A new mobile gaming app partly funded by PokerStars has players analyzing real cancer data with the goal of helping scientists find a cure for cancer. The gaming app is called "Play to Cure: Genes in Space."
In March 2013, The Rational Group (which owns PokerStars) was invited by Cancer Research UK to send its programmers alongside teams from Facebook, Google and Amazon Web services at the GameJam event in London. In a few months, the team rolled out a free mobile app game that could analyze complex genetic data.
Play To Cure: Genes in Space
"Play to Cure: Genes in Space" was officially launched on February 4, 2014 -- World Cancer Day.The app helps scientists analyze immense amounts of data that would take computers too long to process.The data helps researchers find genetic clues about cancer, including trends about genetic faults that cause the disease to spread and grow.
"Researchers use gene microarrays to look for regions of our genome that are frequently faulty in different cancers - a sign that they may be responsible for causing the cancer," according to a company spokesperson. "If scientists can find genes that promote cancer development, they can design drugs to stop them."
Finding Genetic Faults
Gene microarrays are useful for analyzing large genetic faults known as copy number alterations - when a whole section of the chromosome is gained or lost.
[Researchers] "need a way to work out which are the ones driving cancer, and which are just âpassengerâ genes along for the ride," according to a PokerStars press statement."Microarrays let scientists analyze DNA from many thousands of tumor samples simultaneously, to find the most frequent changes that are more likely to be the culprits."
The scientists want to leverage the human eye, which is still the best technology for picking up these genetic patterns.