Gamers Solve AIDS Enzyme Puzzle

If you thought playing games was just for fun, well Foldit is a game that has people solve problems for science. That itself is pretty neat, but what pushes this one over the edge is that Foldit has brought some great results and fast!

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.
Cracking the enzyme “provides new insights for the design of antiretroviral drugs,” says the study, referring to the lifeline medication against the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
It is believed to be the first time that gamers have resolved a long-standing scientific problem.
“We wanted to see if human intuition could succeed where automated methods had failed,” Firas Khatib of the university’s biochemistry lab said in a press release.

Read the rest of the article.

Thanks Kathryn!

Vaginal Gel Cuts HIV Infections by Half

The International Aids Conference is currently underway in Vienna right now and some exciting news has been announced there. A new vaginal gel containing an AIDs drug is excellent at curtailing HIV infections.

The gel was found to be both safe and acceptable when used once in the 12 hours before sex and once in the 12 hours after sex by women aged 18 to 40 years.

Salim Abdool Karim, one of the two leading co-researchers, told reporters in Vienna that the 889 women involved in the trial, conducted in the coastal city of Durban and a remote rural village, had largely used the gel as directed.

They were also given condoms and advice about sexually transmitted diseases, and tested for HIV once a month.

After 30 months, 98 women became infected with HIV – 38 in the group that got tenofovir in the gel and 60 in the group that got placebos.

Buy Things, Fight AIDS

A new organization called RED created a bit of a buzz this World AIDS Day. Along with the backing of the usual Irish rock singers and African soccer players, they’ve partnered with a number of major corporations to raise both awareness and funds. Apple, Nike, Starbucks and Facebook are some of the names involved. This means you can buy an iPod, and some of the cash you spend will go to The Global Fund. Just in time for the holidays!

(RED)™ is a simple idea that transforms our collective power as shoppers into a financial force that helps those affected by HIV in Africa. To date, $140 million has been generated and 4 million people have been helped through Global Fund programs that (RED) supports. When you choose to buy products from (RED) partner companies up to 50% of the profit goes towards eliminating AIDS in Africa.

Read more at the RED blog

Malawi Handing Out Free Drugs

The African country of Malawi is expanding a successful program that gave out free drugs to fight AIDs. The country is founding a new company to make the drugs for their people and to export drugs to their neighbours.

“Some 250,000 Malawians are receiving ARVs. We are doing well because many of these could have died by now,” Mutharika said at an AIDS candlelight memorial on the outskirts of the commercial capital Blantyre.

Describing the drugs roll-out as a “success story”, Mutharika said Malawi would establish a local company to “produce ARVs locally and export extra drugs to neighbouring countries”.

HIV/AIDS Drug Patent Revoked

Doctors WIthout Borders has released a press release that says that an HIV/AIDS drug can now be made generically. This will lower the cost of the drug allowing more people access to it, this is very important for people living in the developing world. The company that held the patent, Gilead Sciences, claimed to have invented the drug tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (TDF), which has been discredited based on prior art.

In India, the Indian Network for People Living with HIV/AIDS opposed Gilead’s patent application in May 2006 on similar grounds to PUBPAT’s challenge in the US. The evidence on which the US based its decision could therefore lead to the Indian patent office rejecting the patent application. Similarly, in Brazil, a patent opposition filed by HIV/AIDS groups and a government pharmaceutical laboratory could also mean a patent might not be granted for TDF in Brazil.

If a patent is not granted in these countries, generic manufacturers could freely manufacture and export generic versions of TDF without restrictions, leading to greater competition and therefore lower prices.

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