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Can video game help find cure for cancer? Doctors say yes

7 February 2014, 12:37 pm EST By Anu Passary Tech Times
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Video games can be more than a source of entertainment and now a new mobile game developed by UK-based scientists perseveres to find a cure for breast cancer.

Cancer Research UK has developed the mobile game "Play to Cure: Genes in Space," which will involve sifting through real genetic data by people all over the world to aid scientists in decoding it quickly to ascertain the causes of breast cancer.

"There is too much data to cope with, and we need human eyes and human brains to really understand it," said Dr. Kat Arney from Cancer Research U.K.

The mobile phone game's mechanics are such that players would be imitating what scientists perform in labs when looking for tumor cells.

"Play to Cure: Genes in Space is the world's first free mobile game that uses the collective force of players to analyse real genetic data and help beat cancer sooner," notes the game's description.

The game involves the collection of Element Alpha by players as they chart their way through an asteroid field that has glowing blue stuff. The Element Alpha is really genetic data of over 2,000 breast cancer patients. Players need to shoot or avoid asteroids and are actually looking for DNA microarray data. A DNA microarray basically looks at the gene frequencies of people, but this data needs to be interpreted to determine the causes of cancer.

"Every route you fly will be fed back to scientists in Cambridge and will help them hone in on key parts of the genome that they need to be looking at to understand how cancer cells are growing and going wrong," explained Dr. Arney.

Users can also upgrade their ship to become more powerful and can trade their Element Alpha for more points.

According to scientists, early experiments reveal that gaming results are up to 15 percent more accurate than the current methods deployed to analyze data.

"Play to Cure: Genes in Space" is now available for free for both Apple and Android smartphones.

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