Fold.it is a distributed computing project where gamers play around with proteins and link amino acids to find the optimal configurations for them. So far the foldings tried were proofs of principle for known configurations, but for the first time these gamers were set loose on a decade-old science problem: unraveling the structure of the Mason-Pfizer monkey virus (M-PMV) retroviral protease, an enzyme HIV uses to multiply.
The Contenders team, a dozen people from all over the world working together through the program and its chat function, came up with the best solution in a mesmerizing 10 days. Victory was appropriately celebrated by bringing out a champagne toast shared over Skype. As far as we know, this is the first time such a game-like program has been put to actual scientific use, but we are hoping for many more similar stories to come. [Medgadget]
The full paper is available at this .pdf. The Fold.it site (which is down when I last checked) also announced they have two more protein discoveries in the pipeline, one of which is a brand new synthetic protein. I hope it tastes like bacon.