EteRNA's brain training melds puzzle and science

Wednesday 19 January 2011 01:00 GMT
(All rights reserved - Carnegie Mellon University)

Scientists from Stanford and Carnegie Mellon universities have come up with a new game that lets players fiddle about with strands of RNA, solve puzzles, vote on the best solutions and contribute to medical science all in one go.

1990 puzzle game Atomix asked players to create genuine molecules from a limited number of atoms.

EA recently stepped up with the Xbox 360 download Microbot, a journey into the human body's inner space.

EteRNA takes all that to the next level with a color-matching game that could lead to genuine medical advances.

Players are given a shape to fill in with colored bases - red, yellow, blue and green, corresponding to the four bases that form RNA molecules - and those bases can form pairs of differing strengths to cement the molecule's shape.

Scientists then take the top-voted solutions and create real-world RNA strings out of them, to see how well they fold into the desired shape.

Each design is then scored out of 100 based on how well it turned out under lab conditions, while there's also Facebook integration so friends can keep up with each other's efforts.

The University of Washington came up with its own protein folding game Foldit in 2008, while Stanford has had previous involvement with the Folding@Home application for consumer-grade computers and PlayStation 3.

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