Players of Foldit Solve Problem in AIDS Research That Had Eluded Researchers for Years

A Folded up Protein in Foldit

A Folded up Protein in Foldit

Players of an online collaborative video game designed at the University of Washington – called Foldit – have solved a molecular puzzle that had been undiscovered by scientists for years. The undefined structure of a protein causing AIDS in rhesus monkeys that had puzzled researchers for 15 years was discovered by Foldit players and confirmed by x-ray crystallography. The details of the discovery are discussed in an article selected for advance online publication in Nature Structural & Molecular Biology on September 18, 2011.

Researchers at UW’s Center for Game Science believe that this discovery is the first instance in which online gamers solved a longstanding scientific problem. Talking with MSNBC, UW Postdoctoral Researcher Firas Khatib said, “This is one small piece of the puzzle in being able to help with AIDS.” Seth Cooper, lead designer and developer for Foldit, hopes that this article will show the world the power of citizen science. Seth believes Foldit’s success can be attributed to how well “games provide a framework for bringing together the strengths of computers and humans.”


More about Foldit:
Nature Structural & Molecular Biology Article on the Foldit M-PMV Protein Discovery (subscription required)
Computer Gamers Solve Problem in AIDS Research that Puzzled Scientists for Years on Discover Magazine
Public Solves Protein Structure on The Scientist
Gamers Solve Molecular Puzzle that Baffled Scientists on MSNBC
Visit Foldit’s Website