An online game called Eterna, developed by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and Stanford University, is helping scientists figure out how RNA works.
RNA, or ribonucleic acid, plays a vital role in all living cells, carrying genetic information and acting as a key to protein synthesis. Researchers think a more detailed understanding of RNA will enable them to better understand healthy cells and create better disease treatments.
Players work on 2D puzzles with the four main nucleobases -- adenine, guanine, uracil and cytosine -- found in RNA, and build sophisticated structures, such as knots, polyhedra and lattices.
Every week, players vote on the best designs, which are then synthesized in a laboratory so scientists can examine their biological function and possibly build better research algorithms.