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Sharing the Power of the Crowd

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Phylo screen capture

Credit: Wikimedia

Three years ago, McGill University researchers launched Phylo, an online puzzle game with more than 300,000 users worldwide that helped with genomic research. Now the researchers are making this crowd of players available to scientists with the goal of putting human talent to work to improve on what is already being done by computers in the field of comparative genomics.

Phylo is a combination of Tetris, a Rubik's cube, and a sliding-tile puzzle game. As gamers line up colored rectangles that represent real genetic material, they are helping to pinpoint the genetic anomalies that may be the key to a range of diseases, including diabetes, breast cancer, and retinoblastoma. The researchers hope that in addition to providing solutions to genomic problems, this process also will help to promote a better general understanding of scientific research. "Our goal now is to connect thousands of scientists around the globe with hundreds of thousands of gamers," says McGill professor Jerome Waldispuhl.

Phylo is currently available in 10 languages, including German, Russian, Chinese, and Hebrew, and in the future, the website will be translated into Japanese, Arabic, and Italian,  the researchers say.

From McGill University
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