To help find a cure for COVID-19 can each of us: you need to play the game

To take an active part in saving the planet from the pandemic COVID-19 may attend. Besides, even without leaving home, which is especially useful in conditions of quarantine. About it writes BBC.

Помочь найти лекарство от COVID-19 может каждый из нас: для этого нужно сыграть в игру

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It does not have to be a chemist or a doctor — you do not have any education. Moreover do not even have to be an adult.

To help scientists in the search for effective drugs against coronavirus, it is enough to have a computer and some free time. Even the constant Internet access is not required — you can play offline.

All right, play. Research can lead in solving spatial tasks, most of which can easily handle even a high school student. However, behind all this lies a serious science.

The key to the virus.

Game called Fold.it has developed in the Center of game science in Seattle (WA) as a joint project of five leading American universities, foremost of which is the Institute of protein design at the University of Washington.

First, the platform was created to combat other diseases — primarily HIV and various cancers. But now she is completely dedicated to finding cures for COVID-19.

At first glance, the game is a bit like virtual 3D-designer — except that with the parts somewhat unusual shape. Some of them are like the branches of the trees, the other spiral pasta or corn sticks.

This constructor looks like someone was collecting, combining details in a long chain. But picked wrong, though slowly, and also marked places where you can do better.

This is the player’s task — to improve the design by rotating the fragments relative to each other to achieve the optimal shape.

Actually constructor is a protein molecule. Only protein fake circuit generated by the computer from the standard set of amino acids by the method of random numbers.

In General, amino acids from which proteins are only 20, it would seem, not so much. But as with the letters of the alphabet created an infinite number of texts — and of the two dozen amino acids is theoretically possible to collect an infinite number of proteins, stringing them in a random order. A lot of options.

Each link has its own set of chemical properties, they all work, and thanks to this long chain rolled into a ball. But not random and always the same.

The architecture of each protein is unique and different. And it determines its properties, because it allows to mate with a receptor that fits the form.

Simply put, protein is a set of keys, each of which opens the lock. For example, the insulin opens the cell for admission to the glucose.

What does the coronavirus?

The virus SARS-CoV-2 — a dangerous adventurer, who actually picked up the key to our cells.

Like other coronaviruses, it is covered with a protective shell studded with pointed spikes. And at the end of each of the spike — protein molecule, which serves as his pick.

The fact that on the surface of our cells have a receptor ACE2, has a very similar form of the protein. So when the virus enters a thorn in “the castle”, the cell membrane takes him and puts inside.

To prevent infection or stop the progression of the disease, it is necessary to find a protein that would have tied the hands of the virus — that is, blocked, pointed spines, not allowing him to enter the cell. All you need is to find a molecule a good shape.

Doesn’t sound too difficult, but actually it is not an easy task even for supercomputers. Accurately predict the roll a sequence of hundreds and thousands of amino acids, where each link affects the other, almost impossible.

And here come to the aid of ordinary people, players in the Fold.it. Having fun with virtual 3D designer, they go through millions of possible combinations.

As in all known proteins the amino acids are Packed in a space as compact as possible, the number of points depends on how thick it turns out the tangle made by hand.

The player himself may not know anything about the squirrels — just in General terms to explain some patterns. For example, orange slices, most likely, will be hidden in the center of the tangle, and the green will be located closer to the surface.

Experimentally proved that our brain solves spatial problems are not worse and often even better artificial intelligence — thanks to the intuition and accumulated experience. More — experienced gamers make more accurate predictions and handle with the laying of circuit is better than the relevant scientists.

And while the game continues, the first hundred of the most successful and its variants already being tested at the University of Washington. Maybe one of them will help to protect our cells from virus-pretender.

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