Gamers Solve Decades Old AIDS Enzyme Problem: One Step Closer to Victory
It appears that a group of scientists have taken a unique route to solving enzyme folding problems. Rather than simply relying on countless hours of constant computer simulations, the University of Washington decided that what was really needed was an element of human special recognition. This Foldit was born.
Foldit is a puzzle game that was designed to combine the parts of the human mind that cannot yet be mimicked by computing with complex calculations that only a piece of well-written software could hope to handle.
The target of this specific test was a monomeric protease enzyme which is a cutting agent in the complex tailoring of retroviruses, a definition that includes HIV, basically.
Figuring out the structure of proteins is vital in this kind of research and has traditionally been difficult. Computers simply don’t have the special recognition to make anything other than countless, random attempts and humans have only been able to view proteins in as a top-down 2D image through microscopes. Foldit not only provides a workable 3D model of proteins, but also turns solving the problem in to a fun game.
Of course, this tool could have been utilised solely by scientists, but online gamers have had years, even decades more experience at solving interactive 3D puzzles than many members of the scientific community. Not to mention that there are a lot of gamers out there.
In just 3 weeks, gamers deciphered an enzyme structure similar to AIDS that had eluded scientists for decades.This is an important step towards understanding and (hopefully) eventually treating retroviruses such as HIV and AIDS. We don’t need to tell you that this is pretty cool and we look forward to seeing what other breakthroughs come from Foldit in the future.
In the meantime if you want to play it you can find it here.
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