Gamers Helped Scientists To Crack Enzyme Structure Associated With HIV

By   /   Sep 19, 2011

Life can’t be imagined without enzymes. Whether it’s a human being or a tiny virus, enzymes play the pivotal in all the living systems catalyzing various biochemical reactions. Enzymes are folded proteins composed of Amino acids as the building blocks. The function of an enzyme is highly dependent on its structure. If a biologist knows the sequence and structure of the enzyme molecule, he can theoretically increase or inhibit its functionality by making small changes in its structure.

Foldit is a multiplayer online game that encourages players to analyze the amino acid sequence of a protein molecule. M-PMV retroviral protease is an enzyme found in retroviruses and HIV happens to be a retrovirus. Where scientist failed to present the 3D model of this enzyme, a group of gamers used their skills to present fairly accurate structure of the enzyme. This can help scientists in further studies which can lead to various possibilities involving some anti-viral cure for the ever dangerous HIV.

How gamers were able to do where scientists actually failed? Firas Khatib of the university’s biochemistry lab said in a press release:

We wanted to see if human intuition could succeed where automated methods had failed. The ingenuity of game players is a formidable force that, if properly directed, can be used to solve a wide range of scientific problems

One of the designers of Foldit, Seth Cooper also explained the reason:

People have spatial reasoning skills, something computers are not yet good at,Games provide a framework for bringing together the strengths of computers and humans. The results in this week’s paper show that gaming, science and computation can be combined to make advances that were not possible before


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