In brief: Being able to stop the spread of the coronavirus has become a top priority, and a team of researchers from the University of Washington in Seattle is hoping a video game could be part of the solution.
As reported by Kotaku, the game, called Foldit, is a free puzzler that was released back in 2008. It involves players folding proteins to understand their structures, which is "key to understanding how [a protein] works and to targeting it with drugs."
Today we're calling on YOU to help design antiviral proteins against #coronavirus:https://t.co/ecqJmpXaj8--- Foldit (@Foldit) February 28, 2020
The most promising solutions will be manufactured & tested at the Institute for Protein Design (@UWproteindesign) in Seattle. #CitizenScience #COVID #COVID2019 #citsci pic.twitter.com/TsknpmwCyN
Foldit was recently updated with a new puzzle based on the coronavirus. "Coronaviruses display a 'spike' protein on their surface, which binds tightly to a receptor protein found on the surface of human cells," reads the game's description. "In recent weeks, researchers have determined the structure of the 2019 coronavirus spike protein and how it binds to human receptors. If we can design a protein that binds to this coronavirus spike protein, it could be used to block the interaction with human cells and halt infection!"
The creators say the hundreds of thousands of players are equal to or better than a computer when it comes to "folding long chains of amino acids into compact three-dimensional shapes." The most promising ideas to come from the game will be tested and possibly manufactured by the university's Institute for Protein Design in Seattle.
"We do want to emphasize that, like all the research we do, laboratory testing takes time to see if these molecules are safe and effective against coronavirus," said Foldit scientist Brian Koepnick.
If you want to help researchers discover new antiviral drugs that might stop the coronavirus, just head here and download Foldit.