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Smartphone gamers take one month to decode six months of genetic data

Cancer Research UK details first progress from its new mobile game

Cancer Research UK Play to Cure Genes in Space iPhonePlayers of Cancer Research UK's new mobile game have taken just one month to analyse DNA data that would have taken a scientist six months to decode.

Dubbed 'citizen scientists', the charity says players of the Play to Cure: Genes in Space iPhone and Android game it launched last month have made 1.5 million DNA chromosome classifications.

The free game allows the public to analyse gene data, and highlight genetic faults which can cause cancer, simply by playing the spaceship-themed game, and to date players have come from almost every country in the world.

Professor Carlos Caldas, senior group leader at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute, University of Cambridge, said: “We're working hard to develop better drugs, improve the diagnosis of cancer patients and understand why some treatments work and others won't - to spare unpleasant side effects.

“Computers can't analyse our research data with 100 per cent accuracy - we need the human eye for greater precision. It can take us years to decode the huge amounts of data generated by research. But with everyone's help the boost to our work could be enormous.”

So far citizen scientists have collectively dedicated more than 53,000 hours – six and a half years – to playing the game and analysed around half the data from the first research project.

Hannah Keartland, Cancer Research UK's citizen science lead, said: “We're astounded by this fantastic support from citizen scientists across the world which goes to show – you don't need to wear a lab coat to be a hero.

“It's crucial we don't stop here because the more people who play in their spare moments, the quicker we'll make a difference. There never again needs to be such a thing as a boring queue!

“It's still early days but we believe the collective force of global gamers could have a massive impact and speed up our life-saving research.”

The Play to Cure: Genes in Space game involves piloting a spaceship around an intergalactic assault course to collect 'Element Alpha' and by following the Element Alpha path players provide Cancer Research UK scientists with information to analyse variations in gene data, something that will ultimately assist in the development of new, personalised medicines.

The game follows in the footsteps of Cancer Research's first citizen science game, Cell Slider, and a Boehringer Ingelheim data project in showing the benefits of a crowdsourced 'gamification' approach to certain aspects of research.

17th March 2014

From: Healthcare

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