DARPA asks gamers to cure blood disease seen on battlefield

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.

13 Comments on "DARPA asks gamers to cure blood disease seen on battlefield"

  1. This is effing awesome.

  2. In 2011, players of Foldit helped to decipher the crystal structure of the Mason-Pfizer monkey virus (M-PMV) retroviral protease, an AIDS-causing monkey virus. While the puzzle was available to play for a period of three weeks, players produced an accurate 3D model of the enzyme in just ten days. The problem of how to configure the structure of the enzyme had stumped scientists for 15 years.

    The top protien folder in the world was a woman from Manchester who was an exec assistant at a rehab clinic.

  3. It's almost like the SETI@home project, but with actual, tangible benefits. :D

    Jokes aside: It's weird to think of where crowdsourcing ends up providing a net benefit. In news reporting, you'd have thought that crowdsourced information would be awesome; national reporting with locals chipping in for flavor and details not apparent to the big picture guys. You'd have thought people would be enthusiastic about it. And there's some limited flavor of that in things like CNN's iReport offerings. But by and large, news crowdsourcing has turned into a disaster; it's either overhyped or overheated, unconfirmed stuff gleaned from Twitter, or it's idiots spamming comments sections with everything from the trivial to the stupid. It's not come anywhere near approacing its full potential.

    But crowdsourcing via Foldit? If discoveries continue, it'll be a terrific success. And who'd have thunk it would be *this* that would show the benefits?

  4. And my parents said video games are a waste of time… I guess there's an exception to the rule for everything.

  5. Everybody knows that we, in the world of Call of Duty, have soldiers that autoheal after 5 seconds so I say this blood infection thing is BS

  6. Enough talk gamers. Get at it!

  7. my random online gaming might actualy help out some day? …….. Interesting

  8. Hmm…… given the (endless) comments about China stealing innovations, here is a chance to get something back; deploy the WoW 'farmers' en masse and we'll probably have beaten AIDS, cancer and the common cold by this time sunday….

    On a more serious note, briliant idea and where do I sign up?

  9. Sign me up……….yep sign me up!!!!!

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  13. Bill in Lexington,NC | May 15, 2015 at 11:09 pm | Reply

    Anybody using ANY operating system who has a few spare clock cycles to donate (that's all of you!) need only type BOINC into their search bar to play a part in more than a dozen similar projects.

    At the end of WW2 there were three un-decoded German ciphers. Two of them have been solved. My machine is chugging away on the final one. Whoever solves it gets a brownie point. (Oops … just checked — all three have been decoded. The project is now working on some very short messages sent using the Enigma machine … the shortest solved so far is 72 characters (the shorter they are, the less chance of solving them).

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