Recently, Cancer Research UK released a game that lets players take an active role in finding the cure for cancer. Play to Cure: Genes in Space uses real genetic data to map out levels, and feeds the data from players back to scientists in order to help develop life saving treatments.

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Levels in Play to Cure: Genes in Space are visual representations of real DNA microarrays taken from tumor samples. Scientists analyze DNA from these microarrays to find the most frequent changes that might cause cancer, and while some computer programs are capable of this, in many cases the human eye is best at picking up patterns within the sequence.

DNA microarray of human genome structure

To that end, in March of 2013 Cancer Research UK hosted a weekend-long GameJam to come up with a way to translate genetic data into a fun, engaging game. The ideas from this were developed upon and the result is a game that has players navigate strips of genetic code and collecting data in the form of “Element Alpha”, which is the game’s currency. This floating space dust is a direct representation of the data in the level, which is fed back to scientist both when players map out the optimal route through the level, as well as when they collect the resource itself.


A group of players can spend a few minutes analyzing a microarray that may have taken hours for a scientist to trawl through, all the while playing a simple, fun game. Levels are fairly short, but the game is fun and can be challenging in the asteroid portions of the game. It’s definitely worth playing for a few minutes whenever you can get the chance, as players can directly help with the process of finding a cure for cancer, rather than simply funding the research indirectly.

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Play to Cure: Genes in Space is available on both iOS and Android platforms, and can be played with either touch or gyroscopic controls. Definitely worth picking up and giving it a shot, and even if you’re not a big fan of the simplistic gameplay, you can feel good about your contribution to the research.

You can learn more about the game and how it was made by heading on over to its Official Homepage, and if you are feeling generous you can also help by donating to Cancer Research UK directly.

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