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Let the Games Begin

The success of games like Foldit has shown researchers how useful it can be to put a problem in front of a wide group of gamers and science buffs to get help in solving it. Other researchers are now creating games for a variety of scientific fields to harness the same crowd-sourced power, says Popular Science's Rebecca Boyle. At Carnegie Mellon University, Adrien Treuille and his team have developed EteRNA, a game where players can create new RNAs for the researchers to synthesize in the lab for medical or biotechnology purposes, she says. Another game called MoonZoo allows would-be astronomers to look at NASA photos of the moon and flag rock formations for further exploration. And WhaleFM lets players listen to orca calls and match them up with similar whale calls. There are many others extending into several branches of scientific research, Boyle adds.

"If you think about it, you are able to increase the population of biochemists focusing on a specific problem by a factor of three or four," Foldit creator Zoran Popović tells Boyle. "If you could do a similar thing for all the problems that are facing humanity today, it would help not just science, but society at large, a huge amount." Popović is currently building a new game called Biologic, in which players will be asked to create synthetic molecules, Boyle says.

The Scan

Genetic Tests Lead to Potential Prognostic Variants in Dutch Children With Dilated Cardiomyopathy

Researchers in Circulation: Genomic and Precision Medicine found that the presence of pathogenic or likely pathogenic variants was linked to increased risk of death and poorer outcomes in children with pediatric dilated cardiomyopathy.

Fragile X Syndrome Mutations Found With Comprehensive Testing Method

Researchers in Clinical Chemistry found fragile X syndrome expansions and other FMR1 mutations with ties to the intellectual disability condition using a long-range PCR and long-read sequencing approach.

Team Presents Strategy for Speedy Species Detection in Metagenomic Sequence Data

A computational approach presented in PLOS Computational Biology produced fewer false-positive species identifications in simulated and authentic metagenomic sequences.

Genetic Risk Factors for Hypertension Can Help Identify Those at Risk for Cardiovascular Disease

Genetically predicted high blood pressure risk is also associated with increased cardiovascular disease risk, a new JAMA Cardiology study says.