Play to Cure – Croud Crunching Data to Advance Cancer Research

From a press release from Cancer Research UK;

February 4, 2014

It’s been an ambitious and challenging project but the day to unveil it to the world has arrived.

We’re delighted today to launch Genes in Space – a unique and enjoyable game that you can download and play for free on your smart phone:

It’s a game, so first and foremost it’s fun to play – boring train journeys, queues for that gig or waiting for that friend who’s always late could be transformed into exhilarating space adventures.

But that’s not the exciting bit.

Well it is. But there’s more. Much more.

By downloading and playing this pioneering game, you will be taking part in research to help beat cancer. It might sound far-fetched, but it’s true.

We’ve been working with our scientists and gaming experts for months to build the game, which on the surface is a simple and entertaining caper through space. But underneath it’s a data crunching powerhouse that’s helping our scientists identify the DNA faults that could lead to cancer.

Here’s a little teaser of the game:

Element Alpha: real data

In the game, you take the helm of a spaceship to collect valuable and powerful ‘Element Alpha’. The stroke of genius is that in doing so you are actually helping our scientists to analyse piles of real life data.

That’s because the game is actually a fun interface to allow the public to assist our scientists in the serious business of spotting patterns in gigabytes of genetic information from thousands of tumours.

There’s lots more information about the fascinating science behind the game in this post. But in a nutshell, by finding the best route to pick up the most Element Alpha, you’re actually plotting a course through genuine ‘DNA microarray’ data.

Behind the scenes, the code of the game translates real microarray data like this…:

Microarray data

Microarray data

…into this:

Mapping a journey through space

Mapping a journey through space

No expertise required

The game’s ingenuity lies in its simplicity. Racking up the combined data crunching power of what we hope will be thousands of casual gamers will help our scientists spot the subtle patterns and peaks and troughs in the data, which correspond to DNA faults.

The power of Element Alpha is of course completely fictional, but the power of the data it represents could be exceptional. Our scientists will be trawling through the results as they come in and looking for crucial clues in the quest for new cancer treatments.

So what are you waiting for? Start collecting mysterious Element Alpha to help us solve the mystery of cancer sooner.

Download the game 

About Gaming and Education

Through my research, I have found that games are a powerful tool for learning for players of all ages. Last year I earned my doctorate in Educational Leadership at Azusa Pacific University. My dissertation was entitled - Higher Order Thinking Skills in Digital Games. I have presented my research at the annual convention of the California Educational Research Association. In addition to teaching, I assist other researchers who are working in the field of games and Learning.

Posted on February 18, 2014, in Games and Health, Research and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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