Facebook DNA: McGill University researchers turn genome into potential social game

Phylo
Phylo

Isn't it time our gaming habits did something productive for a change? How does contributing to genetic research sound? Well, a group of researchers from the McGill University School of Computer Science in Montreal have found a way for us to do just that with Phylo, a brand new browser game designed to boil down decoding strands of DNA, RNA and other proteins to an easily understandable matching game.

"Recognizing and sorting the patterns in the human genetic code falls in that category," lead researcher Jérôme Waldispuhl told Futurity. "Our new online game enables players to have fun while contributing to genetic research-players can even choose which genetic disease they want to help decode."

According to Futurity, many of the world's diseases are caused by defects in DNA code, an issue researchers are just beginning to crack the surface of. What seems to have been blocking researchers' way in the field are Multiple Sequence Alignments. This way of arranging DNA sequences could lead to researchers finding shared evolutionary origins, identifying functionally important sites, and illustrating mutation events. Most importantly, biologists can trace the source of certain genetic diseases through Multiple Sequence Alignments.

However, the sheer size of the genome (roughly three billion base pairs) has proven too much for even the most complex algorithms and heuristics, so McGill researchers have decided to employ us to do the computers' dirty work, picking up the pieces they might have left behind. But enough of the science behind it, let's find out how the game plays after the break.