Three weeks was all it took for a group of gamers to decipher the structure of a retrovirus protein that confounded scientists for well over ten years. And, with these gamers’ help, these same scientists say that there are new doors open for AIDS drug designs.
The protein these gamers unraveled, called a protease, plays a critical role in how viruses, including HIV, multiply in the body. The thing that was keeping the eggheads back, though, was the fact that they did not understand the protease’s structure.
So, they turned to another group of eggheads (gamers) at the University of Washington—members of a program called Foldit. Foldit was created to transform scientific problems into competitive computer games. These gamers then used their three-dimensional problem-solving skills to build accurate models of the protease.
Using these same models, the scientists pieced together the enzyme’s structure and found parts that could be targeted by man-made medicines in order to stop the multiplication of HIV within the body.
And who said video games were a waste of time?