Gamers Crack Code That Could Lead To New AIDS Treatment

Scientists spent a decade trying -- and failing -- to map the structure of an enzyme that could help solve a crucial part of the AIDS puzzle. It took online gamers all of three weeks.

The enzyme in question is the Mason-Pfizer monkey virus retroviral protease, and researchers have been seeking ways of deactivating it as a way of developing new anti-HIV drugs. Unfortunately, the conventional efforts of computers and scientists have come up short for years.

Enter: Foldit. Foldit was developed in 2008 as a means of discovering the structures of various proteins and amino acids -- something computers can't do very well -- by turning it into a game. By inputting the experimental coordinates for the monkey virus enzyme, gamers -- most of whom didn't have a background in molecular biology -- were able to accurately predict the structure of the protein, allowing scientists to pinpoint locations to stop the virus' growth.

The study, published in Nature Structure & Molecular Biology, details how incredible a step this is towards developing more effective therapies for HIV/AIDS patients. It's also an important precedent that lays the groundwork for scientists and lay people to work together to solve new problems and save lives. Which is very exciting. [Sydney Morning Herald via The Next Web]

WATCH MORE: Science & Health News


    Sounds like an idea for a TV show, oh wait stargate universe was that show.

      Still brings a tear to my eye, thinking about that show being shut down,.. morons! #]

        For real? idiots, it's one of the only decent shows on TV.

          I take it you are watching on free to air! At least they had time to have a goodbye episode even though it left me wanting so much more. This show just kept getting better and better. Such a loss.

      They need to follow up on it with a movie or book.

    Yes! Now when ever the ACL says something bad about video games, or gamers they can just throw out the line
    "Oh yeah? Gamers helped cure aids."

    If I was god I'd be way more impressed with that than anything the ACL has ever done.

    Didn't the CIA/FBI use word-game magazines in, like, the '50s to "crowdsource" codes they wanted to crack? This is just the application of the same idea using modern tech.

    Not that I want to belittle the achievement. "Gamification" may be a lame buzzword, but if anything it shows objectively that games are not mere amusement. As kids they're the main way we learn; as adults there's no reason this can't be the case too.

    If my Black Ops K:D ratio is anything to go by I'd be a protein structure-solving machine! lol

    I'm off to steal cars, rob people and pick up a few hookers.... all in the name of cancer research, mind.

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