Foldit, a protein-folding GWAP that I reviewed earlier in the year is making big waves on the Internet today. News outlets were abuzz today with headlines touting Foldit players’ achievements in cracking a long-standing AIDS research puzzle. It took just three weeks for ‘gamers’ to decipher the structure of a key retrovirus protein, called a protease - something that has stumped AIDS researchers for over a decade
“The protein, called a protease, plays a critical role in how some viruses, including HIV, multiply. Intensive research has been underway to find AIDS drugs that can deactivate proteases, but scientists were hampered by their inability to crack the enzyme’s structure.”
The discovery is helping to identify targets within the molecular structure for antiretroviral drugs to block the enzyme, and gives researchers a new perspective on drug design.
The efforts of Foldit players and the research implications of their discovery are published in Nature Structural & Molecular Biology: Crystal structure of a monomeric retroviral protease solved by protein folding game player [http://www.cs.washington.edu/homes/zoran/NSMBfoldit-2011.pdf]