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Gamers help scientists unravel enzyme

"Ingenuity of gamers is a formidable force."

Gamers have helped scientists unravel the structure of an enzyme closely associated with HIV.

The structure of the monomeric protease enzyme - a class of enzyme linked to the way the AIDS virus develops and spreads - was deciphered by scientists and players of Foldit, a game made by students at the University of Washington in 2008.

Foldit, which anyone can play, sees gamers compete against each other to unfold chains of amino acids using online tools.

Players produced an accurate 3D model of the enzyme in just three weeks, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

Scientists now hope the newly discovered structure will provide new insights into the design of antiretroviral drugs intended to keep people with HIV alive.

"We wanted to see if human intuition could succeed where automated methods had failed," Firas Khatib of the university's biochemistry lab said.

"The ingenuity of game players is a formidable force that, if properly directed, can be used to solve a wide range of scientific problems."

"People have spatial reasoning skills, something computers are not yet good at," Seth Cooper, one of Foldit's creators, added.