Weird Medicine

Researchers Reportedly Using A Video Game To Tackle Coronavirus

With the coronavirus epidemic continuing to take hold, groups and researchers from all over the world are bent on approaching the virus from multiple levels in order to understand it better and eventually develop a vaccine. This includes a group from the University of Washington who decided to tackle it unconventionally: via a video game.

Fighting A Virus With A Video Game

With no definite vaccine in sight, researchers and experts from around the world are still making considerable efforts in order to help address the coronavirus epidemic, which has already been considered as a global public health emergency. Starting in the Chinese province of Wuhan, the virus first appeared late last December, and has since infected and killed a large number of people.

As such, multiple attempts are being made in order to develop a vaccine against it, including a research team from Seattle’s University of Washington who decided to approach it via a video game.

Called “Foldit,” the game itself is sort of a scientific simulator. Released way back in 2008, the game sees players fold proteins in order to understand how they are structured, which the team from UW said is “key to understanding how [a protein] works and to targeting it with drugs.”

To better use the game, the researchers also now added a new puzzle game that’s based on the new coronavirus, which then presents a unique challenge since there is still no vaccine available.

“Coronaviruses display a ‘spike’ protein on their surface, which binds tightly to a receptor protein found on the surface of human cells. 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 puzzle’s description in the game reads.

Interestingly enough, the game itself crowdsources work that researchers would otherwise just make on their own. And it looks positive so far since the creators of the game said that the people that are playing show they’re “at least equal to and sometimes better than a computer in folding long chains of amino acids into compact three-dimensional shapes,” which is the level of thinking that real researchers need to do whenever faced with a problem.

However, it’s unclear whether this effort would help in facing the threat of the virus, but we’re keeping our hopes up.

Coronavirus The 2019-nCoV, a new type of coronavirus, was first discovered at a small animal and seafood market in the city of Wuhan in China. Pixabay

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