In a science-based online game named Foldit
, gamers just outdid trained scientists by completing an accurate model of a protein the fastest.
The team who led the competition said that gaming might indeed be a good way to get more interested in scientific research and studies.
Study co-author from the University of Michigan, James Bardwell, said
, “It shows that anybody with a 3D mentality, including gamers, can do something that previously only scientists did, and in doing so they can help scientific progress.”
The Foldit competition
had 469 gamers, 2 computer algorithms, 2 trained crystallographers, and 61 undergraduate students. They used computer modeling programs in the battle to see who can create a model of protein YPL067C accurately by interpreting electron-density maps.
Gamers came together to go through the trial-and-error process involved in protein modeling and then created the most accurate model.
The study researchers concluded that teamwork and cooperation may be the cause of the gaming team’s success.
Brian Koepnick, team member from the University of Washington, said, “We think this is a big deal because interpreting an electron-density map can be a labour-intensive, error-prone process – and we show that crowd-sourced Foldit players can do it as well as, or better than, professionally trained crystallographers.”
The team also added
that games might prove to be an effective way to teach students about protein modeling since it makes the process more fun and collaborative.
Additionally, the team also said that the gamers might also have found a new type of protein which may be responsible for controlling formation of plaque. This can lead to a better understanding of Alzheimer’s disease.