HolyCoast: Gamers Crack Scientific Riddle

Monday, September 19, 2011

Gamers Crack Scientific Riddle

You've just got to ask the right people:
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.

With 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.

"These features provide opportunities for the design of antiretroviral drugs, including anti-HIV drugs," the authors wrote.
Now maybe they can help Obama figure out that raising taxes on the rich won't create any jobs.

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