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 EisenI'd love to but I'm at work. But once I get home... I'm going to work out for a while. But after THAT... I'm going to shower. Then eat. Then prep tomorrow's meals. And THEN play video games! YEAH!!!07/31/2015 - 8:38pm
Big Permlol, ya'll are still going back and forth? Take a break and play some video games07/31/2015 - 8:37pm
Andrew EisenGoth - Are you using "cabal" to describe a group of writers or to suggest they all worked together in secret to publish those articles?07/31/2015 - 8:30pm
Andrew EisenMatt - That doesn't disprove the general premise of the various articles as that's not what they're about. Unless, again, he's talking about a different batch of articles.07/31/2015 - 8:28pm
Goth_SkunkThe difference between one voice being offensive and a cabal being offensive.07/31/2015 - 8:22pm
MechaCrashFunny how "you're offended, so what" flips into "we're offended, retract everything and apologize."07/31/2015 - 8:18pm
MattsworknameIts not the only argument he points out ,its just one of them07/31/2015 - 8:06pm
Mattsworknameidea that Gamers as the articel puts it, the "White male sterotype are dead, essentially was compltely false07/31/2015 - 8:03pm
MattsworknameThe video actually shows that the shaw study actually disproves the Premise of the artices by showing that the "Gamer" dentity, has no actual meaning to thsoe who use it other then "I play games", its not connected to race, gender, or orientation. So the07/31/2015 - 8:01pm
Andrew EisenWith the exception of a brief mention in Golding's Tumbr post. Even so, he's talking about gamer identity, not desire for diversity in gaming.07/31/2015 - 7:50pm
Andrew EisenI'm not calling his examination of the Shaw study into question. I haven't read the study nor seen his video. All I'm saying is that it has nothing to do with the Gamers Are Dead articles I've been referencing for the last year.07/31/2015 - 7:49pm
MattsworknameSome times sargon just goes off on tangents but in this case he was pretty direct and went through teh research in detail, did the whole first video about the shaw study itself07/31/2015 - 7:45pm
Andrew EisenWell, unless it's disingenuous twaddle but I like to give people the benefit of the doubt.07/31/2015 - 7:42pm
Andrew EisenGotta be. The argument you describe makes no sense otherwise.07/31/2015 - 7:40pm
MattsworknameThat is a possibility, they looked like offical articles but its possible they are different from the articles you mentoin07/31/2015 - 7:28pm
Andrew EisenNot unless he's referring to a completely different set of Gamers Are Dead articles.07/31/2015 - 7:19pm
MattsworknameIT is possibel the articles aren't readily visable or no longer show up on the sites diretly, as over time they might have been shuffled around to get them outta teh spot lights07/31/2015 - 7:18pm
MattsworknameThe video proves otherwise andrew, the links to shaws research are in the articles themselves07/31/2015 - 7:17pm
RedMageAs someone who writes extensively himself, I can see when writing has been influenced by boiling anger from a mile away.07/31/2015 - 7:12pm
RedMageI also didn't see Leigh Alexander's original article as an attack on gamers; it was just poorly written. She'd likely had a terrible day and was projecting the activities of gaming's vicious fringe onto "gamers" collectively, however you describe that.07/31/2015 - 7:11pm
 

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