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Posted on Sep 19, 2011 in Games PR

Gamers Solve HIV-related Mystery


Structure of Molecule Solved by Gamers.

May Help In Halting Spread of Many Viruses Including HIV.

In a study published by the journal Nature Structural & Molecular Biology, gamers took three weeks to solve a problem that had stumped scientists for years. A mystery had surrounded the precise crystal structure of the M-PMV retroviral protease. In simple terms retroviral proteases are what allow viruses to reproduce. The implications to understanding how viruses reproduce could have a broad impact – stopping the reproduction of viruses including HIV.


Scientists provided gamers with a program that facilitates the creation of three dimensional molecular structures by using a puzzle-like mechanic. This program, called FoldIt, has been used since 2008 and has been employed to solve problems related to Alzheimers and Cancer, among other things. The gamers’ solution, while not perfect, gave scientists a solid map from which they could refine the details of the structure and solve the mystery.

In the conclusion of the report it stated, "The critical role of Foldit players in the solution of the M-PMV PR structure shows the power of online games to channel human intuition and three-dimensional pattern-matching skills to solve challenging scientific problems." It is hoped that by harnessing the creative power of humans’ ability to conceptualize three-dimensional structures that even more breakthroughs will be possible.

At the time this report was published it appeared as though the FoldIt website had crashed, presumably due to heavy traffic. It is located at

The study, conducted by the University of Washington, which also created the FoldIt applicaiton, can be found here.