Online gamers solve enzyme problem
ONLINE gamers have astonished scientists by resolving a long-standing puzzle over the structure of an enzyme that may be the key to developing new drug targets for retroviruses.
The exploit is published in the journal, Nature Structural & Molecular Biology, where – exceptionally in scientific publishing – both gamers and researchers are recognised as co-authors.
The gamers’ target was a monomeric protease enzyme, a cutting agent in the complex molecular tailoring of retroviruses, a family that includes HIV.
A microscope gives only a flat image whereas pharmacologists need a 3D picture that "unfolds" the molecule and rotates it in order to reveal potential targets for drugs.
This is where Foldit comes in.
Developed in 2008 by the University of Washington, it is a fun-for-purpose video game in which gamers, divided into competing groups, compete to unfold chains of