Play a game, design some RNA

, | Games

How I long for the days when gaming was as simple as being a drunken space marine trying to bag an elvin chick. Now I can’t even play an online game without also helping advance medical science.

ETeRNA is a free online puzzle game about RNA. I will let the NY Times explain:

Designed by some of the same researchers as Foldit, EteRNA is similar in that it is basically a two-dimensional puzzle-solving exercise performed in this case with the four bases — adenine, guanine, uracil and cytosine — that make up RNA molecules. Players can design elaborate structures including knots, lattices and switches. Unlike earlier efforts at crowd-sourced science, EteRNA will cross over from simulation to biology. Each week the best designs created by game players and chosen by the gaming community will be synthesized at Stanford, according to the scientists.

And these gamer-made bits of RNA will lead to this:

“The dream is that within a year or so we will be able to create RNA that is functional and that we can transcribe into cells to do things such as sense light or even deactivate a virus,” said Rhiju Das, a physicist who teaches in the Stanford biochemistry department and who is one of the designers of the game.

The article quotes says researchers think that RNA can be used to build a biological computer someday.

Gamers competing to design RNA that may someday be turned into a biological computer? What could possibly go wrong?