You Can Help Researchers Using the Foldit Video Game to Fight Covid-19

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COVID-19 is wreaking havoc in every aspect of life and scientists are working overtime to find a solution. Governments around the world are encouraging people to stay at home to avoid getting exposed to the virus. Currently, there is no known vaccine or cure for COVID-19.

So you are holed up at home wondering what to do or how you can help. Well, here is something that will definitely get your curiosity going: You can play Foldit and assist in finding a cure for COVID-19.

(Read our other Coronavirus related stories here)

Foldit is a Foldit puzzle video game released by the Center for Game Science of the University of Washington in collaboration with the Department of Biochemistry in 2008. The video game involves protein folding. But don’t worry, you don’t need a degree in biosciences (or any degree at all) to play Foldit, anyone can play!

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Basically, proteins are the worker cells of living things. The body is made up of millions of cells of different types including blood cells, muscle cells, and brain cells.

At the most basic level, the proteins are made up of a long chain of amino acids joined together in a string-like formation. Normally, these proteins do not like to stay stretched out and prefer to fold up into a blob. While some proteins easily fold up, others need some help folding up. This is where Foldit comes in.

Players involved in Foldit fold proteins as they try to understand them. According to the team at the University of Washington in Seattle, this helps in understanding how proteins function which makes targeting them using drugs easier.

According to researchers, coronaviruses have a spike-like protein on their surface which binds to the receptor protein on the surface of the human cells. Since researchers have determined the structure of COVID-19 protein and how it sticks to human receptors, if they succeed in designing a protein that binds to this virus, the protein could help in blocking interaction with human cells and stop infections.

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To achieve this, computer simulations need to run in order to figure out the shapes of viral surface proteins and shapes of proteins that can block the virus. These simulations require a lot of computing power as proteins are highly complex with hundreds of molecules constantly folding into different shapes.

Previously, Foldit players have helped put together beneficial protein structures such as the ones that solved the Mason-Pfizer monkey virus. The virus causes simian AIDS (SAIDS) in Asian macaques.

Therefore, it is not all gloom and doom. Instead of sitting around wringing hands in despair, ordinary people can play Foldit in the comfort of their homes and help in finding the cure for COVID-19.

You can help fight the Coronavirus and get started playing Foldit here.

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