Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Genetic Video Games?!

EteRNA is an RNA folding, computer game. For all you enthusiastic biology lovers, this might be the computer game for you. It teaches you about RNA as you play the game, so biology teachers could also use this game as a teaching tool. Scientists at Carnegie Mellon University and Stanford University developed this game as a way to harness the brainpower of all science enthusiast from around the world. They hope to uncover fundamental principles underlying one of life’s building blocks, and they believe that the free game will also serve as a training ground for a cadre of citizen-experts who will help generate a new storehouse of biological knowledge. EteRNA is basically a two-dimensional puzzle-solving exercise performed in this case with the four bases (adenine, guanine, uracil and cytosine) that make up RNA. Players design structures including knots, lattices and switches. Each week the best designs created by game players and chosen by the gaming community will be synthesized at Stanford; which means they will be using players ideas on folding RNA and trying them out in the real world. They hope that some of these ideas will work and they will be able to synthesize real functioning RNA which they can use to code cells. The only problem I can see arising with this is if the RNA molecules people online created actually turn out to be functioning RNA, they'll want in on the profit and the University has said nothing about this. However, I've played the game and it's very interesting. The tutorial is very self-explanatory and if you're a biology buff, I advise you check it out. (New York Time Article on EteRNA)

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