Skip to main content
Premium Trial:

Request an Annual Quote

Gamer-Sourced Diagnostic

EteRNA players are setting their sights on diagnosing tuberculosis, NPR's Shots blog reports. Currently, active TB is diagnosed through a combination of chest X-rays and sputum tests.

The idea to find a way to diagnose TB through the online community game EteRNA, NPR says, came from a recent study from Stanford's Purvesh Khatri and his colleagues that found three genes whose expression appeared to be diagnostic for TB. While a PCR-based approach could test for these genes, EteRNA's Rhiju Das says the game may find a simpler way and one that can be used in regions where such lab equipment isn't available

EteRNA developed by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and Stanford University, teaches players how to design RNA molecules that fold certain ways and, now, how that folding changes when there's another chemical or molecule around.

To more simply diagnose TB, Das tells NPR, gamers could uncover a "switch" molecule — one whose shape is altered when the three disease-signature RNAs are present at a certain level. If this molecule exists, then he says diagnosing TB could be as simple as a pregnancy test.

So far, NPR notes, the game has had more than 100,000 players as well as led to published research articles.