Playing a new video game could actually help researchers find a cure for cancer. Cancer Research UK today announced Play to Cure: Genes in Space, a mobile game that aims to unravel gene data to help scientists answer "some of cancer's toughest questions."
Professor Carlos Caldas of the UK's Cambridge Research Institute said that playing the game will "help us find ways to diagnose and treat cancer more precisely--sooner."
Play to Cure: Genes in Space is available today as a free download for iOS and Android devices. In the game, you guide a spaceship through an "intergalactic assault course" in an effort to collect material called "Element Alpha."
Every time you steer your spaceship towards this material, this data is fed to Cancer Research UK scientists, which in turn provides analysis of variations of gene data, the group said.
"Scientists need this information to work out which genes are faulty in cancer patients so they can develop new drugs that target them, speeding our progress towards personalized medicine," Cancer Research UK said. "Each section of gene data will be tracked by several different players to ensure accuracy."
More specifically, Play to Cure: Genes in Space aims to help scientists analyze massive amounts of data through a technology called "gene microarrays."
"Researchers use gene microarrays to look for regions of our genome that are frequently faulty in different cancers--a sign that they may be responsible for causing the cancer," organizers said. "If scientists can find genes that promote cancer development, they can design drugs to stop them."
"Microarrays let scientists analyze DNA from many thousands of tumour samples simultaneously, to find the most frequent changes that are more likely to be the culprits," the group added. "Many scientists are trying to use computer software to trawl through the huge amounts of data generated to spot the precise location of copy number changes, but in many cases these are not accurate enough. The human eye is still the best technology we have for picking up these patterns, and Play to Cure: Genes in Space is harnessing this power."