Tuesday, September 20, 2011

So I guess Video Games don't turn everyone's heads to mush!

Online gamers crack AIDS enzyme puzzle

Online gamers have achieved a feat beyond the realm of Second Life or Dungeons and Dragons: they have deciphered the structure of an enzyme of an AIDS-like virus that had thwarted scientists for a decade.
Photo by AFP
The exploit is published on Sunday in the journal Nature Structural & Molecular Biology, where -- exceptionally in scientific publishing -- both gamers and researchers are honoured as co-authors.

Their target was a monomeric protease enzyme, a cutting agent in the complex molecular tailoring of retroviruses, a family that includes HIV.

Figuring out the structure of proteins is vital for understanding the causes of many diseases and developing drugs to block them.

But a microscope gives only a flat image of what to the outsider looks like a plate of one-dimensional scrunched-up spaghetti. Pharmacologists, though, need a 3-D 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 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. "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 Foldit's creators, Seth Cooper, explained why gamers had succeeded where computers had failed. "People have spatial reasoning skills, something computers are not yet good at," he said. "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."

About Mariam

Life is sweet

Life is sweet

And they lived happily ever after

And they lived happily ever after

One day a beautiful Jewish girl met a nice Jewish boy and made their mothers very, very, very happy

One day a beautiful Jewish girl met a nice Jewish boy and made their mothers very, very, very happy

About Me

For those of you who know me, writing has always been one of my passions, with the exception of my Masters or any ridiculously long testament within the wide world of Academia. I've only had the pleasure of blogging a couple of times, mostly for a few classes in graduate school, but figured it was time to organize my numerous thoughts and musings with all of you out there in cyber land. I created this page because my mind is always running and often times my thoughts get lost in the hubub. Plus, my friends have always said that I'm a great storyteller, so I'd love to share them now with you. In the meantime, I'll leave you with this... Throughout the past 33 years of my life I've seen, heard, and experienced so many different things as well as had many adventures and dream of so many possibilities. But in short, what it comes down to is this..I'm just a little Jubana trying to make a difference in the world. Everyday I live my life to the fullest and have fun doing it. Life can't always be about work or how much money you make. There's so much more to life than that.