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Thread: Online gamers crack AIDS enzyme puzzle

  1. #1
    Senior Member Foolish Old's Avatar
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    Online gamers crack AIDS enzyme puzzle

    just sayin' ...

    Imagine what we could do with a different national paradigm. We've got millions of very bright people working hundreds of millions of hours at killing video enemies and becoming grand wizards in virtual worlds. Maybe we could rededicate some of that candle power if we really want solutions? So much of what we do in this country to address problems is non-productive. End the secrecy and turf wars. Make solving our important problems a national collaboration for seeking solutions.

    Here's a start.

    Online gamers have achieved a feat beyond the realm of Second Life or Dungeons and Dragons: they have deciphered the structure of an enzyme of an AIDS-like virus that had thwarted scientists for a decade.

    The exploit is published on Sunday in the journal Nature Structural & Molecular Biology, where -- exceptionally in scientific publishing -- both gamers and researchers are honoured as co-authors.

    Their target was a monomeric protease enzyme, a cutting agent in the complex molecular tailoring of retroviruses, a family that includes HIV.
    Figuring out the structure of proteins is vital for understanding the causes of many diseases and developing drugs to block them.

    But a microscope gives only a flat image of what to the outsider looks like a plate of one-dimensional scrunched-up spaghetti. Pharmacologists, though, need a 3-D picture that "unfolds" the molecule and rotates it in order to reveal potential targets for drugs.

    This is where Foldit comes in.

    Developed in 2008 by the University of Washington, it is a fun-for-purpose video game in which gamers, divided into competing groups, compete to unfold chains of amino acids -- the building blocks of proteins -- using a set of online tools.

    To the astonishment of the scientists, the gamers produced an accurate model of the enzyme in just three weeks.
    source
    Foolish

    "We have met the enemy and he is us."-POGO.

    "I have great faith in fools; self-confidence my friends call it."~Edgar Allan Poe

    "Dream big, you might never wake up!"- Snoop Dogg

  2. #2
    Quote Originally Posted by Foolish Old View Post
    just sayin' ...

    Imagine what we could do with a different national paradigm. We've got millions of very bright people working hundreds of millions of hours at killing video enemies and becoming grand wizards in virtual worlds. Maybe we could rededicate some of that candle power if we really want solutions? So much of what we do in this country to address problems is non-productive. End the secrecy and turf wars. Make solving our important problems a national collaboration for seeking solutions.

    Here's a start.
    but without secrecy and turf wars very small groups of people can't win "the race" and get wildly rich... and isn't money a far better motivator than that of contributing to the public good?

  3. #3
    Senior Member Van Quad's Avatar
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    Amazing story FO.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Foolish Old's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Patton57 View Post
    but without secrecy and turf wars very small groups of people can't win "the race" and get wildly rich... and isn't money a far better motivator than that of contributing to the public good?
    Yes, money is the primary goal of most of the folk calling the shots. This is not to say that they don't also have noble motivations, its just that the bottom line is their bottom line.
    Foolish

    "We have met the enemy and he is us."-POGO.

    "I have great faith in fools; self-confidence my friends call it."~Edgar Allan Poe

    "Dream big, you might never wake up!"- Snoop Dogg

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Foolish Old View Post
    just sayin' ...

    Imagine what we could do with a different national paradigm. We've got millions of very bright people working hundreds of millions of hours at killing video enemies and becoming grand wizards in virtual worlds. Maybe we could rededicate some of that candle power if we really want solutions? So much of what we do in this country to address problems is non-productive. End the secrecy and turf wars. Make solving our important problems a national collaboration for seeking solutions.

    Here's a start.

    source
    Foolish,

    I likewise wish that there is a way of harnessing the intelligence of many people to work on a problem. A few months ago, I probably would have disagreed with your comment about secrecy and turf wars as being a major obstacle to scientific progress. Now, I am not so sure.

    As you know, the National Institutes of Health model of scientific funding is competition for funding based on peer-review. This model has been accepted world-wide, including by the Department of Defense in their efforts to find solutions for brain and spinal cord injury.

    Despite billions of dollars of investment, they have not yet come up with any practical therapies for brain or spinal cord injury, except in the area of prevention. They have not come up with any therapy that can be applied in the battlefield or afterwards to restore function (that I have heard of).

    Why? The weakness with the NIH system is that it is only as good as the peer reviewers, who have to grade the applications. Peer reviewers can be fooled and tend to support accepted dogma. Innovation and outside of the box thinking are generally not viewed with favor.

    As the competition for funds get tougher (currently, less than 10% of applications are being funded), the likelihood of innovative (which by definition is high-risk) applications being funded has fallen dramatically. As a consequence, NIH has tended to reward staid and safe research.

    On the other hand, NIH also rewards productive scientists who have a history of innovative research. They give such scientists long-term (7-10 year) grants and relative freedom to do their best science and such programs have generally accounted for much of NIH's success.

    The DOD is taking a new approach that, in my opinion, may be better for mission-oriented research. They are giving out large grants ($30-50 million) to university consortia that are put on a short leash to deliver quantifiable results.

    I am still learning about this system but think that it has significant merits and hope that it will yield results. The Department of Defense has very strong motivation to fund brain and spinal cord injury research. Their doctors are crying out for new tools and therapies to treat their soldiers

    Over 25% of battlefield casualties suffered by the U.S. armed forces involve brain and spinal cord injury. A 2009 Rand Corp. study suggests that ~360,000 soldiers have suffered brain injury, over 10,000 have severe brain injuries, and >6000 have spinal cord injuries in Iraq & Afghanistan.

    The VA hospitals now care for 15% of spinal-injured people in the U.S. The bill for the head injury care is still coming in. Care of wounded warriors now accounts for a very significant fraction of the department of defense budget.

    Wise.





    Wise.

  6. #6

    Dr. Wise

    You say 6000 have spinal cord injuries in Iraq & Afghanistan. Do you know if the U S A military is doing any work with spinal cord or what trials do they support surely they can not be leaving all up to you
    AS I SIT HERE IN MY CHAIR . I LOOK OUT UPON THE GROUND .I WONDER WILL I EVER GET UP AND WALK A ROUND ??


    http://justadollarplease.org

  7. #7
    Wow.. this "news" article has so much "spin" on it it hardly even resembles the actual paper LOL! First off, there is no such thing as an AIDS enzyme... AIDS is a disease... DUH! And they solved the structure of a retroviral protease of the Mason-Pfizer monkey virus. Not HIV. It is related to HIV in the same way any other retrovirus is. And it was not strictly "gamers"... it was a whole array of people all over the world who use Foldit, from every background imaginable. Much more informative and accurate article here- http://the-scientist.com/2011/09/18/...ein-structure/
    Foldit is a really cool way to use up lots of free time... you have been warned ;-) http://fold.it/

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Patton57 View Post
    but without secrecy and turf wars very small groups of people can't win "the race" and get wildly rich... and isn't money a far better motivator than that of contributing to the public good?
    One word- Linux

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