Gamers help scientists study genetics and disease

December 7, 2011 -

Scientists are using a web-based video game to entice gamers to assist them in the study of genetic diseases.

The game, called Phylo and launched in November 2010, allows players to rearrange colored blocks that represent human DNA. Scientists have been studying the results and will release their findings soon. 

The game has more than 17,000 registered users and more than 350,000 solutions have been found to alignment sequence problems. According to an article on MedicalXpress.com, the game was created by Dr. Jérôme Waldispuhl and his students at McGill School of Computer Science:

Waldispuhl and his students came up with the idea of using a to solve the problem of DNA multiple sequence alignment because it is a task that is difficult for computers to do well. "There are some calculations that the human brain does more efficiently than any computer can. Recognizing and sorting visual patterns fall in that category," explained Waldispuhl. "Computers are best at handling large amounts of messy data, but where we require high accuracy, we need humans. In this case, the genomes we're analyzing have already been pre-aligned by computers, but there are parts of it that are misaligned. Our goal is to identify these parts and transform the task of aligning them into a puzzle people will want to sort out."

Waldisphul also said:

"Phylo has contributed to improving our understanding of the regulation of 521 genes involved in a variety of diseases. It also confirms that difficult computational problems can be embedded in a casual game that can easily be played by people without any scientific training. What we're doing here is different from classical citizen science approaches. We aren't substituting humans for computers or asking them to compete with the machines. They are working together. It's a synergy of humans and machines that helps to solve one of the most fundamental biological problems."

If you want to give scientists a helping hand, play the game.


Comments

Re: Gamers help scientists study genetics and disease

Stuff like Folding @home are good additions I think its great to leave your system on once a week to help out

 
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AvalongodAgree with Quiknkold. @Mecha...if that worked we would have figured out how to prevent these long ago.10/24/2014 - 11:32pm
MechaCrashUnfortunately, you have to focus on the perpetrator to figure out the whys so you can try to prevent it from happening again.10/24/2014 - 10:55pm
quiknkoldpoor girl. poor victims. rather focus on them then the shooter. giving too much thought to the monster takes away from the victims.10/24/2014 - 10:15pm
Andrew EisenFor what it's worth, early reports are painting the motive as "he was pissed that a particular girl wouldn't date him."10/24/2014 - 10:12pm
quiknkoldwell then I suck as a man cause I ask for help when necessary :P10/24/2014 - 10:07pm
Technogeek(That said, mostly I was making the smartass evopsych comment because your post seemed like the kind of just-so story that has come to dominate 99% of its usage.)10/24/2014 - 10:04pm
TechnogeekHell, Liam Neeson built his modern career around it. Cultural factors likely play a far greater role than you appear willing to admit.10/24/2014 - 10:03pm
TechnogeekSeriously, though, the idea of "because women are protectors and that's why they never commit school shootings" is, at best, grossly overreductive. There's nothing inherently feminine about being willing to kill in order to protect one's offspring.10/24/2014 - 10:03pm
MechaCrashThe "toxic masculinity" thing refers to how you have to SUCK IT UP AND BE A MAN because seeking help is seen as weakness, which means you suck at manliness, so it builds and builds and builds until something finally snaps.10/24/2014 - 10:01pm
quiknkoldthere, I'm done. And thats what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown10/24/2014 - 9:54pm
quiknkoldand I am not spouting Evopsych, technogeek. tbh I never heard the phrase till you said it. I'm going off my observations.10/24/2014 - 9:54pm
quiknkoldmoreover, the guy who did this isnt even white. He was native american according to the news report I read. Also that he went for a specific target. That's a much different picture than a certain Sandy Hook guy who will not be named10/24/2014 - 9:53pm
quiknkoldbut I am also certain nobody in their right mind is committing these shootings singing the Machoman song. these are sick individuals who have given up on life10/24/2014 - 9:51pm
Technogeekevopsych lol10/24/2014 - 9:49pm
quiknkoldWhen you suffer from mental illness, youre more likely to go by instinct. yes. I came off as sexist.10/24/2014 - 9:46pm
quiknkoldmore on somthing they are fixated on. Post Partum Depression is an example. This is why a woman is less likely to go off on a rampage.10/24/2014 - 9:44pm
quiknkoldA Mother will fight to protect her children or her mate. This does not mean they are any different then males when it comes to destruction and mental illness. A Woman has just enough opportunity to be sick like a man. The difference is they will focus10/24/2014 - 9:43pm
quiknkoldsociologist. I've spent years observing and I've come to the conclusion that a big reason men and women are different is because Women are Protectors. Women wont wantonly kill because they are all about protecting what they care about. They are wired this10/24/2014 - 9:43pm
james_fudgeYeah having a penis probably doesn't have a lot to do with it10/24/2014 - 9:32pm
quiknkoldIts Mental Illness. Nobody who is actually sane would willingly walk into a school and commit that. its Mental Illness topped with Teenage Angst. and I'm going to say something that may be construed as sexist, but I dont mean it as such. I mean it as a...10/24/2014 - 9:29pm
 

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