Some video games want you to kill invaders from space. Others want you to blow up gems or fruit. NanoDoc wants you to help kill tumors.
As the name implies, NanoDoc is a game designed to have members of the public help design new “nanoparticle” strategies to treat cancer. A nanoparticle is a teeny-tiny particle, anywhere from 1 to 100 nanometers in size, and a nanometer is one-billionth of a meter. Nanomedicine is a newer branch of medicine that focuses on using nanotechnology to deliver drugs in a super-targeted way. A very rough analogy for nanomedicine might be this: instead of spraying your entire lawn with gallons of weedkiller and hoping for the best, you would use microscopic devices to seek out and individually destroy weed seeds.
NanoDoc is a nanoparticle simulator. In the first few levels of the game, you earn your “nanodoc licence”; that is, you get trained on how to play. After that, you’ll be given specific challenges to try. Current challenges include detecting a rare event and working on tumor imaging.
According to Sangeeta Bhatia, who runs a lab at the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT, “we don’t know what the best treatments are for these challenges, or even if there are any good solutions at all! We hope your drive to help in the fight against cancer and learn about nanomedicine will empower you to discover original, creative and efficient nanoparticle strategies we haven’t thought of in the lab.”
To get started, you can register at the site using your email, Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ account. You’ll then be able to take the training and have a go at the game. You can also learn more about nanomedicine and follow the new NanoDoc blog.