image by: Marco Verch
"The meshing of the world of computer gaming and biological research has steadily grown in the past couple of years – occasionally with really fantastic results.
The best example that comes to mind is the solving of the previously elusive crystal structure of a retroviral protease from the Mason–Pfizer monkey virus aided by users playing FoldIt – a game wherein players explore different conformations of protein folding in order to achieve the theoretically lowest energy level. Essentially, it’s a (fun and emotionally rewarding) method to crowd-source research. The solution was published in the Impact Factor 12.71 (2011) journal Nature Structural and Molecular Biology.
While not quite as scientifically impacting (yet), Reddit user AllUpInHyuh posted images of a neuron model produced in the online game Minecraft - a game in which users interact to build, modify and interact in a world composed of Lego-like building blocks. The images show a structure composed of dynamic-type bricks which, in total, represent action potentials, ion fluxes and membrane boundaries of a neuron. As of this posting, a video of the model in action is unavailable.
the systems they are modeling. Imaging following, real-time, an mRNA strand being produced, spliced, transported, translated and then degraded not by observing a rendering from a pre-made program, but by following a model produced by known physiological constraints of proteins, ions and other biomolecules involved.
The possibilities are extremely exciting!"
Source: Minecraft as a Tool for Biological Models? Maybe A Neuron Built of a Munecraft Bricks, The Biology Blog, March 24, 2013.