Smartphone users will be able to help scientists beat cancer using the world’s first app designed to unravel genetic data.
“Citizen scientists” will be able to play the space-based game to help highlight flaws in the genetic make-up of cancer patients.
The Cancer Research UK game Play To Cure: Genes In Space is set 800 years in the future. Players are challenged to steer their spaceship to collect a valuable material, called Element Alpha.
Gamers map out their route with the aim of collecting as much Element Alpha as possible, and as they navigate their craft through space they are actually mapping out genetic data, which will later be analysed by scientists.
The app is free to download from the Apple App Store and Google Play.
Hannah Keartland, who is in charge of the citizen science project at the charity, said a colossal amount of data was produced by researchers, some of which could only be analysed by the human eye.
“Every single second gamers spend playing our smartphone game directly helps our work to beat cancer sooner,” she said.
Ms Keartland said the path mapped out by gamers would help scientists identify the peaks and the troughs in the data.
“We know there are faults in the genes when there are copied bits, so duplicated bits of gene data, or there are missing bits, and the peaks are where there are copied bits and the troughs are where there are missing bits.
“By understanding exactly where those peaks and troughs are, we can understand where to go and look for faults in genes that might be linked to cancer.”