Nanoparticles are being developed at labs around the world to help fight cancer and other diseases that have been resistant to conventional therapies. There are nearly endless possibilities in the design of nanoparticles, how they work, and what they’re made out of. Each factor greatly affects the functionality of nanoparticles and how effective they could be in medicine. To help researchers, and curious lay folks, to develop new particles and test out some of their characteristics even before they’re actually created, Sangeeta Bhatia and her team at the Laboratory for Multiscale Regenerative Technologies at MIT have released an online “game” called NanoDoc.
NanoDoc is really a system where scientists can setup simulated tumor scenarios and players are then invited to design nanoparticles to attack the tumor. Various characteristics of the nanoparticles can be manipulated and strategies developed by utilizing players’ own intuition, the true source of crowdsourced research projects. Before any gaming can commence though, the players are first led through a training session that introduces them to concepts in nanomedicine and how the NanoDoc is to be used. Players then participate in creating new nanoparticles and the most promising candidates will end up being validated in “1) in vitro tissue-on-a-chip constructs that we have designed to emulate the extravasation of functionalized nanoparticles from artificial vessels into a compartment containing tumor cells and 2) robotic swarm systems (kilobots) in collaboration with Radhika Nagpal’s lab from the Wyss Institute at Harvard University.”
Here’s an intro video presenting the NanoDoc: