Online game challenges players to design on/off switch for CRISPR

A team of researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine has launched a new challenge for the online computer game Eterna in which players are being asked to design an RNA molecule capable of acting as an on/off switch for the gene-editing tool CRISPR/Cas9.

Molecular biologists will then build and test the actual molecules, based on the most promising designs provided by the players.

A gene editor as powerful as CRISPR could have unexpected effects inside living cells, so it makes sense to turn it off when it’s not needed. In addition, an on/off switch might be able to put CRISPR-influenced genes on a sort of timer, activating and deactivating them on a schedule that could mimic the way we schedule taking doses of drugs.