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Biotech Games Science

Gamers Outdo Computers At DNA Sequence Alignments 61

Posted by Soulskill
from the must-not-be-using-watson dept.
ananyo writes "In another victory for crowdsourcing, gamers playing Phylo have beaten a state-of-the-art program at aligning regions of 521 disease-associated genes form different species. The 'multiple sequence alignment problem' refers to the difficulty of aligning roughly similar sequences of DNA in genes common to many species. DNA sequences that are conserved across species may play an important role in the ultimate function of that particular gene. But with thousands of genomes likely to be sequenced in the next few years, sequence alignment will only become more difficult in future. Researchers now report that players of Phylo have produced roughly 350,000 solutions to various multiple sequence alignment problems, beating the accuracy of alignments from a program in roughly 70% of the sequences they manipulated."
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Gamers Outdo Computers At DNA Sequence Alignments

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  • That's true; a legitimate hypothesis is that this task involves very difficult skills that humans are naturally adept at, like object recognition in images does. My guess is that aligning DNA sequences is not as strong an example of one of those kinds of problems as object recognition, in particular because it doesn't involve the large amount of general knowledge about the world that we bring to bear when interpreting scenes; aligning sequences is more of a "formal" problem, than recognizing what constitutes a "chair". But I'll admit I could be wrong. One way to find out would be to try to see how much can be mined from the data. ;-)

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