A few weeks back, we looked at Power Sleep, a mobile application that allows users to donate their mobile device’s processing power to cancer research while they sleep. This week’s application achieves the same goal, helping cure cancer, but it requires a little more user input. Play to Cure™: Genes in Space is a free mobile game that uses its players to analyze real genetic data by simply playing a game. The object of the game is to navigate a space ship through a swatch of space, avoiding and shooting asteroids while collecting a substance called Element Alpha. Finding the best route to collect Element Alpha helps the gamer earn more points, but behind the scenes, also helps identify patterns in a genuine DNA microarray data. The developers have transformed DNA microarrays (top picture) into a playable map in the game (bottom picture). When gamers find shifts in the DNA pattern, researchers know alterations have occurred in a specific part of the genome, which may help them discover key genes that cause cancer and identify regions that are frequently faulty in different cancers. The game’s developers hope the combined power of game’s players will help analyze heaps of data in a fraction of the time. With more than 100 million smartphone gamers in the US alone, and half of them spending close to 200 hours per year playing mobile games, the potential is there. If you are a smartphone gamer and want to help out, you can download Play to Cure™: Genes in Space for free from the Apple App Store for iOS devices and the Google Play store for Android devices.
About Ben Amirault
Ben Amirault was formerly the marketing manager at Barton Associates' Peabody, MA headquarters. He received a B.A. in English, specializing in journalism, from the University of New Hampshire.