Foldit Gamers Solve Piece Of AIDS Puzzle
Online gamers successfully untangled the structure of a protein that could be used to eliminate the AIDS virus in humans.
Researchers had been unable to create models of the structure with automated techniques of the Mason-Pfizer Monkey Virus -- which causes AIDS in rhesus monkeys -- for a decade. In three weeks, competing teams of gamers unravelled the M-PMV allowing for the design of antiretroviral drugs, proving human puzzle solving abilities still reign supreme over computarized methods.
Foldit has been a champion for "citizen science," allowing for gamers with no background in biochemistry to solve puzzles that continue to mystify scientists today. The nature of protein folding remains one of the most complex problems biologists face today, but with the innovative programming provided by the University of Washington, anyone with strong critical thinking skills can participate in the solution.
From Fast Company:
With four publications to their name, and a host of puzzles left to solve from deadly diseases to biofuels, Foldit has proven that the concept works.
Their latest solution has resolved a problem stumping scientists for a decade. Publishing in the journal Nature Structural & Molecular Biology on September 18 (the scientists and gamers are co-authors), researchers show how gamers provided the crucial insights to solve the structure of a protein-sniping enzyme critical for reproduction of the AIDS virus. With help from game-players' strategies, researchers revealed the enzymes' structure within three weeks and identified targets for drugs to neutralize it.
From The Los Angeles Times:
Foldit is a game produced by the University of Washington's Center for Game Science and department of Computer Science and Engineering, which also conducted the experiment of getting gamers to unlock the protein structure. The M-PMV protein is one of the enzymes that the HIV virus uses to multiply and grow into AIDS, the study said. Mapping out the structure of the protein could help scientists develop drugs to combat HIV and AIDS.
"Following the failure of a wide range of attempts to solve the crystal structure of M-PMV retroviral protease by molecular replacement, we challenged players of the protein folding game Foldit to produce accurate models of the protein," the university study said. "Remarkably, Foldit players were able to generate models of sufficient quality for successful molecular replacement and subsequent structure determination. The refined structure provides new insights for the design of antiretroviral drugs."
Best way to find more great content from Neon Tommy?
Or join our email list below to enjoy Neon Tommy News Alerts.