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Media is revolutionizing science in all its forms, from patient access to information, to technologies doctors use to diagnose and treat, to how science research brings solutions to global health problems. The JUST Science Section discusses the various ways media drives scientific advances and affects social change.

Karina Saravia
Lisa MattsonMarisa Co






Kay BaldwinDoug Fleischli




Scientific American

TMcGill Center for BioInformaticshough it may appear to be just a game, Phylo is actually a framework for harnessing computing power to solve the problem of multiple sequence alignments. Citizen scientists play the game by arranging nucleotides. The goal of the game is to maximize the matches and minimize the mismatches between the DNA sequences on the digital game board.

A sequence alignment is a way of arranging the sequences of DNA, RNA or protein to identify regions of similarity. These similarities may be consequences of functional, structural or evolutionary relationships between the sequences. From such an alignment, biologists may infer shared evolutionary origins, identify functionally important sites, and illustrate mutation events. More importantly, biologists can trace the source of certain genetic diseases.  Read more…


RNA Game Lets Players Help Find a Biological Prize

John Markoff
The New York Times, January 10, 2011

Scientists at Carnegie Mellon University and Stanford University are attempting to harness the wisdom of crowds with the creation of an online video game that challenges players to design new ways to fold RNA molecules.

The scientists hope to uncover fundamental principles underlying one of life’s building blocks, and they believe that the free game will also serve as a training ground for a cadre of citizen-experts who will help generate a new storehouse of biological knowledge. The process may also aid researchers in building more powerful automated algorithms for biological discovery. Read more…


Victory for crowdsourced biomolecule design

Copyright:, An enzyme designed by players of the protein-folding game Foldit was better than anything scientists could come up with.Jessica Marshall, January 22, 2012

Obsessive gamers’ hours at the computer have now topped scientists’ efforts to improve a model enzyme, in what researchers say is the first crowdsourced redesign of a protein.

The online game Foldit, developed by teams led by Zoran Popovic, director of the Center for Game Science, and biochemist David Baker, both at the University of Washington in Seattle, allows players to fiddle at folding proteins on their home computers in search of the best-scoring (lowest-energy) configurations. Read more…


The Influence of Games in Promoting Healthy Behavior

Marisa Co & Lisa Mattson
December 2011

Games fulfill a fundamental human desire for exploration and mastery. Games were once thought to be primarily for young audiences, however, according to the Entertainment Software Association, the average gamer is 37 years old.  In addition, 40 percent of gamers are women and more than a quarter of them are over the age of 50.  In science, “health games” have proven to be effective in improving physical fitness and offering an alternative to disease management. 

The results of a controlled clinical trial in diabetic children and adolescents assigned to take home either Packy and Marlon game or an entertainment video game with no health content found that participants in the “Packy and Marlon” group gained more diabetes knowledge, increased their perceived self-efficacy for diabetes self-care, and increased their appropriate self-care behaviors. Healthcare providers such as Kaiser Permanente have been studying the use of games to improve patient self-care and to understand the behavioral aspects associated with chronic disease management. Another game, Re-Mission helps educate young cancer patients. A study of children undergoing chemotherapy who played Re-mission resulted in a greater adherence to medication regimens.

There is clear evidence health games help patients become active participants in their own healthcare. Even so the clinical adoption of games to manage patients’ own health had been slow, due in part to the skepticism of healthcare providers who don't perceive of games as an engagement platform. As adoption of games grows, they may prove to be an invaluable tool in the quest for a healthier community.


Re-Mission Video Game - Children Fighting Lymphoma


Didget - Games and Diabetes Management in Children

Bayer’s DIDGET™ is the only blood glucose meter that plugs into a Nintendo DS™ or Nintendo DS™ Lite system. This unique meter helps encourage consistent testing with reward points* that your kids can use to obtain items and unlock new game levels´╗┐. Read more...


The Gamification of Healthcare

Giorgio Baresi



Seniors use video games for rehab

by ABC News


Games, Social Justice and Healthcare

Marisa Co
November, 2011

Is it possible to use game tactics to engage people to take care of their own health?  In a powerful new book entitled “Reality is broken”, famous game developer Jane McGonigal provides some key statistics worth mentioning. So far, gamers have spent a combined 5.93 million years playing World of Warcraft. This figure is stunning when considering that 5.93 million years ago was when our ancestors began to stand up and walk! Even more incredible is the fact that the average gamer would have spent 10,000 hours playing online games by the time he is 21 years of age. 10,080 hours is also the amount of time an average fifth grader would have spent learning until his high school graduation. According to Malcolm Gladwell, it is the amount of study time required to become a “virtuoso”  in any subject by the age of 21. (McGonigal, 2010)

What makes games so “addictive”?  McGonigal highlights 4 characteristics of gamers: 1) Urgent optimism – the desire to tackle an obstacle with the belief that it can be achieved, 2) Social fabric – we like people better after we play a game with them, 3) Blissful productivity – gamers are happy to work hard, and  4) Epic meaning.

Over the past few years, a number of healthcare delivery companies, academic institutions  non-for profit organizations  and pharmaceutical companies  have been exploring the utilization of games to engage consumers to take ownership on their health.  This trend represents the latest movement towards leveraging social games to mobilize society in the quest for improving health outcomes.


Can Playing Digital Games Improve Our Health?


Games for Change

Mission of Games for Change: Catalyzing Social Impact Through Digital Games

Founded in 2004, Games for Change facilitates the creation and distribution of social impact games that serve as critical tools in humanitarian and educational efforts.

Unlike the commercial gaming industry, we aim to leverage entertainment and engagement for social good. To further grow the field, Games for Change convenes multiple stakeholders, highlights best practices, incubates games, and helps create and direct investment into new projects read more...


Gaming can make a better world

By Jane McGonigal


Example Health Games


Healthcare Reform... Participation Required!!

By Marisa Co
October 2011

Most of us would agree that the ability to provide real value in healthcare is highly dependent on access to relevant information.  In a study conducted by Brian Brett of the New York Times called The Psychology of Sharing. Why do people share online?”, five key reasons are identified for open information sharing: 1) To bring valuable content to others, 2) to define ourselves, 3) to grow and nourish our relationships, 4) for self-fulfillment and, 5) to get the work out about causes we care about. These 5 reasons are the primary drivers of patient engagement in healthcare, or better known as Participatory Medicine.  

The Journal of Participatory Medicine defines it as “a movement in which networked patients shift from being mere passengers to responsible drivers of their health, and in which providers encourage and value them as full partners”.  Today, patients from around the world are seeking health-related knowledge online, actively managing their own health and supporting other patients through information sharing sites like, or joining crowds (also known as crowd-sourcing) in a multiplayer online game to identify models for innovation to accelerate the pace of medical research (, Myelin Repair Foundation). Interestingly, and building on the ability of games to actively engage and entertain, large healthcare organizations are partnering with game development companies to create digital and online games as tools patients could use to improve their health (, exercise their brains and bodies (, or to train healthcare professional and medical students to care for patients using virtual simulations (Serious Games – Pulse!! Virtual Clinical Learning Lab for Healthcare Training, Breakaway Ltd.)


Pulse!! Virtual Clinical Learning Lab for Health Care Training

Breakaway Inc.