Today’s Solutions: May 29, 2024

In a remarkable study published in Nature Biotechnology, researchers discovered gaming’s transformative potential in biomedical research. Borderlands Science, an interactive mini-game included in Borderlands 3, has helped users analyze microbiological evolutionary histories. “We’ve been amazed by the results,” says Jérôme Waldispühl, an associate professor at McGill’s School of Computer Science and the study’s senior author.” In half a day, the Borderlands Science players collected five times more data about microbial DNA sequences than our earlier game, Phylo, had collected over a 10-year period.”

Gamers as citizen scientists: unlocking the potential of mass collaboration

Borderlands Science has sparked a global partnership between gamers and scientists, demonstrating the power of citizen science in addressing complicated research concerns. “Here we have 4.5 million people who contributed to science,” notes Waldispühl. “In a sense, this result is theirs too, and they should feel proud about it.” Gamers have made considerable progress in understanding the evolutionary links inside the human gut microbiome by aligning bacteria species’ genomic sequences.

Borderlands Science: a game-changing initiative for DNA analysis

Borderlands Science’s games have transformed DNA analysis, outperforming existing computational systems. “We didn’t know whether the players of a popular game like Borderlands 3 would be interested or whether the results would be good enough to improve on what was already known about microbial evolution,” Waldispühl goes on to say. “But we’ve been amazed by the results.” This collaborative effort not only improves our understanding of microbial diversity, but it also lays the groundwork for future advances in DNA sequencing technology.

Using gamer-driven research to improve health and other areas

Gamer-driven research yields findings that go beyond the virtual world, with substantial consequences for human health and other areas. Researchers want to better understand the function of microbiota in a variety of health diseases, including inflammatory bowel disease and neurological disorders, by understanding microbial evolutionary histories. “Because evolution is a great guide to function, having a better tree relating our microbes to one another gives us a more precise view of what they are doing within and around us,” emphasizes Rob Knight of the University of California, San Diego.

In the age of Borderlands Science, gamers have taken the lead in scientific discoveries, using the power of play to promote biomedical research. As this revolutionary program evolves, the collaboration between gamers and scientists promises to open up new avenues for studying the complexities of the microbial world and its impact on human health.

Source study: Nature Biotechnology—Improving microbial phylogeny with citizen science within a mass-market video game

 

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