Funder: UKRI Project Code: BB/K004204/1
Funder Contribution: 118,989 GBP
Partners: SIB, QMUL, OICR
The hereditary information carried by each living thing is its genome. Stored in the form of the DNA sequences of As, Cs, Gs, and Ts, between 1 and 5% of the genome sequence consists in genes. These genes contain instruction sets for small protein machines that accomplish specific tasks and ultimately determine the organism's shape, size, behavior, lifespan and disease susceptibility. Determining the genome sequence of an organism is now straightforward. But understanding which genes are responsible for the unique characteristics of the organism remains challenging. This is due in particular to the difficulty of correctly finding the genes in the genome and determining which parts of their sequence encode proteins. Indeed, automatic gene identification software performs poorly, thus evidence for each potential gene model needs to be visually inspected and corrected. Thus preparing the data for even a small research project can take months. Luckily there is a solution. Thousands of members of the general public have used the internet to contribute their time to help scientific projects such as GalaxyZoo and FoldIt, be it out of curiosity, desire to help the greater good, gain peer recognition or simply to have fun. Results of their contributions include the identification of previously unknown galaxy types and determination of the 3D structures of AIDS proteins. The proposed project uses a similar approach to encourage members of the general public to help identify genes in the genome and refine their borders. We are constructing a game in which contributors use pattern recognition skills to improve gene models. Contributors will be able to choose to focus their efforts on particular species (e.g.: ants, humans, elephants) or research topics (e.g.: cancer, immunity, longevity, taste or odor perception, behavior). They will earn points and thus peer recognition for their contribtutions, and may be acknowledged in scientific publications or even financially compensated. This project will thus allow members of the general public to have fun while helping to make the world a better place and facilitate scientific discovery.