As the COVID-19 continues to claim more lives, scientists around the world are working round the clock to come up with a cure or a vaccine. Now, they have turned to fellow citizen scientists to help them create an antidote or at least get the process started, by giving the general public a puzzle game to play!
The University of Washington Center for Game Science launched the game “Foldit” back in 2008 to help find cures for cancer, AIDS and a whole lot of diseases. The game essentially involves folding different types of protein structures that will create a new protein structure. According to the game’s developers, scientists can develop better new proteins as they understand more about how certain protein structures fold.
Now coming to the Coronavirus situation, scientists have observed that the COVID-19 virus show a “spike” protein on their surface when viewed under a microscope. This “spike” structure catches and binds tightly with the human receptor protein that is present on the surface of human cells. As soon as this virus binds with the human cells, it can replicate itself and spread throughout the human body. So, if scientists can develop a specific protein structure that can bind with this “spiky” protein structure of the virus, it can prevent the virus from binding with the human cells.
The game developers recently added a new puzzle in the game to enable gamers to design this specific type of protein. The specific puzzle is titled “Coronavirus Spike Protein Binder Design,”. This will help the gamers to create an antidote protein that will bind with the COVID-19 virus protein. Consequently, this will prevent the virus proteins to bind with the proteins on the surface of the human cells.
In the game, players can choose between two levels of difficulty. The easier one will provide the player with an existing Coronavirus protein that he/she can start folding. On the other hand, the player will have to create a protein bind design from scratch in the harder difficulty level.
Now it is important to note that the University of Washington will choose some of the most promising solutions of the players. Those protein bind designs will be then tested at the University’s Institute for Protein Binding. It will not create an antidote right away, however, it’ll give the scientists a headstart in creating one.
If you think you can help, download this free-to-play game from here and start solving right now. You never know, you might be of great help in curbing the Coronavirus.