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Gamers Solve Medical Problem

Never say your kids are wasting their time with online gaming again. On the Foldit site gamers resolved the structure of a protein that had foxed scientists for 15 years in only three weeks.

M-PMV retroviral protease causes AIDS in rhesus monkeys. After the failure of attempts to find the crystal structure of it by other techniques, Foldit challenged players to produce accurate models of the protein. They did, and the structure was confirmed by x-ray crystallography. A paper has been published in Nature Structural and Molecular Biology with the gamers as co-authors.

These types of enzyme help the AIDS virus to develop and proliferate and intensive research is seeking to find a way of blocking them. But this was hampered by ignorance of the molecule's structure.

Foldit encourages gamers to collaborate and compete in suggesting the structure of protein molecules. Tools, and some assistance from a computer program called Rosetta, encourage participants to shufffle graphics into protein models.

Who said online games are all fun and no work?

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