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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Andrew EisenSleaker - Uh, yeah. Obviously.09/01/2014 - 8:20pm
Sleaker@AE - exclusives do not a console business make.09/01/2014 - 8:03pm
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Papa MidnightAnd resulting in PC gaming continuing to be held back by developer habits09/01/2014 - 5:07pm
Papa MidnightI find it disappointing that the current gen of consoles is representative of 2009-2010 in PC gaming, and will be the bar by which games are released over the next 8 years - resulting in more years of poor PC ports (if they're ever ported)09/01/2014 - 5:06pm
Andrew EisenMeanwhile, 6 of Wii U's top 12 are exclusive: Mario 3D World, Nintendo Land, Pikmin 3, Mario Kart 8, Wonderful 101, and ZombiU. (Wind Waker HD is on the list too but I didn't count it.)09/01/2014 - 4:36pm
Andrew EisenLikewise, only two of Xbox One's top 12 are exclusive: Dead Rising 3 and Ryse: Son of Rome (if you ignore a PC release later this year).09/01/2014 - 4:34pm
Andrew EisenNot to disrespect the current gen of consoles but I find it telling that of the "12 Best Games For The PS4" (per Kotaku), only two are exclusive to the system: Infamous: Second Son and Resogun.09/01/2014 - 4:30pm
MaskedPixelantehttp://www.joystiq.com/2014/09/01/beyond-two-souls-ps4-trophies-emerge-directors-cut-reported/ MMM MMM, nothing quire like reheated last gen games to make you appreciate the 400 bucks you spent on a new console.09/01/2014 - 4:24pm
Andrew EisenThat's actually a super depressing thought, that a bunch of retweeters are taking that pic as an illustration of the actual issue instead of an example of a complete misunderstanding of it.09/01/2014 - 4:20pm
Andrew EisenObviously, the picture was created by someone who doesn't understand what the issue actually is (or, possibly, someone trying to satire said misunderstanding).09/01/2014 - 4:10pm
Papa MidnightPeople fear and attack what they do not understand.09/01/2014 - 4:04pm
Papa MidnightWell, let's not forget. Someone held their hand in a peace sign a few weeks ago and people started claiming it was a gang sign. Or a police chief displayed the hand signal of their fraternity and was accused of the same.09/01/2014 - 4:04pm
SleakerEither people don't understand that what the picture is saying is true, or the picture was created out of a misunderstanding of what sexism is.09/01/2014 - 3:52pm
Sleaker@AE ok yah that's where the kind of confusion I'm getting. Your tweet can be taken to mean two different things.09/01/2014 - 3:51pm
Andrew EisenSleaker - No. No, not even remotely. The pic attached to my tweet was not made by me; it's not a statement I'm making. It's an illustration of the complete misunderstanding of the issue my tweet is referring to.09/01/2014 - 3:13pm
Papa MidnightIn other news, Netflix states why it paid Comcast: http://money.cnn.com/2014/08/29/technology/netflix-comcast/index.html?hpt=hp_t209/01/2014 - 3:10pm
Papa MidnightAndrew Eisen: Sites like Tumblr make things seem much bigger than they are. A vocal extreme minority start complaining and things go as they do.09/01/2014 - 3:09pm
SleakerAre you trying saying that specific costumes are sexist simply by being included in the game?09/01/2014 - 3:03pm
Andrew EisenSleaker - Seems completely cut and dry to me (of course, I wrote it so that's not surprising). What about it do you find confusing?09/01/2014 - 2:25pm
 

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