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Online Gamers Solve Decade-Old HIV Puzzle In Three Weeks

In just three weeks, online gamers deciphered the structure of a retrovirus protein that has stumped scientists for over a decade, and a study out Sunday says their breakthrough opens doors for a new AIDS drug design.

The protein, called a protease, plays a critical role in how some viruses, including HIV, multiply. Intensive research has been underway to find AIDS drugs that can deactivate proteases, but scientists were hampered by their inability to crack the enzyme’s structure.

Looking for a solution, researchers at the University of Washington turned to Foldit, a program created by the university a few years ago that transforms problems of science into competitive computer games, and challenged players to use their three-dimensional problem-solving skills to build accurate models of the protein.

Within days, the gamers generated models good enough for the researchers to refine into an accurate portrayal of the enzyme’s structure. What’s more, the scientists identified parts of the molecule that are likely targets for drugs to block the enzyme.

Within days, the gamers generated models good enough for the researchers to refine into an accurate portrayal of the enzyme's structure.

“We wanted to see if human intuition could succeed where automated methods had failed,” said Firas Khatib, a lead author of the study, published in the journal Nature Structural & Molecular Biology.

The researchers were hopeful that their finding would open further possibilities of crowd-sourcing and online game-playing in scientific discovery.

“The ingenuity of game players is a formidable force that, if properly directed, can be used to solve a wide range of scientific problems,” Khatib said.

Seth Cooper, a co-creator of Foldit, added, “People have spatial reasoning skills, something computers are not yet good at. Games provide a framework for bringing together the strengths of computers and humans. The results in this week’s paper show that gaming, science and computation can be combined to make advances that were not possible before.”

source: io9.com
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12 Responses to Online Gamers Solve Decade-Old HIV Puzzle In Three Weeks

  1. Katrina says:

    Obviously, playing video games is good for us…

  2. showard76 says:

    I agree with all the other commentors this is amazing, and indeed lets hope a similar thing could work for cancer and other diseases/plights that plague our world! GO gamers! 😀

  3. Pingback: Online Gamers Solve Decade-Old HIV Puzzle In Three Weeks « M. Ulric Killion's space

  4. Now, may we please turn war and hunger into a video game ?

  5. metaphyzgirl says:

    OMG ! I used to think computer games were over valued but this completely changes that view for me. This is amazing !

  6. Cyan Merck says:

    Wonderful indeed! Just playing online we are inches away discovering the reliable cure to this long time incurable disease and we are hoping this is really the right answer for our doubts and questions.

  7. varungenius says:

    This is amazing…very surprizing infact..! I knew that human mind’s intuition can do many impossible things but this one is worth attention.

  8. This is a fascinating article. Thank you.

  9. Money says:

    I read this a couple months ago! And mom said I was wasting my time. I think it improves hand and eye coordination and its been proven to build memory!

    Love my call of duty, MLB, Need for speed,

    • TheTaoOfD says:

      i totally agree! i love call of duty! some games def do help you though…look at flight simulation

      • Money says:

        They have more purposes then rotting our brains! I always tell the boy, “I played on Atari. He has no idea how cool games are compared to yesterday’s… I cant wait for tomorrow’s!

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