Gamers Solve HIV Puzzle in Ten Days

Scientists at the University of Washington have been trying to decipher the complex structure of an enzyme that "exhibits behavior similar to that of an enzyme key in the development of AIDS from an HIV infection" for the last decade. They believed that it likely played a critical role in finding a cure for the disease. But gamers playing spatial game Foldit have managed to collectively determine the enzyme’s structure in a mere ten days.

Scientist were baffled by the structure of the M-PMV retroviral protein, an enzyme that plays a key role in the development of a virus similar to HIV, because each enzyme has millions of possible combinations in which it can fold its atomic bonds. Determining the exact structure was a very laborious endeavor even for high-end computers with large processing power.

Scientist decided to take a different approach to solve their problem; they sent a 3D model of the M-PMV to the online game Foldit, where gamers folded and turned it into a myriad of combinations. Within ten days gamers figured out the shape that needed the lowest energy to maintain in a little over a week. With this information scientists have a better understanding how the enzyme works, and how to attack it in the future.

"This was really kind of a last-ditch effort. Can the Foldit players really solve it?" Firas Khatib, a biochemist at the University of Washington and the lead author on the recently published research paper told MSNBC. "They actually did it in less than 10 days."

ZME Science has a lot more on the story here. It's worth checking out.

Source: SME Science

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  1. 0
    Bennett Beeny says:

    What's really annoying about stories like this is that scientists spend 10 years failing to solve the problem, then as a "last ditch effort" they hand it to gamers, who solve it in ten days, then the news laughingly says "haha, so play games, folks!" as if it's some kind of joke. A decade wasted because scientists are too dismissive of gaming should be a scandal, not a slow news day tidbit.

    I wonder how many other things scientists are spending decades failing at and not asking gamers to help because gaming is viewed as this childish and useless thing that's only worthwhile when everything else has failed?

  2. 0
    MechaTama31 says:

    And now I will just sit here and wait for the news media to pounce on this story, blow it out of proportion, and run it into the gr-  Oh wait, it's a positive story about gamers?  Guess I better not hold my breath…  >.>

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