So far there hasn’t been much opportunity for people to help with Alzheimer’s research other than genetic testing and drug tests, but Digital Journal reports a new online game that could change that. Stall Catchers, by Human Computation Institute, allows citizen scientists to learn how to identify stalled blood vessels in mice and to report them, contributing to the understanding of how this problem occurs. It all happens by viewing actual blood vessels in a mouse’s brain and using a virtual microscope to focus on one particular vessel.
The game centers on research from the Schaffer – Nishimura Lab (Cornell Dept. of Biomedical Engineering) which looks at the reduced blood flow in mice who have Alzheimer’s. According to the game’s site, here is what is happening.
Blood vessels appear to be clogging mostly by white blood cells that stick to the walls of the tiniest vessels – capillaries – effectively blocking blood flow and causing a stall. Stalls are what we need to “catch” in this game!
This is one of two games that will be part of their larger EyesOnALZ project. As with most of these citizen science games, the benefit draws from the ability of many people to go through research data. What’s great is how people learn something along the way of how this disease works. I can only imagine how modern classrooms could use this as a fun teaching tool. Apparently it has already been tested in classrooms, retirement communities and other science events. So, feel free to spread the word. If you like microscope views, you might also want to check out our USB Microscope. It’s a good way to get a close-up view on things you find in the garden or for reading those tiny part numbers on the electronics you just feel compelled to identify. Science is awesome!