A new smartphone game that generates scientific data to detect altered genomic sequences may aid cancer research, according to the game´s developers.
The game, which was launched on 27th January, is available on Android and iOS devices was developed as a collaboration between gaming professionals and researchers at the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG) and Spain’s National Centre for Genomic Analysis (CNAG-CRG).
“Cell lines are responsible for the discovery of vaccines, chemotherapies for cancer or IVF for infertility. This makes them a pillar of modern biology,” said researcher Marc Marti-Renom of the Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies in Barcelona. “However, the lack of genome reference maps limits current scientific progress.”
Science “can often feel inaccessible for most people,” according to design coordinator Oriol Ripoll, but by playing GENIGMA, they can learn about science while contributing to cancer research.
Players must solve puzzles involving blocks of different shapes and colours to achieve the highest score.
Each string of blocks represents a genetic sequence in a cancer cell line. When players organize the blocks, the developers hope, they may find a solution to the location of genes and their correct sequence on a reference map
“Anyone with a smartphone from anywhere in the world can download GENIGMA for free and make a direct contribution to research, lending their logic and dexterity to the service of science,” said Elisabetta Broglio of Spain’s National Centre for Genomic Analysis, who claimed the game will analise “solutions provided by the players as a collective and not as individuals and will take advantage of creative solutions impossible to find with deterministic algorithms.”
The researchers believe that if 30,000 players solve 50 games each, this “herd intelligence” would produce enough data to reveal the reference map of the 20,000 genes in this breast-cancer cell line.