, which is very similar to the approach we believe in here at ATS Secured. Old problems are old because people haven’t addressed the method to solve it in a different way. Addressing old problems in a new way will elicit new results.
The goal of the game is to fold proteins into their unique shape, which means users are currently only folding known structures. However, the makers of Foldit look to the future of protein design, which would tackle illnesses by creating cures.
Another very different example of people melding their abilities with technology is the idea of virtual border patrol where volunteers scan the border for drug dealers online. Satellites had been used prior, but with little effect and great expense. Some critics have mentioned that these efforts were ineffective; however, the point was more for deterrence reasons.
These solutions take a problem and view it in a different way, creating opportunities for others. Albert Einstein once said that the definition of insanity was “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” My coworkers and I believe in trying different kinds of solutions, the kind that arrests attention through innovation.
What better example than that of using a game to create a cure for diseases? That’s a high score I would strive for.
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