RNA Lab is available free online at www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/labs/lab/rna/––utilizes puzzles from Eterna, a game that allows players to design RNAs, tiny molecules at the heart of every cell in our bodies. Featuring a series of animated videos that explain the science behind the game as well as tips that teach novices how to play it, the Lab aims to expand the community of participants while giving students and science enthusiasts an engaging way to explore important concepts in the life sciences and engineering.
By playing the NOVA version of Eterna, players will discover that molecular RNA "machines" carry out a wide variety of essential functions in our bodies, from producing proteins to fighting viruses. They'll learn why the way an RNA molecule folds in three dimensions determines what it does (hint: in biology, structure equals function). And they'll get help to become RNA engineers, so that someday––if they get skilled enough at playing Eterna––they might help scientists design powerful new therapies for fighting viral infections, cancer, and more.
"We're thrilled to be partnering with NOVA, because nobody is better at making complicated science accessible to everyone," says Carnegie Mellon University computer scientist Adrien Treuille, co-creator of Eterna. "They've produced a media-rich experience that will help teachers, students, and curious people of all ages learn more about our game and the exciting world of RNA research."
Currently, besides RNA, the other labs are Sun, Energy and Cloud with their own research challenges. Upcoming labs are Cybersecurity and Brain with MIT computational neuroscientist Sebastian Seung.
So if you get caught playing Eterna at work, just say it is all for scientific research. Thank you, NOVA at wgbh.org, Carnegie Mellon University for the Eterna game engine and Argosy Foundation for funding for the RNA Lab.