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Video Gamers Help Scientists Fight Against AIDS

Brandon Wade, Getty Images

There has been another breakthrough in the fight against AIDS, but it wasn’t exactly found in a laboratory; it was found in a video game.

A group of online gamers have deciphered the structure of an enzyme of an AIDS-like virus that has been puzzling scientists for years. Figuring out the structure of these viruses is the key to understanding them and developing new cures against them. But scientists were never able to figure out the structure of this particular enzyme, which is very similar to the structure of the AIDS virus. Using the “fun-for-purpose” video game “Foldit,” gamers were able to produce an accurate model of the enzyme in just three weeks.

It is believed that this is the first time gamers have solved a long-standing scientific problem:

“We wanted to see if human intuition could succeed where automated methods had failed,” Firas Khatib of the university’s biochemistry lab said in a press release. “The ingenuity of game players is a formidable force that, if properly directed, can be used to solve a wide range of scientific problems.”

One of Foldit’s creators, Seth Cooper, explained why gamers had succeeded where computers had failed.

“People have spatial reasoning skills, something computers are not yet good at,” he said.

See parents? There’s nothing wrong with letting your kids play video games; they may end up finding the cure for AIDS one day.

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