EteRNA/About EteRNA/How does playing EteRNA help
Why play Challenge Puzzles ?
Challenge puzzles ask you to design RNA sequences that fold up into a target shape on your computer, similar to previous scientific discovery games such as Foldit. Many of these puzzles could be solved by existing computer programs. So why are you working on them? Two reasons. First, these puzzles provide a crucial training ground that bridges the gap between the tutorials and the Lab. Second, many existing computer programs take a huge amount of time to solve large RNAs, and you are very likely to find better, faster ways. Consider publishing your solution method, which we can code up as an automated algorithm and test against existing computer programs.
Why play Lab Puzzles ?
Lab Puzzles are how Nature scores in EteRNA. The Lab asks you to solve the real RNA design problem. By actually creating your solutions, experimentally testing how they fold, and then giving you access to experiment results, the Lab exposes the gap between current computational models and reality. There has never been a game like this before. The Lab challenges you and your team to develop hypotheses which explain this gap -- and tests you on the next rounds. By advancing and testing hypotheses about when RNAs correctly fold in vitro, you are helping scientists understand the mysteries surrounding RNA folding and eventually paving the way towards new, complex, and medically useful biomolecules out of RNA.
Where are we going ?
EteRNA is starting with simple shapes like "The finger" and "The cross" to make sure you can nail the fundamentals. And then we'll be moving on to elaborate shapes like trees. And then molecules that switch folds when they sense a specific other piece of RNA. This might take a few weeks, or it might take a year -- we want to make sure we can ace these exercises. After that, we will embark on one of a few epic projects -- perhaps we'll make the first RNA random-access memory for a computer. Or switches that enables cells to fluoresce if they start expressing cancer genes. Or how about a nanomotor? Or a nanoLED display? There are lots of options, and we'll let you propose your own and choose. Finally, you'll start seeing a few other kinds of puzzles popping up in later stages: The ability to play with RNAs in three dimensions. The ability to see natural RNAs from bacteria, viruses, and humans; and challenges to predict their properties. Stay tuned.
What good stuff am I contributing by playing ?
Besides purely biochemical advances, EteRNA is a radical experiment in citizen involvement in cutting-edge laboratory science. By playing the game and giving us feedback, you are helping us understand how to marshal large groups of people to solve complex problems on the Internet.
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