As has happened in the past, avid and talented online gamers have been tapped to solve puzzles representing the toughest and most complex of diseases. This time around, the solutions to a molecular biology puzzle may lead to new drugs to fight HIV.
Gamers were called upon, and they did not fail to deliver, as they solved the puzzle and hopefully positive gains will be made. The structure that was created can be used in designed drugs, which includes those that could possibly be anti-HIV drugs.
Foldit, the website and game released by biochemist David Baker and his colleagues at the University of Washington a couple years ago, allows players to compete and work together to find ways to fold protein structures based on the laws of physics.
Apparently researchers have been trying to figure out the shape of the retroviral protease for 15 years, but Foldit players managed to solve the puzzle a matter of days. The solution was confirmed, and once again demonstrates the power of video games in solving real life science problems.
“These results indicate the potential for integrating video games into the real-world scientific process: the ingenuity of game players is a formidable force that, if properly directed, can be used to solve a wide range of scientific problems,” concluded the paper published in Nature Structural & Molecular Biology.
What’s more, last summer the creators of Foldit determined that human players were superior to computers in solving such protein puzzles, as they provide more creativity and ingenuity.
This is not the first time gamers have been called upon by science. Researchers at McGill created a similar online game last year called Phylo, in which gamers were used to solve genetic sequencing problems.