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Author: WendyBG Big gold star, 5000 posts Top Favorite Fools Feste Award Winner! Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: of 445518  
Subject: Protein folding: crowdsourced solutions Date: 11/16/2012 1:22 AM
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From time to time, I post on Atheist Fools about Alzheimer's disease (AD).

AD's most visible physical manifestation is plaques and tangles of mis-folded proteins.

Proteins are polymers made of 23 different amino acids. The sequence of amino acids is the primary structure. Some of these amino acids are hydrophilic (they are attracted to water) and some are hydrophobic (they repel water). A protein's primary structure can consist of a few amino acids up to thousands of amino acids.

The flexible spine of the amino acids can twist like a yarn. This is the secondary structure. Common configurations of the secondary structure are the alpha helix and the beta sheet.

The "yarn" can twist back upon itself like a skein of yarn. This is the tertiary structure. Often, the hydrophilic, water-compatible amino acids are on the outside while the hydrophobic, water-repellent amino acids are on the inside.

The tertiary structure of a protein is essential to its function. Proteins can potentially twist back onto themselves in myriad ways. A protein must be folded exactly right to function (e.g. the active site of an enzyme). A mis-folded protein may not function at all. Worse, it may not even be soluble in the cell's liquid interior. It may precipitate as an insoluble plaque or tangle.

While it is extremely difficult for computers to predict the tertiary structures of protein, humans are relatively adept at working out 3-dimensional spatial problems.

Foldit is a crowd-sourced game for solving the 3-dimensional structure of proteins.
http://fold.it/portal/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foldit

http://techland.time.com/2011/09/19/foldit-gamers-solve-aids...

Thousands of Foldit players have contributed to science by solving the 3-dimensional structure of proteins. If you are a gamer, you might consider playing Foldit instead of the game you currently play.

An even more amazing game is EteRNA, whose motto is "Played by humans. Scored by nature." In this game, the crowdsourced RNA folded structures are synthesized in the lab by scientists and the real structures compared with the gamed structures. RNA is a genetic messenger. For example, RNA is sent to the dendrites of nerve cells to instruct the synthesis of proteins (enzymes, cell channels, etc.) which create new neuronal connections.

http://eterna.cmu.edu/web/

http://cosmiclog.nbcnews.com/_news/2011/01/11/5814820-play-a...

I hope that these games will appeal to those who are skilled in 3-dimensional visualization.

Wendy
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