Gamers have previously helped science unravel mysteries of protein folding by joining the Foldit project started by the University of Washington in 2008.
Now a new scientific game is out, one allowing gamers to assist scientists solve DNA sequencing issues that will provide greater understanding of diseases.
Phylo is only one year old, though users of the game have already contributed more than 350,000 solutions, with a further 1,000 being discovered each day.
“Phylo has contributed to improving our understanding of the regulation of 521 genes involved in a variety of diseases,” says co-creator Jerome Waldispuhl. “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. It’s a synergy of humans and machines that helps to solve one of the most fundamental biological problems.”
The idea of the program is to align the sequences of RNA, DNA, or proteins to identify regions that are similar and, by extension, learn such details as evolutionary origins and mutation events. Through this, biologists can trace the source of genetic diseases.
“There’s a lot of excitement in the idea of playing a game and contributing to science at the same time,” concludes computer science assistant professor and Phylo co-creator Mathieu Blanchette.