New proteins designed and folded by citizen scientists
Proteins are tiny intricate machines our cells use for thousands of specific jobs – healing wounds? metabolism? cell division? – there’s a protein for that, in fact probably a whole set. Complimenting this vast natural toolbox, biomechanical engineers are exploring new structures, virtually folding and twisting chains of amino acids [protein building blocks] with a view to helping life inside cells – the trouble is there's so many possible designs. ‘Foldit’, a new online game, involves the public in this giant protein ‘sandbox’ – using natural design rules as targets and goals for high scores. This design, a team effort from citizen scientists ‘Galaxie’ ‘Waya’, and ‘Susume’, won a recent tournament to find the most stable protein structure from a starting puzzle. With varied approaches from “collaborate with others, discuss findings” to “Wiggle it, pull it, twist it, shake it”, Foldit users are handing creative designs to researchers, potentially closing in on molecules that will improve our lives.
Written by John Ankers
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.