Online gamers solve HIV puzzle that stymied scientists

From CBS News Health Pop   September 20, 2011

(CBS/AP) Online gaming is fun but not a productive use of time, right? Not so fast. Online gamers have deciphered the molecular structure of a key protein that retroviruses like HIV/AIDS need to multiply – an achievement that scientists believe will aid in the development of new AIDS drugs.

The non-scientist gamers came up with an accurate model of the so-called protease molecule in three weeks. Biochemists had been trying to create such a model for more than a decade.

“It’s the power of citizen science,” said Firas Khatib, a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of University of Washington biochemistry professor David Baker. Baker’s lab developed the game, called Foldit, about three years ago, believing that they could tap into the brain power that puzzle-loving humans pour into computer games.


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