Gamers Solve AIDS Enzyme Puzzle
Flodit is a game that you can play to help scientist solve issues that computers can’t – in this case it’s the complex folding of an enzyme. The idea to essentially crowd source science is not new (think SETI@Home) but using a game to get people to participate in such a large task is. And it worked!
You can read about the success of the program and more about the complexity of enzymes here.
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 amino acids — the building blocks of proteins — using a set of online tools.
To the astonishment of the scientists, the gamers produced an accurate model of the enzyme in just three weeks.
Cracking the enzyme “provides new insights for the design of antiretroviral drugs,” says the study, referring to the lifeline medication against the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
It is believed to be the first time that gamers have resolved a long-standing scientific problem.
“We wanted to see if human intuition could succeed where automated methods had failed,” Firas Khatib of the university’s biochemistry lab said in a press release.
Here’s a video of the game in action: