Online gamers have successfully solved a puzzle that has baffled scientists for years by putting together the structure of a retrovirus enzyme.
Scientists believe that the structure of the AIDS like retrovirus enzyme holds the key to creating medicine for the dreaded AIDS disease.
The feat was achieved using an online game called FoldIt, which was developed by computer scientists at the University of Washington Center for Game Science, which is aimed at allowing to collaborate and determine the structure of protein molecules.
This is probably the first time gamers have succeeded in solving a problem that has baffled scientists. The gamers came up with the correct structure of the retrovirus enzyme in under three weeks.
The retrovirus enzyme is essential for determining how the AIDS virus matures so that scientists could develop medicine to block these enzymes.
"People have spatial reasoning skills, something computers are not yet good at," said Dr Seth Cooper of the UW Department of Computing Science and Engineering.
"Games provide a framework for bringing together the strengths of computers and humans. The results in this week's paper show that gaming, science and computation can be combined to make advances that were not possible before" he added.
The paper can be read here.