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  (Source: South Park Studios/Comedy Central)
It's the first time gamers have found the solution to a longstanding scientific problem

Video games may not enhance cognitive abilities, as concluded by a recent Florida State University study, but that doesn't mean that gamers aren't capable of achievement beyond just saving the princess.

Gamers have successfully figured out the structure of an enzyme of a virus similar to AIDS, which has baffled scientists for about a decade.

Scientists at the University of Washington have been stumped by the structure of a monomeric protease enzyme, which is an agent in the "complex molecular tailoring" of the family of retroviruses that includes HIV. Scientists could only see a one-dimensional, flat image of the protein through microscopes and needed a 3D image in order to unravel the molecule. By doing this, researchers could reveal potential targets for drug treatments and better understand how certain diseases work in general.

In 2008, the University of Washington researchers developed a video game called Foldit, which challenges teams of gamers to unfold chains of amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) using certain tools.

Gamers were divided into competing groups, and played the fun-for-purpose video game. In just three weeks, the gamers had created an accurate model of the enzyme. According to Yahoo News, it's the first time gamers have found the solution to a longstanding scientific problem.

"We wanted to see if human intuition could succeed where automated methods had failed," said Firas Khatib, of the University of Washington's biochemistry lab. "The ingenuity of game players
is a formidable force that, if properly directed, can be used to solve a wide range of scientific problems."

Seth Cooper, one of Foldit's creators, explained that the gamer's succeeded where the computer failed because people have spatial reasoning skills, and the game further brought the strengths of humans as well as computers together.

Scientists are now using the knowledge of the structure to try to develop better treatments for retroviruses like HIV.




"Game reviewers fought each other to write the most glowing coverage possible for the powerhouse Sony, MS systems. Reviewers flipped coins to see who would review the Nintendo Wii. The losers got stuck with the job." -- Andy Marken







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