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DARPA asks gamers to cure blood disease seen on battlefield

by Mike Hoffman on August 31, 2012

The Pentagon’s top tech research arm is reaching out to gaming community to help cure a blood infection that kills troops in battlefield hospitals every year.

The disease is sepsis, a blood infection that turns deadly when a patient goes into septic shock as the body tries to fight an infection. Troops often go into septic shock after suffering a massive trauma like losing a leg to a road side bomb.

Leaders of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, better known as DARPA, want to fight that disease and have challenged the game and online community at Foldit, a website funded by DARPA, to help cure it. 

DARPA has asked the Foldit community to tinker with protein designs in a massive brainstorming session to design new proteins to attack the ones that cause sepsis. The hope is to design “protein-based pathogen capture reagents to be used for the removal of circulating pathogens patients’ blood as part of a larger [dialysis-like therapeutic] system,” according to DARPA.

The Pentagon had success with this approach in January when the Foldit online community of more than 240,000 gamers helped scientists remodel a reaction in organic synthesis. Had scientists had toiled over the protein design for years. Foldit users helped them solve it in three weeks.

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