Gamers Crack Code That Could Lead to New AIDS Treatments

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.

Original Article via Gizmodo via Sydney Morning Herald via The Next Web

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