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EteRNA Logo.png
Developer(s) Carnegie Mellon University
Stanford University
Rhiju Das
Adrien Treuille
Jeehyung Lee
Peter Kinney
Snehal Gaikwad
Minjae Lee
Daniel Cantu
Ming Yao
Travis Mandel
Chris Vanlang
Te (Ford) Hu
Alex Limpaecher
Ann Kladwang
Noah Fishel
Sophie Wang
Jackie Gu
Elyse Kelly
Matt Baumgartner
Stephanie Federwisch
Skanda Mohan
Jonathan Ciscon
Benjamin Bethurum
Kyle Beauchamp
David Klionsky
Eric Butler
Aarti Singh
Ranqi Zhu
Martin Azizyan
Initial release 2010
Development status Active
Available in English
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.[1] The project is funded by the National Science Foundation.[2]

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"[3] and the collective intelligence[1] 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.[2][4]

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.[5] EteRNA project leaders hope that determining these basic principles that may facilitate the design of RNA-based nanomachines and switches.[6] 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".[7]

As of August 2011, approximately 26,000 players have contributed RNA sequence designs and over 306 designs have been synthesized for in vitro testing.[8]


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.

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