Online gamers use Foldit to unfold the structure of HIV/Aids virus that has eluded scientists for decades, revealing its fundamental structure for potential targeting by drugs.
"The ingenuity of game players is a formidable force that, if properly directed, can be used to solve a wide range of scientific problems," said Firas Khatib of the University of Washington’s biochemistry lab said in a press release. "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."
Scientists mine databases to find old drugs a new purpose
For all the testing we do, drugs are still mysterious things—they can activate pathways we never connected with them or twiddle the dials in some far-off part of the body. To see if drugs already FDA-approved for certain diseases could be used to treat other conditions, scientists lined up two online databases and discovered two drugs that, when tested in mice, worked against diseases they’d never been meant for, suggesting that mining of such information could be a fertile strategy for finding new treatments.
The two new drug candidates were an epilepsy drug used to treat irritable bowel syndrome, and a heartburn drug that shows promise against lung cancer. These seem like unlikely pairings, but the approach is ingenious, cost-effective, and hopefully very fruitful.