The latest initiative in the growing NOVA Labs citizen science platform––an online RNA Lab––utilizes puzzles from Eterna, a game that allows players to design RNAs, tiny molecules at the heart of every cell in our bodies. A series of animated videos explains the science behind the game and teaches 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.