Puzzle-Like Game Helps Solve Complex Genetic Problems Around Disease

Puzzle-Like Game Helps Solve Complex Genetic Problems Around Disease

Researchers have created a puzzle game to draw upon human pattern recognition in efforts to complete complex genetic sequences better than computers.

Kyle Studstill
  • 30 december 2010

Researchers at McGill University in Canada have developed a puzzle-like online game called Phylo, the goal of which is to create a “human computing framework for comparative genomics.” As to be expected with something as complex as genomic sequencing, the game is actually quite a bit more complicated than one is first lead to believe – but essentially the game presents pairs of genome sequences among related species through strings of colored blocks representing nucleotides; the goal of the game is to match as many of these pairs as possible, at the expense of creating gaps (mutations) to find the best overall alignment. Player matches are compared with a computer’s best guess at the strongest possible alignment, drawing upon people’s ability to recognize visual patterns in ways that computers cannot. The idea is that by having a better understanding of the sequences that species share, the researchers can better understand diseases that emerge from specific genetic combinations; puzzles in the game are drawn from current research in various genetic diseases.

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