Monday, October 8, 2012

FOLD IT! RNA strands- not laundry!

(Doesn't this RNA strand containing key proteins look like a party?)

This post has nothing to do with laundry.
It is a medical game made for the express purpose of getting millions around the world to help biochemimsts speed up the process of how specific strands of proteins "fold" into a cell.
So maybe it does have some similarities to laundry.
Instead of cramming your laundry into your drawers, it's always more efficient to fold the articles of clothing, oraganize and stack them to best fit into your chest of drawers.
(i.e. pants in one drawer. J's work out shirts in another and so on.)
(more partiness)
Some of the appendages can't "mix" with other little lego looking ends.
Sounds as exciting as a months worth of laundry waiting for ya to tackle, doesn't it ??

My latest research kick was looking into Stanford University's latest Medicine X Forum in Sept.-
A man with Crohns disease had been invited after he'd had a full bowel organ transplant by his surgeon. (Michael's blog is:
If you want in on these couple of days of the latest in medicine it is only over 1k to attend.
But they do give scholarships. I might actually apply for this one.
The first clip I took in from the forum Mike went to was Professor Rijuh Das (specializes in Physics and Bio-Chem)  on "RNA folding". What he was wearing was what initially pulled me into the lecture.
In a laid back way, and wearing a  green T-shirt with a alien-ish cartoon character matched with burnt red pants, he proceeded to talk about the topic while I tried to figure out if the colors he had on were actually coordinating. Then my ears pricked up at this:

Hey! I'm a patient!  I want improved health! I thought.

Rij gave a power point on how networking and "outsourcing" the mind work process bio-chemists are facing on how proteins fit or fold over themselves in a cell; was speeding up the process by the millions.
Since 1950 those poor scientists could only get through 50k. Computers can only "fold" the proteins so far because they lack creativity.
So one creative guy who loved playing Atari, Game Boy, and on and on- came up with a 3-D
game of these protein strands and then turned it over to the online community in the form of a race to "Fold" certain protein/RNA strands.
You might be asking: "Why??" Stay tuned wives, who have husbands who play video games while you literally fold laundry, because they might actually be the next Nobel Prize winner if
they can crack some of these "folding" problems.  
(try folding this!)
What does this have to do with illness, disease and what not?
Well, these crazy strands apparently are the work horses of a cell and the communicators of what need to happen.
The medical rationale;fight fire with fire; which means we need to know how they are "folded", or squished in their unique way, into a cell so we can translate that into a medicine, cure, or vaccine.

In just 3 weeks, people from around the world were able to take their "gaming" talents and solve mysteries that scientists have been working on for a decade.

I'd heard of this some time ago but I finally looked into the "game" .  At one point I was wondering when a curling iron came into play to make some of those strand twist.
Supposedly you don't have to be a rocket scientist. Although I think some gamers are actually that smart.  Yes, to moms and wives they are in disguise.
Gamers, I owe you an apology- I was under the impression your brains were melting as you spent endless hours with your virtual friends creating world, I predicted the violence of the war games was de-sensitaizing; strategizing with people on the other side of the country with your Star Trek mics made me wonder if it was creating an anti-social attitude.
However,  It is your ability to do that, (as addictive as it may be) is cracking gazillions of protein codes that are folded in cells.
I think this could become a BIG job maker that one of the candidates for President ought to seize upon. But for now, it's just a game that you get points for and if you "win" in the alloted time frame I think you get your name put on their site.

 For whatever reasons, the minds of gamers are a key element in finding the cure to many diseases. MIne included. (not my mind, my disease.) Opening up the dilemma, in the form of a "game" to everyone, "folding" together in teams, means data is coming back in droves.
Raj can hardly get through the thousand folds that come in each week.

I looked up the game and realized I, like a computer, lack folding creativity. And the IQ of 99.9% of gamers. And it felt akin to the first time I tried to fold/wrestle up two car windshield blinds together- going from sorta square to a circle I could shove under my seat.
The bizarre, 3D rubix- cube like worms boggled me...
I wondered if they were neatly folded "laundry", or maybe hapharzdly folded and stuck in the cell/drawer? Or is it just organized chaos? 
The good news is that the game is made to help folks like me, who are afraid of failure, feel comfortable making mistakes. In fact, you can spend hours doing just that as you try to "match" up different "ends". (I'm sure there is a scientific name to those ends-I just don't know what they are) 
So my first experience with the game made me feel like I do when I can't find a sock match and so the lone sock gets thrown into a basket- to be sorted semi-annually or quarterly, if it's lucky.

To add insult to injury, a few years ago a 13 year old broke the code to one of the proteins.
Prodigy, maybe?
The simplest explanation about the neclace, kite looking strands is this info pulled from
In higher organisms, the hereditary material, DNA, is located in the cell nucleus.
The DNA in one human cell contains about 100,000 genes, located on 46 chromosomes.
A chromosome pair and the DNA molecule, a long double-stranded helix, are shown to the right and below.
The genetic information in the DNA is stored as a sequence of bases (or nucleotides). The bases are stacked in between the two strands which wind around each other.
The order of the bases determines the genetic information. When a gene is activated, the DNA strands separate and one of them serves as a template for copying a messenger RNA (mRNA) as shown on the right.
The letters represent the bases adenine (A), thymine (T), guanine (G) and cystosine (C).
In the double helix, A always pairs with T, and C with G. In the mRNA, thymine is replaced by uracil (U).
A stretch of three bases in the mRNA determines the position of a particular amino acid in the growing protein molecule.
The mRNA, containing the information for a particular protein, is transported from the nucleus to the cytoplasm, where protein synthesis takes place. Amino acids are joined together as pearls on a string.
There are 20 different amino acids. Their order in the protein molecule determines its structure and function. Proteins may serve e.g., as enzymes, hormones or structural components of a cell.
The final protein molecule may consist
of several hundred amino acids linked together according to the instructions encoded in the mRNA.
So I guess I have my work cut out for me. First, to identify which mutated DNA  protein strands of mine are involved  and then, well, fold them.
When they talk about more patient input and getting our input it reminds me of the change in the publishing world. They want you to do the hard work of selling yourelf, AND write the book.. then they will publish you.
So it only makes sense that to be pro-active in our medical care we solve the problm, and then hand over the hard earned research to someone who can translate it into a medicine
and help them win a
I'm down with it if it means getting rid of this Crohns Disease.
And I would be cool with Standford inviting me to the next Medicine X. I just ask for an interpreter.



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