Online Gamers May Have Solved An AIDS Riddle
In a ridiculously awesome combination of Bioinformatics and MMO gaming, the structure of an enzyme structure of a virus in the same family as HIV has been successfully deciphered by players of an online play-with-purpose game called Foldit. Foldit, (Slogan: Solve puzzles for science”) developed in 2008 by the University of Washington, it is an online game in which players compete to unfold chains of amino acids. Essentially, it’s an attempt to create a kind of scientific equivalent of crowdsourcing, and it worked. Previous efforts were focused on computer modeling but because, in the words Foldit co-creator Seth Cooper, “People have spatial reasoning skills, something computers are not yet good at,” results were slow going. So an attempt was made to speed the process up by bringing in Foldit players.
Players were tasked with deciphering a monomeric protease enzyme in the virus (as in ‘protease inhibitors’ common to treatments for HIV). Astonishingly, they managed to crack it within 3 weeks. The discovery doesn’t portend an immediate cure for AIDS. However, it will reap numerous benefits for antiretroviral drugs, used to treat infections like HIV and Hepatitis.
Left unsaid is whether or not the study will yield any cure for swamp ass. We doubt it, but we’ll keep you posted.