Foldit Users Solve Baffling Problem

by Jeff Cork on Sep 19, 2011 at 03:55 AM

In a victory for gamification and science, online players of the Foldit application managed to unravel a complicated HIV-like enzyme that scientists have puzzled over for a decade. They figured it out in three weeks flat, too.

Thanks to the efforts of the Foldit community, scientists potentially have greater insight on the monomeric protease enzyme, which is in the same family as HIV. This could allow for new treatments. The findings have been published in the journal Nature Structural & Molecular Biology, and you can read them here.

Foldit is an application that adds a competitive element to the task of unraveling complicated proteins via PC. Traditional 2D images of these proteins are nearly useless to pharmaceutical researchers, which is why it's critical to have 3D models of the structures. Computers don't do a very good job of unpacking the shapes. That's where gamers come in. Check out the video below for a good explanation of how it works. If you'd like to try it for yourself, visit Foldit's site.



[Source: Yahoo News, via a news tip from Gian]