|Developer(s)||Carnegie Mellon University
Te (Ford) Hu
|Type||Game with a purpose|
EteRNA is a browser based game, developed by scientists at Carnegie Mellon University and Stanford University, that engages users to solve puzzles related to the folding of RNA molecules. The project is funded by the National Science Foundation.
Similar to Foldit—created by some of the same researchers that developed EteRNA—the puzzles take advantage of human problem-solving capabilities to solve puzzles that are computationally laborious for current computer models. The researchers hope to capitalize on "crowdsourcing" and the collective intelligence of EteRNA players to answer fundamental questions about RNA folding mechanics. The top voted designs are synthesized in a Stanford biochemistry lab to evaluate the folding patterns of the RNA molecules to compare directly with the computer predictions, ultimately improving the computer models.
Ultimately, EteRNA researchers hope to determine a "complete and repeatable set of rules" to allow the synthesis of RNAs that consistently fold in expected shapes. EteRNA project leaders hope that determining these basic principles that may facilitate the design of RNA-based nanomachines and switches. EteRNA creators have been pleasantly surprised by the solutions of EteRNA players, particularly those of nonresearchers whose "creativity isn't constrained by what they think a correct answer should look like".
Players are presented with a given target shape into which an RNA strand must fold. The player can change the sequence by placing any of the four RNA nucleotides (adenine, cytosine, guanosine and uracil) at various positions; this can alter the free energy of the system and dramatically affect the RNA strand's folding dynamics.
Once players have completed a sufficient number of RNA puzzles, they unlock the chance to generate puzzles for other players. These puzzles can be selected as future synthesis candidates if they fit certain rules and prove interesting. Other more complex puzzles are not currently lab synthesis candidates.
- "RNA Game Lets Players Help Find a Biological Prize", John Markoff, New York Times, January 10, 2011
- "Rebooting science outreach", Alan Chen, American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, June 2011
- "RNA research EteRNA gets its game on", Erin Allday, San Francisco Chronicle, January 17, 2011
- "Play a game and engineer real RNA", John Roach, MSNBC, January 11, 2011
- "Treuille On EteRNA - A Game Played By Humans, Scored By Nature":Interview with Adrien Treuille, Byron Spice, Faculty & Staff News, Carnegie Mellon University, January 22, 2011
- About EteRNA
- "Will NIH Embrace Biomedical Research Prizes?", Michael Price, ScienceInsider, Science 19 July 2011
- "The Public, Playing a Molecule-Building Game, Outperforms Scientists", Rachel Wiseman, Wired Campus blog, The Chronicle of Higher Education, August 12, 2011