It took online gamers three weeks to map the elusive structure of a retrovirus protein, called a protease, that has baffled scientists for more than a decade, according to a study published in the journal Nature Structural & Molecular Biology and reported by Fox News. Protease plays a vital role in the way that HIV multiplies. Researchers at the University of Washington used a university-developed program called Foldit that transforms real-world science problems into competitive computer games; in this case, players used their three-dimensional problem-solving tools to build accurate models of the protein. Previous automated attempts at mapping the enzyme had failed. Knowing the structure of protease will help researchers design new antiretroviral drugs that can deactivate proteases, thereby greatly reducing or halting the reproduction of HIV.

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